How to set the table?

How to set the table?
Keep in mind, these tips are from my own experience, I’m not a party organizer nor am I a sommelier or a turophile (a cheese connoisseur). I just love cheese, wine and spending time with my friends.

You can set your cheeses up buffet style along one wall, but for a larger party, you may want to set up several different tables with the wine and cheese pairs on various tables.

Usually, a little nice looking decoration, such as tablecloths, improves the party, and a seasonal centrepiece is not out of order.

You also need many small (dessert) plates, forks and cutlery.

You will not use the forks except to remove the cheese pieces for your plate, or even sometimes to stick the bread from the baskets to your plate.

Start with:

  • Cocktail napkins are essential – They are part of the decoration.
  • Salt & pepper shakers and/or pepper grinder
  • Have toothpicks and small plates close by.
  • Cheese knives – When you serve cheese remember to provide a separate cheese knife for each cheese, and encourage guests not to mix the knives to avoid mixing the flavours of the cheese.
  • Platters/cheese board
  • The glasses – Wine should be served in crystal clear glasses to make visual colour tasting possible.

How to arrange the platters/cheese board

When you’re serving standout cheeses, you might assume their tastes and textures will speak for themselves. Though, we also eat with our eyes, which is why you should avoid simply “plopping cheeses on a platter”, Instead, dress up that cheese board with dried, dehydrated, and fresh fruit (grapes, pear or crisp apples), or stuffed fruits such as stuffed dates, jams, chutneys, fruit pastes, pickled things, olives, nuts, chocolate, a variety of crackers, herbs, and more, arranged with visual effect in mind. Budget allowing, a little caviar or smoked fish is also possible, or some smoked or cured meats such as prosciutto, dry salami, or pancetta.

If serving more cheese varieties, use several boards, using the softest cheeses on one, the medium cheeses on the other, and the strongest tasting on the third. This makes it easy for beginners.

Cheeses should be arranged in ascending order of flavour, ie from mild to strong.

The board is totally customizable!

Imperfect is perfect when it comes to laying out these boards. Don’t make it too symmetrical, and let it flow organically.

The goal is to fill the platter up as much as possible, with no empty spaces showing through. It should be overflowing with a feeling of abundance.

Focus on colours and combos. When selecting the options, make sure to select a variety of colour. Everything in the beige family won’t be very attractive. Ex: Orange and red (meats and fruit and crackers). Greens and yellows (pickles, olives, dips, nuts.). Throw it all together now and garnish with herbs.

The first step is to pick a base for your cheese board.

Even modest cheese trays can be elegant when attention is given to the presentation. The cheese board is the platform used for presenting the cheese selections as well as the accompaniments. Technically the cheese board can be a large cutting board, a slab of marble, granite, slate, straw mat, a flat wicker basket or even a large platter. Depending on the setting you may want to offer individual boards if you have them available.

You really don’t need a specialty base or one of those fancy slates for your cheese board. Look around the house and you’ll definitely find something. Old cutting boards, pizza boards and even old baking sheets can all make great bases for cheese boards.

The board should be placed in a communal area so that guests can approach the board from any side to allow easy access.

Defining the purpose

A cheese plate can serve as a quick & satisfying meal or snack, a bountiful Hors d’œuvre, a savoury introduction to a meal, or a tasteful after-dinner course. Depending on its purpose, different cheese pairings accent various needs.  For example, a cheese board appetizer before dinner should maintain mild & light flavours—an introduction to the tastes to follow—while after-dinner cheeses can include notes of caramel, sweet, rich & buttery. If served with cocktails, before dinner, remember that cheeses can be filling.  Serve in limited quantities and variety.

The must haves

Then add the must haves. For one cheese platter there is a 3x3x3 magic formula:

Plus Crackers and Breads, of course. And you may add any optional.

Presentation

Serve cheeses of different sizes, shapes, and flavour or texture profiles to create diversity and add interest to your cheese board.

Try to arrange your cheeses so people are tasting the more subtle cheese first. We’ve noticed that people tend to eat cheese from left to right, or go for the closest part of a cheeseboard first, working their way to the back. Soft versus hard doesn’t matter as much; just start with the mildest, then work up to the most intense, so people’s palates aren’t exhausted.

Celery and water are perfect for cleaning the taste between each cheese.

Chunk or cut cheese – just one serving

Aged and crunchy cheeses like old Goudas, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or farmhouse cheddars look gorgeous when cascading in chiseled chunks across a cheese board. Bite-sized cheese chunks are also irresistible to grazing guests. But remember: If you do opt to cut your cheese in advance of serving, don’t feel as though you have to cut each entire piece into individual servings.

Cut just one serving of the cheese and place the piece alongside or on top of the wheel to both invite guests to dig in and demonstrate what a single portion looks like. The cheese should preferably be whole or in large pieces without touching each other.

Make a little tasting for yourself in advance of guests arriving so you don’t miss out. (That’s another reason to cut them before everyone gets there!)

Arrange cheese on platter so it is evenly spaced and in varying heights and positions. Never crowd your cheese platter, as your guests will need room to slice the cheeses. If you do, you’re likely to find your knuckle in one of the cheeses as you attempt to cut the one you’d like. While arranging the cheeses, it’s best to arrange them so that there’s ample space between them. This helps so that people can rotate the platter to pick what they want rather than struggling to cut a cheese and mixing it with another one.

Strong, pungent cheeses should NOT be placed next to delicately flavoured cheeses.

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Charcuterie (cold cuts) and Seafood

Always choose cold cuts and cheeses with different flavours to satisfy all the guests. Colours are also important for decorating, so get some cold cuts with different colours to make it easier to “create” the boards.

Another option is sticking with only one variety per board and arranging it in two different parts of the board to give the impression that there are two options.

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Salty nibbles and Condiments

Just dump these in small, pretty looking bowls and arrange them on the cheese board.

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Sweet things, fruits and Vegetables

Let people just pick them up with their hands to eat.

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Nuts

Fill in spaces with dried fruit and nuts. They can really help fill up the spaces.

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Crackers and breads

Add crackers and bread slices to scoop things up.

The breads should be presented in slices (the largest) or whole.

Serve slices of baguette or crackers in a separate basket or bowl. Place baskets with assorted breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all different shapes and sizes.

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Creamy cheeses, Savoury Dips & Spreads

Savoury Dips & Spreads are optional that is always welcomed.

Creamy cheeses, dips & spreads should be served in small, ceramic bowls next to small breads and crackers.

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Dairy free, gluten free and vegan options

With specialized diets and allergies popping up everywhere, ask a few questions in advance.

If need, add Dairy free, gluten free and vegan options as well.

How to Use That Set of Fancy Cheese Cutlery

I’m always ready for an impromptu cheese & wine situation, party or not, and often find myself whipping up a noteworthy board for dinner when I’m not in the mood for a full-on meal. Or really, whenever I please nowadays as my cabinets and drawers are filled with an overload of cheese & wine wares and tools.

Here’s a quick guide on what they are and how to use the kinds of knives that show up in the most of common cheese knives sets, which you might encounter at a home goods store or in service at a dinner party.

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The best wine glasses for each wine

You can drink wine from whatever vessel you want, be it a wine glass, coffee mug, mason jar, or dixie cup. But, if you’re trying to taste your wine then certain glasses do work better than others. Using the right glass improves the taste of wine.

It makes things a little more special to have both red wine and white wine glasses, as well as the correct glasses for sparkling wines and the smaller ones for sherry or port if they are included in the wine selections. But … if you are only going to offer reds and whites, then just bring the glasses that will be used to the table. And remember, you should also have glasses for water.

Need help determining which wine glass is best for your favourite varietal? We’ve put together a wine glass guide with a few important factors for selecting each type of wine glass. Use this wine glass guide to learn which glass to choose.

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Other Wine Tools and Accessories to Consider

To go beyond the basics, consider a few other items that enhance the drinking and serving experience.

Aerator

Aerators infuse bubbles directly in the glass to interact with the oxygen in an instant. Tannic wines, such as reds, benefit from aeration.

Decanter

To allow a wine to open up slowly, consider decanting it. Some varieties take as little as 30 minutes to breathe properly, while others benefit from two to three hours. Another benefit of decanting is that sediments collect on the bottom of the bottle, which is ideal if your bottle was stored horizontally in a wine rack or cellar.

Decanting a bottle of wine not only improves the texture, taste and finish of each varietal, but also serves as a memorable ritual with family and friends. Of course, how to decant a bottle of wine is just as full of nuances as the wine itself.

The process called “oxidation” is when air comes into contact with the wine, releasing aromas that improve the flavour of the wine.

Younger bottles of both red and white wine (that haven’t aged more than ten years) can be poured into a basic decanter—a clear glass bottle with a skinnier neck and wider base—just an hour or so before serving. Older bottles (10-15 years or more) usually have settled and require a few additional steps.

Slowly pour the wine into a decanter, slowing way down when you get to the bottom third of the bottle. As soon as you notice any bit of sediment coming out of the bottle, stop pouring.

Wait to serve the wine for about a half hour after decanting, to get the alcohol at its peak. Holding the decanter by it’s neck, pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the entire capacity of the glass. Swirl the liquid around and observe the way it moves and sticks to the sides of the glass. The denser and richer the wine, the longer it will linger.

Wine Thermometer

Different varietals should be served at different temperatures, and a thermometer helps you achieve the right balance of releasing aromatics without masking flavour. For sparkling wine, a cold temperature of 4-10°C/40-50°F is best to keep bubbles fine. Whites and rosés are best served at 10-15°C/50-60°F, and reds at 15-21°C/60-70°F. If you want to have chilled wine ready at any time, consider a wine refrigerator to maintain temperature.

Wine Stopper

Didn’t finish the bottle? Save it for later with the help of a wine stopper. Ones that create a vacuum seal slow the oxidation process that affects the flavour of your wine over time. Depending on the type of wine, the flavour stays fresh for up to 7 days when you use a stopper.

Tips

Simple is best – Don’t stress about having the perfect-looking cheese platter. I think the most inviting ones have casually-arranged ingredients on a clean, wooden cutting board. You don’t have to put all the fruit in one corner and all the meats in another corner either. Separate items to fill in the cracks, and to make sure everyone can get a little bit of everything no matter where they’re standing around the board.

Label each cheese and wines so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavour, or maybe with a little history, origin, etc.

When creating a cheese board, serve an odd number of cheeses because they present better. Have different knives for each cheese and accompanying condiment.

Separate strong-smelling cheeses. If you want to serve a pungent, stinky-socks cheese, place it on a separate plate so it doesn’t overpower more delicate ones.

Remember to take your cheese out of the refrigerator

Always serve cheese at room temperature. Let it sit out for an hour before serving. Like ice cream that tastes better when soft, cheese’s flavours blossom as it reaches room temperature.

Remember to take your cheese out of the refrigerator and plating it one hour before serving, since it’s easier to arrange when it’s below room temperature. Set your board aside, let it warm up, and then enjoy your cheeses as they were intended.

Think of it like decanting wine before serving to reveal all the scents and flavours you possibly can, but with butterfat. Cheese is shy when cold.

I would say the top mistake would be serving cheese too cold straight out of the refrigerator, because you want it to come to room temperature.

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Note: I get really excited about cheese and wine, so it’s difficult for me to be brief when there is so much wonderful information to share!

Also check:

***In Development, please keep checking.


Reference: Content and images based on information from: https://www.wikipedia.org/ https://cheese.com https://www.cookipedia.co.uk
https://culturecheesemag.com https://www.gourmetsleuth.com https://winefolly.com/ https://www.tasteatlas.com https://www.wine.com/ https://winemonger.com https://www.terroir-france.com/


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