So you’re hosting a party, and you’ve chosen your cheese. Now what do you add to your plate to round it out? With so many options to choose from, here are a few things we like to serve that can add to your guests’ experience, but still lets the cheese shine through.
There are a huge variety of crackers out there. Start with just three kinds of crackers — one plain, one seedy or wheaty, and one with a flavoring (cheese or olive or spice). Rice crackers or crackers with strong flavors are great on their own, and can certainly be part of your snack offerings, but don’t expect guests to eat them with their cheese. Some crackers come in pre-assorted boxes; if you want to take the easy route, buy one or two assorted boxes and call it good!
Serve a sliced baguette or small chunks of sourdough as an alternative to crackers. It’s easy and gives your guests a different texture experience. This is especially nice if you have one or two soft cheeses, though it works with harder cheeses as well. Similar to the advice about crackers, choose bread without strong flavors, as you want the cheese to be the star of the show. Crusty breads like sourdough and baguettes work well. A bread with fruits and nuts baked in can also be an interesting choice.
Fruit pairs wonderfully with cheese, but there’s a reason you only see certain fruits on cheese platters. Grapes are the obvious first choice. They’re juicy and sweet, but self-contained; they won’t leak fruit juice all over your cheese platter. A trio of grapes (red, purple, green) can add some sophistication to your cheese platter without too much extra effort.
Sliced apples or firmer pears are also great choices. Toss your apples with a bit of lemon juice prior to serving to delay browning. Alternatively, many people choose to offer dried fruits, like apricots, cherries or craisins, to hit that sweet note without worrying about juice overflow.
If you’ve chosen a soft, spreadable cheese like Camembert or Brie, having a small jar of fruit preserves can be a nice accompaniment. Choose something a bit more unusual, like cherry or fig. Serve with a small spoon and make sure you give your guests plates to hold their snacks!
Add some crunch to your cheese plate with a side of nuts, assuming none of your guests are allergic! Common choices include walnuts, which go well with cheddar varieties; pecans, which can go with just about anything; almonds, which are usually found with harder cheeses, especially Spanish ones; or pistachios, to lend a hint of color.
Another way to “beef” up your cheese plate is to add some dried meat options. Prosciutto is a popular choice. Just be sure to separate out the slices before serving, as you don’t want your guests struggling to select just one piece. Hard salami or chorizo are also a great options. Again, slice up the meat into easy portions for your guests’ dining pleasure.