All About Cheese! 7 Tips for Cocktail Hour
Creamy or crumbly? To cube or not to cube? We had so many questions about cheese that we enlisted the help of the Food Network’s “Cheese Twins.” Read their interview below for tips on serving cheese at your reception.
1. What do you recommend serving at a DIY cocktail hour?
Artisan cheese and cured meats are sure to excite guests when serving cocktails, and it’s easy to fancy up with simple arrangements and accompaniments like quince jam, dried figs, and honey. With cocktails, you want snacks that are grab and go. So spread the cheese on a dried fig or seeded cracker if its creamy. If firm, cut into bars and stack in interesting patterns. Never let the guests cut the cheese themselves, they’ll make a mess. Pre cutting simplifies presentation but also keeps a cheese board tidy.
2. How much cheese is enough?
We recommend 1 oz of cheese per guest and having a selection of 3 cheeses (preferably different kinds with different textures). Three offers variety, but not so many cheeses that guests are overloaded or forget what they tasted., and 3 oz of cheese per guest is plenty. Secret trick: Cut 1oz cuts of cheese from a larger wedge, then serve them together, with the wedge as an aesthetic piece on the cheese board. If guests want more, then cut more from the wedge!
3. To cube or not to cube?
Our recommendation is go with the flow. If a cheese (like a triple cream) has ripened into ooey gooey deliciousness, cut the top off and let guests use a spoon to spread onto bread. If soft and crumbly (like many blue cheeses), cut with a wire into bars or triangles or crumble into a small serving bowl with toothpicks. Cubes are fine, but bars, triangles, chunks and cheese spread are more exciting to the eye. Did I mention cubes often take more work? Who wants that? Have another cocktail.
4. Bread or crackers?
Depends on the cheese and your preference, we like both. To tone down a pungent cheese, like a stinky blue cheese or washed rind cheese serve with a hearty slice of pain de campaigne. A subtle, milder cheese might be overpowered by a whole grain bread, so serve with a cracker or
thin slice of French baguette. The goal is to enhance the overall experience and not overpower the cheese.
5. Tips for serving cheese
When serving cheese, we recommend having a utensil for each cheese to avoid mixing cheeses that might not want to go together. With creamy, ripe cheeses, a spoon may be better than a knife. For soft, crumbling cheeses, we recommend using a cheese wire as a knife may tear the cheese apart when the cheese sticks to the blade.
6. Which cheese to use?
Talk to the cheesemonger at your local cheese shop. Just like wine has a vintage every year, cheese has a vintage every day! Your cheesemonger is constantly tasting the cheeses and knows what is best right now. Tip: Like Manchego or brie? Tell your cheesemonger and ask for something similar. There are lots of great cheeses out there that are worth exploring.
7. Cheese wheel wedding cake: use it or lose it?
I (Charlie) just got married a few days ago and I had a wedding cake made from cheese wheels. It was AMAZING, and everybody was dazzled.
The Cheese Twins
Charlie and Michael Kalish are the stars of Food Network’s “Big Cheese.” They are internationally-trained food and wine experts. Michael obtained his training in the Piedmont, Italy and has worked for Europe’s finest artisan cheese makers and affineurs (professional cheese agers). Charlie is an expert on French and American artisan cheese. He obtained his training in central and southern France. Both Charlie and Michael lead workshops for cheesemakers across the U.S., Canada, and Australia. For more, visit http://www.cheesetwins.com.