Everybody loves a cheese plate. Whether it's the first thing you eat at a party or the last, the spread rarely goes untouched and is often the biggest hit of the night. The risk with a party favorite like this, however, is that everybody's serving them and can become somewhat generic. Not yours, however! Because your cheese plate is about to get an upgrade.
We at HuffPost Taste love cheese so much that we are focused on keeping the plate fresh, exciting and the life of the party. There are two components to consider: the cheese itself and the products that accentuate the cheese.
We're focusing on the latter in this post. From one-of-a-kind jams to broader presentation ideas, there are a ton of ways to make your cheese plate shine.
You'll also want to consider what the group size you're entertaining. Cheese expert at Boston-based Formaggio Kitchen David Robinson told HuffPost Taste that versatility is key for larger gatherings. For smaller groups, Robinson recommends more specialized pairings.
Here are 10 great ways to upgrade your cheese plate.
Choose better crackers.
If you're choosing crackers over bread, you're not necessarily setting yourself up for failure, but you're taking a big risk. It's hard to go wrong with fresh bread, be it a French baguette or an olive loaf. If you're serving crackers, however, just make sure they're damn good. Luckily, while there are a lot of sh*tty, boring crackers in the world, there are some really delicious ones too. Try Beer Flats Crackers, which are fairly neutral and perfectly buttery, or Swedish Olof Viktors Crispbread Crackers.
Serve dry fig salami.
Yes, you're reading that right: dry fig salami exists, and it's pretty cool. Long Island City-based Charlito’s Cocina makes fig rolls that are a great, surprising addition to a cheese plate. The figs go through a meat grinder, after which the paste is mixed with wine, bourbon, spices and salt, and are squeezed into tubes just like sausage. Watch this video to see how it's made.
Get creative with your platter.
Presentation goes a long way, and you can really set the mood with the kind of platter you use. Try something that speaks to you, like these slate boards from Brooklyn Slate. Or, maybe it's something super functional like this picnic-friendly cheese board that comes with utensil drawers, including a space for a wine opener.
Most people hear the words "cheese curds" and don't know what to think. To clarify, cheese curds are quite simply younger pieces of cheddar, before they have hardened into blocks. They're lighter, fluffier and yeah, squeakier. Adding cheese curds to your plate will delight.
Try quince paste.
Everybody loves a good fig jam, but everybody's also had fig jam 1,000 times. Try something a little different, like this quince membrillo from Food52. High in pectin, quince works really well when cooked and turned into jams or jellies. Membrillo means quince paste, and it's worth trying out with a variety of cheeses, especially Manchego.
Spice things up with wasabi pea brittle.
We often think of pairing cheese with something sweet, like dried fruit or jams, or something sour, like pickles. Adding spice is another great option. Murray's Cheese serves wasabi-peanut brittle with a blue cheese called MitiBlue. Try this recipe for Spicy Asian Brittle from Martha Stewart.
For jam, think outside the box.
Everybody's used to apple butter, honey, fig spread, pepper jelly or chutney. But a little extra research and befriending your cheesemonger could lead you to some way more exciting spreads. Try something super small batch, like this black cherry jam from tiny French producer Miguel Gorry from the Pyrenees, sold at Formaggio Kitchen. Or try plum jam, grapefruit marmalade or Anarchy In A Jar's Spiced Beer Jelly.
Try licorice syrup.
Before you go running for the hills, all you anti-licorice people, take a breath and listen to what we have to say. Lakritsfabriken Licorice Syrup, another favorite from Formaggio Kitchen, is a Swedish delicacy that will blow your taste buds away. If it's not for you, at least you'll have served something totally different. It goes really well with milky fresh flavored cheese, like a young camembert or a triple creme.
Pair blue cheese with chocolate or caramel.
Stinky blue cheese goes surprisingly well both chocolate and caramel. Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. We've spooned caramel onto a lovely blue and been blown away. And we've also been told blue cheese pairs really well with a bar of dark chocolate. It's a simple dessert you should definitely try. Check out Spoonable Caramel from Brooklyn-based Spoonable. If you're going the chocolate route, Formaggio's David Robinson suggests serving it alongside a stout.