Living Well Los Alamos: Cheese Trays For Parties

Home Economist and 4-H Agent
Los Alamos County Extension

Many of our calendars are already full of upcoming holiday parties. Whether your host asks you to bring an appetizer or you need something to serve your own guests, cheese plates makes an excellent option for refreshments.

Creating the perfect cheese platter can be daunting but these tips and ideas can make the process more enjoyable and ensure your guests will be delighted.

When creating your cheese tray keep in mind that more isn’t always better. You want the cheeses’ individual characters to take center stage and not overwhelm your guests with too many choices. Choose 3-5 cheeses of differing textures, shapes and flavors. Plan on 2-4 ounces of cheese per guest. After the cheeses have been selected decide on sweet and savory accompaniments.

Honey, homemade jam or chutney along with spiced nuts, dried or fresh fruit or pickled vegetables can nicely round out a cheese tray. Also consider charcuterie such as salamis, prosciuttos or rillettes.

Offer one or two types of crackers, flat breads or toasts alongside your cheese selections. Choose an attractive platter or board for serving. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator at least a half-hour prior to your event. Slice cheese for easy when guests are sampling and be sure each cheese has its own serving utensil. Label each cheese with the name and a brief description.

Your cheese platter can be further enhanced with beverage pairings. Adult guests might enjoy beer, wine or ciders. Non-alcoholic options might include mulled cider, tea or cranberry spritzers. Fresh cheeses such as mascarpone, feta and ricotta are mild and creamy. They often pair well with white wines, green tea or fruit beers. Soft-ripened cheese like brie or camembert have creamy centers with an edible rind.

They can be accompanied by almost anything. Try serving a pale ale or Lambic. Blue-veined cheeses are salty and pungent. Subtler varieties include Gorgonzola. These pair excellently with bold red wines and stouts. Havarti and other semi-soft cheeses are melty and buttery. Serve a Riesling or pilsner with these types of cheese.

Cheddars are semi-hard cheeses which come in a wide variety of colors and complexity. These pair well with sparkling cider. Gouda is a popular choice which is made with whole milk and has a buttery texture. Try serving a seasonal ale to accompany Gouda and Edam. Hard cheeses such as parmesan and Romano are enhanced by Riojas and pale ales.

During this busy entertaining season take some of the stress out of what to serve your guests and consider creating a simple yet elegant cheese platter. For more ideas and suggestions visit the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board at