One of the easiest things to serve when entertaining a crowd is a nice platter of assorted cheese and crackers. It's delicious, arguably healthier than a tray of cupcakes, and takes only as much time as a quick run to the grocery store. I live less than five miles away from four different grocery stores, but Trader Joe's is my go-to when I'm planning to entertain. Trader Joe's has a nice selection of cheeses, but is small enough that I, as a casual cheese buyer, don't get overwhelmed with choices.
Here are a few tips to make it through the dairy aisle and back home ready to party.
1. Don't go overboard.
Choose 3-5 cheeses to serve depending on the size of your crowd. Cheese can be expensive and, when paired with crackers, pretty filling. So go easy on your wallet and don't buy the entire cheese counter.
2. Offer something for everyone.
Choose one familiar cheese that most people enjoy, like Cheddar; one soft cheese, like Brie or Camembert; and one hard cheese, like Manchego or Gouda.
3. Consider buying a prepared assortment.
Trader Joe's sells a Spanish tapas package with three types of hard Spanish cheeses, single servings of Brie, assorted single servings of goat cheese, and a pre-sliced party platter of the usual suspects - Colby Jack, Swiss, Cheddar, and Pepper Jack.
4. Find something out of the ordinary.
Trader Joe's often has a few unusual cheeses in the crowd. My favorite is currently a block of Syrah-soaked cheese that tastes like a cross between Cheddar and Parmesan. I mean, really, who can say no to wine-soaked cheese?
Choosing cheese should not be a chore - have fun with it! And write down which cheeses you liked, so the next time you're buying cheese you can skip the ones you didn't care for and explore others. Happy cheesing!