Once you hit a certain age, ragers that resulted in 3 a.m. drunk texts tend to morph into "wine parties" where you just eat a lot of cheese and drink full bottles of vino before climbing into bed at 11:30 p.m. for an episode of Doctor Who (and then promptly passing out).
Which is why it's time to brush up on the basics of setting up a bomb cheese plate. This is your legacy, and you can do better than just unwrapping the plastic from a cheese ball and putting out some Ritz crackers, okay?
Chef Alina Martell of NYC restaurants Ai Fiori and Vaucluse says that you need to take your cheeses out of the fridge and let 'em chill out/warm up before you serve. "A lot of unwashed rind cheeses may have a funky, even ammonia-like odor when you first pull them out," Martell says. "Harder, crumbly cheeses will cut a lot cleaner when you give the curd some time to come to room temperature." The experts at Murray's Cheese in NYC recommend taking your cheese out an hour before serving. Plus, as Martell so delicately puts it, "No one wants to eat cold hard cheese." Duh.
You need enough cheese to keep it interesting, but not *too* much cheese to confuse/overwhelm everyone/give them stomachaches. According to Murray's Cheese, 3 - 5 cheeses is a good number to have. As for how *much*? "Our rule of thumb is to purchase 1 oz. of cheese per person." Though, if cheese is all you're serving, aim to get more.
"The best cheese boards have a lot of contrast," says Martell. "Try to hit all the major milk types—goat, cow, sheep—or aim for different styles, like fresh, washed rind, tome, etc." Martell and Murray's Cheese both recommend starting with a cheese you love, then build from there.
According to the experts at Murray's Cheese, a proper cheese plate is arranged in a clockwise fashion, working from mildest to strongest, with the first cheese arranged as if it were 12 o'clock on the plate or board. Also, every cheese should have its own knife, cool?
You know that pristine plate that clearly NO ONE has dug into? It's because they don't want to be the first to the (cheese) party. Cut a few slices before everyone arrives so no one feels awkward/everyone starts eating right away.
Cheese is cool, but cheese with other eats is even better. Mix up your plate by serving up some preserves, honey, fruit, olives, meats, or, uh, chocolate for a rounded flavor profile. Don't know what pairs with your cheese? "Go with your gut," says the experts at Murray's. "A natural craving often steers you in the right direction."
We kind of detailed that here, but if you need more inspiration or you're lazy AF, you can't go wrong with sparkling wine. As Martell says, "Remember: Bubbles."
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Samantha Leal is the Deputy Editor at Well+Good, where she spends most of her day thinking of new ideas across platforms, bringing on new writers, overseeing the day-to-day of the website, and working with the awesome team to produce the best stories and packages. Before W+G, she was the Senior Web Editor for Marie Claire and the Deputy Editor for Latina.com, with bylines all over the internet. Graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University with a minor in African history, she’s written everything from travel guides to political op-eds to wine explainers (currently enrolled in the WSET program) to celebrity profiles. Find her online pretty much everywhere @samanthajoleal.
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