Some basic things to consider when serving a cheese course:

  •  Three to five cheeses are idea for any cheese plate
  •  Arrange the cheese in clockwise fashion, with the first cheese at midnight on the plate
  •  Vary the milk types: goat, sheep and cow
  •  After-dinner cheeses would typically start with a fresh cheese (e.g., chevre) or bloomy rind (e.g., camembert); then a semi-soft or medium cheese (e.g., Morbier or Cheddar); then a harder cheese (e.g., an aged Gouda ); finally a blue (e.g., Roquefort).

If all else fails, start with your favorite cheese and build a plate around it.

Types of Cheeses

  • Fresh Cheeses: Uncooked and unripened lactic curds, usually moist and mild, drained, like cream cheese, or undrained, like Ricotta.
  • Soft-ripened or bloomy rind: Semi-soft consistency with surfaces exposed to molds that cause them to ripen inward. Bloomy rinds (Brie, Camembert) become creamy as they ripen. The higher butterfat cheese often found in this group, including double and triple-crèmes (like St. Andre), produce the richest, creamiest cheeses
  • Washed-rinds: Treated or cured by being brushed, rubbed, washed or immersed in brine of salt, wine, beer or grape brandy to promote desirable exterior mold that produce a “smelly” quality with a pronounced flavor (Pont L’Eveque, Alsace Munster).
  • Natural rind: Self-formed rind, no micro-flora or mold or washing of their thin exterior. The natural rind takes the appearance of rock covered with splotches of lichen (Stilton, Cantal, Tomme de Savoie).
  • Pressed: For uncooked, pressed cheeses, curds remain uncooked. Whey is removed by pressing the cheeses to complete drainage, thus achieving a firm texture (Saint Nectaire, Tomme de Savoie). For cooked, pressed cheeses, curds are heated till they solidify before being pressed. (Gouda , Cheshire , Cantal, Gruyere, Parmigiano Reggiano, Appenzeller, Emmental).
  • Semi-hard and Hard: These are also cooked and pressed, with or without rinds, and either smooth textured (Cheddar) or “holey”, open textured (Swiss Emmental). Usually aged 1-2 years, even up to 6 like aged Gouda.
  • Blue-veined: These are marbled with blue-green mold throughout the interior and are intensely flavored (Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton). Made from all major types of milk, they are sprayed or pierced with penicillin mold spores and usually aged in caves and cellars.