Food

A Handy Guide to Creating the Perfect Cheese Plate

I may or may not be obsessed with cheese (are you, too?), so the fact that we live down the street from Murray’s Cheese, the most amazing cheese shop that ever existed, is fabulous and a little dangerous. The shop is packed with incredible cheeses, meats, chocolates, breads and ice creams, and the cheesemongers are geniuses (and give samples!). Toby and I venture over there at least twice a week, and we’re both fatter and happier for it.

So, my darlings, I’m thrilled to present this handy guide to creating the perfect cheese plate! I met with Murray’s head cheesemonger Sydney Willcox to discover her tried-and-true tips, and the lovely Jamie Beck took photos. Here goes…

Overall pointers for putting together a cheese plate:
* When you invite friends over, buy one ounce per person per cheese; and stick to five to six cheeses total.
* Choose a fun variety of cheeses: different textures, countries, and all three milk types (goat, sheep, cow).
* Serve all the cheeses on one big board. You want your guests to start with the mildest and work up to the strongest, so place the cheeses in “clock order”–12 o’clock being the mildest and 11 o’clock being the strongest.
* Take the cheese out of the fridge at least an hour before serving. Cheese should be eaten at room temperature, when it’s at its full flavor and texture.
* Put out a few different knives. Goat and blue cheeses crumble if you use a regular knife, so cheese wires are the best thing to use–if you don’t have one, you can use dental floss! Softer cheeses work best with a butter knife. Harder cheeses, like parmesan, are good with a triangle-shaped knife. Cut circular cheeses in wedges, like a pizza.
* If you have leftovers, don’t store the cheese in Saran Wrap, which will make the cheese sweat and leave a plastic-y taste. Cheese is living and needs to breathe, so wrap it in parchment or wax paper, and keep it in the most humid part of the fridge (usually the vegetable drawer).

Six cheeses for the perfect basic cheese plate:
(pictured clockwise from top)

1. Cremont is a bloomy, rindy, mild cheese, which debuted last year in Vermont. (The name “cremont” is a mix of “cream” and “Vermont”!) The cheese has both cow and goat milk. Luscious, coats your tongue, fudge-y, cake-y.

2. La Tur is the little black dress of cheeses! Everyone loves it. It’s a mix of goat, sheep and cow–which is is pretty unusual. Flavorwise, you get a hint of all three animals–tang from the goat, lingering buttery fat from the sheep, milky sweetness from the cow. The texture feels almost whipped, like savory ice cream! At a party, this insanely popular Italian cheese will disappear first.

3. Pyrenees Brebis. Every single person I’ve has ever met loves this sheep’s milk cheese. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser. A lot of flavor, but very harmonious. Nutty, salty, floral, semi-soft. From the southwest region of France, where there are huge herds of sheep.

4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. Cabot makes lots of cheddars, but this is their artisanal (read: fancy!) line. What’s cool about this cheese is that it’s a partnership between Cabot and the Cellars at Jasper Hill–Cabot makes the cheese, which is then aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill. There’s actually a staff of guys (football-player size!) who flip these cheeses everyday, so they’ll age evenly. The cheese is wrapped in cloth, which is a more English style of making cheese. Super strong cheddar; you get little crystals. You’ll taste peanuts, caramel, earthy flavors. Eat from the inside out; then take the cloth off and then eat the rind–it almost takes like dirt, but it works so well with the other flavors. (P.S. It would make the best grilled cheese you’d ever have in your life.)

5. Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Made with raw Jersey cow’s milk in Wisconsin. Very fruity and smooth. The American Cheese Society just named it “Best in Show” for the third time (it’s the only cheese to have been awarded Best in Show more than once!). You’ve gotta try it.

6. Cambozola Black Label is a very, very delicate blue cheese. Just a tinge of that mineral flavor; very buttery with a bit of a cashew flavor. A great beginning cheese for people who think they might not like blue cheeses. (Once you put it on bread and add a grape, it will mellow out, if you’re feeling timid!) Blue cheeses and chocolate also go together really well–a great balance of salty and sweet.

Pair cheeses with: Dried cherries, walnuts, marcona almonds (I love these!), fresh grapes, crackers and French bread.

Yummy! Thank you so much, Sydney and Murray’s! Have you tried any of these cheeses before? Do you have a different favorite cheese that you’d recommend? I’d love to hear…

P.S. More cheese-y posts!

(Photos by Jamie Beck for Cup of Jo)

  1. Excellent list of pointers. If you don’t mind, I’ll have to post in my kitchen. Thank you! And, I love your cheese selection. Our last cheese bliss was a while back called Obscure Cheeses http://bit.ly/gxEp9m Now I’m just dreaming.

  2. JO! Wow a cheese post. I love cheese. When my sisters-in-law and I stayed at your place we loved the sidewalk in front of Murray’s…the glass panel showing all the cheeses aging underground. Stellar!!! I posted about you somewhat and your lovely livingroom…it features a little in my latest post if you wish to have a look. http://gilliandasilva.com
    Do you remember when your fireplace was styled like that?
    xoxo much love!

  3. What a fun, informative post! I’m a “poor college student,” but my dad, who is from Wisconsin, always jokes that I have an unlimited cheese budget :) A springtime wine and cheese party sounds perfect right now! I will be referring back to this post for advice!
    Lisa

  4. yum! first fell in love with brebis when i lived in toulouse. brebis with saffron…amazing.

  5. Look for Humboldt Fog: a most delicious combination of blue, goat and brie. A fave on the West Coast…drooling!

  6. I love this post! I’m a huge cheese fan. Everyone always picks on me because the minute ANYONE stops by I always put out cheese and crackers. So this post is actually extremely helpful (and so pleasing just to look at!)

  7. Awesome post! I appreciate that you did research on this. I haven’t heard of many of these cheese, except for the Cabot. The pictures make everything look so sophisticated too!

  8. Wow, thank you for sharing all of this info! I had a wine and cheese party in my early twenties and had no idea what I was doing! I just asked everyone to bring a bottle of wine and cheese to compliment it. It was cheesy chaos! I’m now inspired to try it again :)

  9. Ashley Harper says...

    Great guide, thanks!

    Really want to try Pyrenees Brebis and La Tur soon.

  10. A food dum dum like me needs a lesson in good cheeses (What? No cheez whiz?! Kidding… Kidding!). Thanks so much to you and Murray’s for sharing this with us.

  11. La Tur! I wish I knew where to find it here in Boston. I’ve only ever had it in NYC, but it is soooo delicious. Thanks for this handy guide!

  12. holy crumbs!!!! i know sydney! we went to college together in ohio. she’s a trip :-) god, she’s got the best job…

  13. About the quantity: is that one ounce per cheese per person for an appetizer? to have out when people are conversing (with no dinner to follow? for dinner? For example, with six cheeses, six ounces per person would make me pretty full before dinner. What do you think?

  14. Anonymous says...

    Bonjour, Cup of Jo

    I’m french and I’m leaving in Paris in the 10th arrondissement. I just wanted to share some addresses:

    Chez FLO ( is a bistro in the 10 th)

    “Bourgeoise bohème” food at JULHÈS store.
    Le 10éme arrondissement est pas mal aussi.
    54, rue du Faubourg Saint Denis 75010 Paris.

    you will find the best croissant of Paris in the boulangerie in front of Julhès. ;)

    Should also visite, Le passage Brady.

    Bonne balade.

  15. love the presentation of this!

  16. oh goodness…I’m restricting my cheese intake this week and now all I can think of is having cheese for dinner…yum!

    I love that you pointed out to display cheese clockwise from mildest to strongest…excellent suggestion!

  17. Anonymous says...

    AWESOME!!!!!!! I love cheese and will try them all.

  18. mmmm mmmm i loved this post, it made me want to have my friends over to eat cheese and chat right now. (or i could just have a cheese plate all to myself :) )

  19. Thank you for this post Joanna! I’m only sixteen but when I’m 23 or so I’d love to start having parties for cheese tasting :)

  20. This post makes me so happy! Not only do I love cheese, I remember going to Murray’s with my Mom when she took me on a trip to NYC when I was 16. I’ve never been the same. ;)

  21. Wonderful tutorial for cheeselovers. Many thanks Joanna. The pics look great, too.

  22. I grew up in the “Cheese Curd Capital” (Ellsworth, WI) and am a little biased; my absolute favorite cheese is warm, squeaky cheese curds fresh from the creamery. Not quite as gourmet as the cheeses listed here, but still worth a try!

    Thanks to your fun post, though, I’m feeling inspired to head to the local cheese counter and be a little more adventurous.

  23. This is so perfect! I always want to know these things before putting together a cheese spread. Now I’m having a serious craving for cheese!! Loving your posts with Jamie Beck p.s.

  24. such a great post! thanks!!

  25. tc says...

    ooo this is perfect! oh of my favourite cheese platters ever was at the stillwater bar & grill in brooklyn when i visited new york last february. they had an amazing apricot preserve and also included pears! yummy… but this looks equally delicious!

  26. Anonymous says...

    This was such a helpful post and right up my alley as I am a lifetime cheese fanatic.

  27. you rock! what a perfectly lovely post:)

  28. I LOVE cheese oh my goodness! I’m working my way through a humungous block of gouda. what a beautiful board! xo

  29. YAY for cheese parties!! and suite henry, that is so cute :)

  30. maud, yes! cheese straws!!!

  31. Cute guide! I’ll have to try that Cremont cheese soon, I’d never heard of it.

  32. Wonderful! My friend and I are already planning a cheese party because of this post! So excited!

  33. My best friend/neighbor used to work at one of the best cheese shops in our city. She was how I learned about cheese. Whenever I don’t know what to bring to a dinner party, I offer to bring the cheese. I love offering dried fruits, especially mango, and roasted nuts. A drizzle of honey on blue cheese, or some quince paste is also yum.

  34. I also live a couple of blocks from Murrays and, having grown up with two French parents, could happily eat cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and often do). I think this weekend I will have to make a trip over to Murrays for their cheese straws. Joanna if you haven’t tried them I highly reccommend you do!

  35. Joanna! This was painful it looks so good! I can’t wait to go home and have cheese and crackers for dinner now. My new favorite cheese is Cambozola, which they sell at Trader Joes. It’s delish.

  36. WONDERFUL post! Very informative! I also love cheese. If there’s anyone in the Dallas area drooling right now, I highly recommend Scardello at Oak Lawn and Lemmon. :)

  37. I just want to say love your new tutorials! I’ve read your blog for a while, and this is a really fun and original feature! Jamie Beck’s photography is wonderful too :)

    I’m off to eat cheese now.

  38. These tips are great! My sisters and I ate so much cheese growing up. In fact, one time we were out in the Redland forest in CA and my sister, about 3 at the time, picked a wild poisonous spore and ate it. Because my mom had just given her a huge hunk of cheese to snack on, the spore was absorbed and she was totally fine. Time spent in the emergency room for no reason… haha

  39. Yum! Looks amazing. I totally agree with you about marcona almonds and I am dying to taste all of those cheeses.
    2 of my favorites are humbolt fog and drunken goat.
    xo
    R

  40. This is so great! Have you tried Barely Buzzed? It’s from Beehive Cheese Co and the outside is rubbed with espresso and lavender. It’s seasonal but I’m pretty sure Murray’s carries it, so keep a look out!

  41. THANK YOU! I heart cheese but am always wondering what “the deal” is with putting out for a group.

  42. This is so helpful! Thanks for the tips! You’ve totally inspired me to throw a cheese party.

  43. This post seriously makes me so happy! My husband and I are taking a weekend trip to NYC next week, and I have just added this place to our agenda. Drool!

  44. I met my husband when he worked at a cheese shop.
    We ran into each other on the subway one day after he was off work. He said “sorry if I smell like cheese” and I’m pretty sure I said “I have absolutely no problem with that!”

    Love this feature!
    Faves are Stilton, niagara gold, sauvegine (not sure if I’m spelling that right) a nice pecorino and an old cheddar

  45. Ossau Iraty (sp?) is from the Pyrenees and is sublime. I think it’s my favorite. I also love Manchego as an everyday cheese, and a peccorino balsamico with a drizzle of honey and sprinkle of coarse salt for dessert!!!

  46. awesome awesome awesome post. i love cheese. I LOVE CHEESE!!!!!!

  47. I love this post! mostly because of how much I love anything related to cheese ;) But I’ve just recently grown into a time in my life where I enjoy entertaining and preparing fun things like the perfect cheese plate are on the top of the list of things I’d love to have knowledge of.

    I’ve recently fallen in love with Fontain cheese. But really anything will do.

  48. beat. of. my. heart.

    we do this every sunday night at my house.

  49. we just had a cheese plate for dinner last night – our fav dinner! good tips and your plate looks yummy!

  50. I love cheese! Finnish bread cheese with cloudberries is my favourite, unfortunately not available here in Australia though. Your cheese platter looks mouth-watering!

  51. stilton and sliced green apples!

  52. yum! i want that entire plate for lunch.

  53. I haven’t tried any of these cheeses specificaly, but I love sharp sharp cheddar, bleu cheese, and Cabot brand…anything so far! Also Cracker Barrel…just saying! :-))} The La Tur intrigues me. I’m gonna have to find me some of that and try it. You didn’t mention the price ranges on any of these though. Do they cost as expensive as they sound?!

  54. Anonymous says...

    You should try Norwegian Brown Cheese (Brunost) – it is sweet and goes amazingly well on homemade waffles or crepes :)

  55. I looove cheese. Lately I’ve been addicted to Manchego with a sliced green apple. So good. Great photos!

  56. I just moved to Quebec and it is the land of cheese. I can’t wait to try your perfect cheese plate and have a cheese party!

  57. jane, haha, good question!!! i say the stinkier, the better; people will get immune to the smell once they’re in your apartment for ten minutes! :)

  58. YUM!! We used to live down the street from Murray’s, too – I miss the West Village! And now I’m off to buy some cheese… :)

  59. e says...

    this is one of my favorite posts of yours! i am in love with cheese <3

  60. I love cheese, especially grilled cheese. Mmmmmm…. Thanks for the post! I have to try Murrays..

  61. I’m bookmarking this post ASAP. I am a total cheese nerd. I actually take and save notes from cheese classes! LOVE this.

  62. This is fantastic! I love cheese!

  63. Great post! My cheese plate always includes Comté (with some sort of compote or jam), and pretty much any goat cheese from this local cheesery: http://www.saltspringcheese.com/
    YUM!!!

  64. My family from Belgium always offer manchego cheese + nuts + grapes. I think it’s a wonderful mix for an appetiser (I could just eat that, I don’t need a main course!)

    My favourite cheese is Manchego curado. I also like cheese from Mahon (Balearic Islands, Spain) and of course marcona almonds, they’re delicious.

    Thanks for the tips!

  65. Great post! The cheese plate looks so yummy, and you look sooo pretty! Well done. xo.

  66. My boyfriend and I live down the street from Murray’s too! It takes some serious self control not to pop in nightly on my way home from work! We discovered La Tur about a year ago and it continues to be my favorite cheese. It really is the ice cream of cheese!

    Thank you for the the guide! I never knew to place cheeses around the plate in order from mildest to strongest. Are there rules on how stinky the cheese can be that you set out for guests? I love Epoisses but get nervous putting it out when people come over because it’s a real stinker.

    Thanks again!

  67. Wowee! Thank you so much to both you and Jamie for such a delectable post.

  68. What a great post. Even though it’s only 9 in the morning, now all I want to do it eat stinky cheese.

  69. yum! what an awesome & helpful post! will have to try them all!

  70. This is fantastic. I am a huge cheese fan. Favorite food by far—and the stronger the better. BUT-I love the idea of the clock–mildest to strongest. Awesome suggestions!

  71. love love love!

  72. I just love Roquefort…and I can’t have a good day without it !!!

  73. WoW! Thanks for sharing Joanna! I looove cheese, great post!

    x Mandy

  74. OMG I love cheese Thank you!!!

  75. Anonymous says...

    I’ve never come across a cheese article that was so helpful…esp the part about using different knives for the different cheeses. No one has ever mentioned that little detail.

    Thank you for this post and looking forward to my first cheese/wine party…:)

  76. Dear Joanna, I’ll be in Paris in a couple of days,
    I have always been a bit shy about cheese types. I am a beginner who wants to improve her taste and start experimenting.
    so far, i’ve tried and liked roblechon and tomme.
    which types would you recommend me?
    best,
    Damla

  77. Great post, very helpful!

  78. Wow! I love this! I could eat fancy cheese for the rest of my life :) When I studied abroad in France, I swear I spent my whole budget on cheese and wine. Thanks for sharing!

    diamondinthereef.blogspot.com

  79. I too had cheese and fruit for dinner last night — how timely your post is! I enjoy quince paste and fig jam with my cheeses as well. My fav cheeses are irish cheddars, goat cheese gouda (drunken goat is quite good), and amsterdam gouda.

  80. This is incredible! Definitely bookmarking it for a reference. You are so gorgeous I feel like I am reading Martha Stewart or something. Another stellar post!

  81. I could eat that whole board it looks so delicious…I love cheese a bit to much:) This is a very handy post! I’m going to use it as a guide for my next get together.

    http://2anchor.blogspot.com

  82. Anonymous says...

    i also love Saint Albray. Very smelly, but delicious!

  83. Anonymous says...

    i love Marcona almonds, too! (I buy them at Costco.) You have made me really eager to try Pleasant ridge Reserve! And I love Cabot cheddar. yum.

  84. Love it!! Thanks so much! I am cheese obsessed. All my friends count on me for the inside scoop, so I can’t wait to try the new ones you suggested!

  85. I love your cheese board tips! I will certainly be eating cheese at room temp from now on! In fact, I am very much in the mood for some good cheese now! xxxxxxxx

  86. This is so great! And I love your top, btw :-) Now the REAL question – to serve cheese as a appetizer before dinner or with dessert? I’d choose both.

  87. Joanna, you have to try the 15-year aged cheddar from Hook’s Cheese Company in Mineral Point, Wisconsin. It’s only available in small batches at certain points in the year (and sells for $50/pound), but it is crumbly, crystallized heaven. Their other cheese are phenomenal as well, and available at Murray’s.

  88. ohh-so good and totally inspiring! I was going to have a tea party next week but I think I’ll have wine and cheese night instead! Thanks!

  89. mm cheese is my fav desert!

    PS: you look gorgeous!

  90. Wow, I have not even eaten breakfast yet and all I want is cheese please!!

    xoxo
    Stephanie&Such

  91. Thank you for this post!! Today is my dad’s birthday, and he loves gourmet cheeses and cheese plates. I just ordered a gift box that should be delivered in time for his birthday dinner on Friday! Thanks again.

  92. Delightful! Thanks for posting :) (and I love your striped top!! where is it from?)

    pinkandpolos.blogspot.com

  93. I love La Tur–was introduced to it at a party, in fact! Brillat-Savarin is still my favorite cheese, but I am a friend to all triple-crèmes.

  94. what a great guide, a definite must save!!! i love cheese, mmm. thanks joanna :)

  95. So great!, Cheese plates have been number one on my tastey lists lately. Thank you!

  96. what a great guide! thanks for this. I really love doing this sort of thing at home versus eating out all the time. That and you really get to know your cheeses.

  97. oh the fromage! love this post. i am the person you see hanging around the cheese section at whole foods daydreaming away about what concoction i can create with the overpriced tiny block of cheese. lol

  98. That’s so helpful! I love pear with goat cheese, so I’d probably put that on the fancy platter, too. :)

    togetherinadream.blogspot.com

  99. Ah my mouth is watering now! If I ever have to choose a last meal it will definitely be cheese & wine. Thanks for the tip about storage – need to get on that, I’ve been a ziplock girl ’till now!

  100. aaand now i’m hungry.
    Thanks for the awesome post though! Yum.

  101. Oh wow, THANK YOU, Joanna! :) This is exactly the sort of guide I needed…I adore cheese too, so having a guide to throw a wine + cheese party just makes me so happy! :) Can’t wait to do it now – thank you, thank you! :)

  102. Goodness me, I LOVE Murray’s Cheese. Discovered it on a food tour in Greenwich several years back and I day dream about it often. Recommended Cheese? Havarti, for sure!! I have some every morning for breakfast. Nom. Nom.

  103. these all look amazing. Thanks for sharing what you learned, Joanna!

  104. Such a delicious post! I’ll be linking to it on my blog this week.
    alexispayne.tumblr.com

  105. 1) This is perfect party prep! I wish I’d had this when I was 21 and clueless about cheese, yet trying to plan wine and cheese parties! and 2) I love your collaborations with Jamie! You’re the perfect lifestyle inspiration team.

  106. i’m having my book club tonight and will be serving a big cheese board as well. i have planned a herbed goat cheese, a manchego and a rosemary asiago. sides include dried figs, apricots and a pinot grigio salami. along with three kinds of crackers. oh and a mediterrean inspired plate of cucumbers, oil and herbed infused feta, black olives and roasted red pepper hummus. should be the making of a good night:)

  107. I just had cheese and fruit last night and I was thinking how I need to look into more options about how to set up a cheese platter. This post was perfect! Thanks =)

    – Sarah
    http://agirlintransit.blogspot.com/

  108. Great post, I needed this!! Thanks!

  109. Just make sure the dental floss isn’t mint-flavored, or you might end up with a funny tasting crumbly cheese! HA.

    This is a great post though, if I had one food to live on for the rest of my life, t’would be cheese. The pictures are making me very very hungry.

  110. sydney IS the best! she’s so funny and fun. she’s half the reason we stop by murray’s all the time :)

  111. wh says...

    ohh this is so perfectly helpful!! thanks so much, jo!
    love from argentina :)

  112. Joanna- I’m so envious you live THAT close to Murray’s. I can’t imagine how dangerous that is. This post was super helpful, thanks so much for sharing!

  113. Thanks Joanna! This is a timely post for my life, it took me way too long in life to get interested in cheese, but for the last few months I’ve been hooked! I send my husband links to menus in town that have good looking cheese plates! I’m out of control. I’m actually going to jot down your cheese selections and take it with me to Dibruno Brothers in my (Philadelphia) neighborhood this week.

  114. My favorite recent cheese discovery is Trugole. It’s a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy, and it has a perfect balance of sweet/salty/nutty that seems to go with everything and is utterly addictive!

  115. And I thought I was a cheese hound! :) Thank you so much for this. I’m going to look like a cheese expert the next time I have a party and serve these. I’m now curious though, if you have any suggestions for wine that would go well with the cheese? I’m sure each cheese would react differently to a certain wine. :)

    Patricia Ann
    http://www.theshapesofthings.com

  116. Such a great post. La Tur is one of my favorites! Try the Casatica di Bufala from Murray’s- it’s delicious!

  117. Im crazy about cheese and I could eat it all the time! My all favourites are the Beaufort and Comté but I also love serving a bit of humboldt Fog from time to time…Its a great goat milk cheese:) Love this guide! Thanks, Joanna and you look so adorable! Kisses

  118. This was so helpful! I too, love cheese, especially new and exotic varieties…I haven’t tried any of these-I am definitely wanting to try that La Tur!

  119. What a wonderful post!
    CHHHHEEESSSEE….
    Avec in Chicago used to be my FAVORITE place for a cheese plate.
    lovely photos too.

  120. Great post!

  121. Thank you for sharing! If I could survive on cheese and water alone, I would probably do it. Looks awesome!

  122. Thanks for sending Jamie home with so much great cheese! We enjoyed the heck out of it and shared with some cheese-loving friends.

  123. Love it! I always have problems making my cheese platters look just right. Thanks for sharing.
    Petra

  124. Cambozola is one of my absolute favorite cheeses ever!

  125. Anonymous says...

    Sydney at Murray’s is the best!!!

  126. “The little black dress of cheese”. I think that’s my favorite line in this post. I love cheese but now I want to try all these you mentioned. I’m starting to get into the whole dinner party feel and I’m definitely bookmarking this post for future reference. I have to get a cheese wire!! =)

    Melanie’s Randomness

  127. Oh so yummy. I’m salivating seeing all of those pictures. My dad use to work near that cheese stop. I would always wonder around in there when he worked on Saturdays. His office moved and I haven’t been there in a while.

    Bravo to both you and Jamie!

  128. cambozola is my secret to happiness. i have these lovely rosemary-flavored crispy crackers that make an amazing cheese into an event. an after-work two-bite treat whose flavor and texture melt the day’s stress away.

    wine suggestions?

  129. I’m so proud of us!!! lol That last photo made me swoon.

  130. This is so helpful! Thank you! I stick to a few cheeses mainly because I didn’t know any of this.