Cheese, Please! Setting up a Cheese StationEntertaining | March 16, 2018 | Nik Manojlovich
With some help from the knowledgeable folks at THE CHEESE TABLE, we’re creating an inviting cheese station for our next party. Say it with us – CHEESE, PLEASE!
Here’s a true story about why we said CHEESE PLEASE! Lately, we’ve been working in the city, as the cottage is all closed up for the winter. About a month ago, we were sitting in Carol’s kitchen when the bell rang. Carol went to the door and returned with a black bag, emblazoned with a funky pink logo. “Go ahead and open it,” she said. “You’re going to love this!”
Next thing you know, everything is out of the bag, and I’m super excited. There before me were four different kinds of cheese, a box of oatcakes, a bag of dried cherries with chocolate and a printout with information about cheese. All this from THE CHEESE TABLE!
THE CHEESE TABLE is a brilliant operation – here’s the concept in a nutshell. Cheese Specialists Ally Chang, Sue Riedl and Roxanne Renwick thoughtfully choose Canadian and European artisanal cheeses, pair them with really fabulous accompaniments, share some knowledge and ideas for cheese enthusiasts and… wait for it… deliver it right to your door if you live in the GTA!
There are two different ways you can experience THE CHEESE TABLE:
The Cheese Club:
With a two- or four-month membership, you will receive three to four world-renowned cheeses each month, along with two accompaniments (like crisps, crackers, jellies or spreads) and THE CHEESE TABLE’S Signature Tasting Notes. This monthly delivery is like your next date night in the bag. Imagine kicking back with another cheese lover and learning about cheese. Fabulous.
The Cheese Collection:
This has been designed to make entertaining easy; these cheeses are selected by the experts and delivered with tags, perfect for displaying. The different tiers for this program range from three kinds of cheese (up to six guests), to six (up to twenty guests). These options are accompanied by THE CHEESE TABLE’S recommended condiments for perfect pairing. This innovative concept is like shopping at your local cheesemonger from the comfort of home!
To learn more about THE CHEESE TABLE, click HERE. If you have a party in the works for home, work or the cottage, send them an email with the number of guests you’re expecting, then sit back and trust in the (cheese) universe to deliver. They’ll provide something truly remarkable that you and your guests will love.
Let’s say all this talk about fabulous “fromage” has got you thinking CHEESE, PLEASE! Why not consider SETTING UP A CHEESE STATION for your next party. Hopefully, we’ve inspired you and if so, here are some things to keep in mind when creating your own.
SETTING UP A CHEESE STATION
SERVICE PIECES – It’s important to begin by thinking about how you’re going to display everything. Placing your cheese out on simple, attractive service pieces is the way to go. We love the idea of displaying cheese on elegant white platters, but a slab of marble or wooden cutting boards will work too. Carol has a gorgeous Lazy Susan, which is especially perfect. I love the look of it but also the function of it – it allows guests to rotate the display and get to the cheese they want to try next.
When displaying the various cheeses, get creative. Soft cheese will look extra special displayed on galax, salal or even grape leaves – love the pop of fresh greens. You can also cut small squares of parchment paper for messy cheeses. Remember that variance will make your display more visually pleasing.
As you read on, you’ll see our suggestion to include fresh fruit in this presentation; beautiful bowls and footed stands filled with fruit add yet another area of interest.
PLATES AND NAPKINS – Most of the experts we spoke with feel that small appetizer plates and cocktail napkins are all you need for a cheese station, and we agree. It’s perfect for guests to arrange their cheese sampling, some fruit and maybe some crisps or crackers. As a rule of thumb, put out more plates than you have guests just in case someone decides to change their plate during your get-together.
CHEESE KNIVES – An essential service point for a cheese station is to keep the flavours of the cheeses separate – guests get to mix and mingle, cheeses do not! I received a really gorgeous set of three cheese knives and put them together with three of Carol’s so each cheese had its own dedicated knife.
Here’s an interesting lead – if you’d like more information about cheese knives check out this fabulous post at John Eats Cheese. There’s also a link in the AMAZON section of this post.
CARDS – We really, really like the idea of making cards that detail the name and type of the cheese, country of origin and some thoughts on flavours – flavours we should look for as we taste. This is great because it sparks conversation and interest in the various offerings. Most importantly, it makes the experience memorable.
THE CHEESE – We now know it’s important to offer a combination of cheeses that vary in flavour, place of origin, ingredients and texture. When planning quantities, a good rule of thumb is to provide one ounce per person, per cheese.
Carol and I both think another essential consideration is serving temperature after all, cheese just tastes better after it has had a chance to come to room temperature. That said, most cheese should be taken out of the fridge an hour before serving, but for really soft cheeses, give them just fifteen minutes to come to room temperature.
Although this section of the post is about SETTING UP A CHEESE STATION, I do want to share what we used for this story – we’re quite taken with each and every one!
PECORINO CON PEPE (Italy): pasteurized sheep’s milk – firm, tangy and peppery
TALIAH – (Quebec): thermalized sheep milk – nutty, sweet and crumbly
LE MARÉCHAL (Switzerland): raw cow’s milk – firm, nutty and very full-flavoured
ADORAY (Quebec): pasteurized cow’s milk – wash-rind, smoky mac and cheese
BRILLAT SAVARIN (France): pasteurized cow’s milk – soft, buttery and creamy
LE TUYAU DE POÊLE (Quebec): pasteurized goat’s milk – fresh, citric and complex
ACCOMPANIMENTS – All the things we add to enhance the different and varied flavours of the cheeses.
FRESH & DRIED FRUIT & NUTS – Not every cheese needs to be paired with another flavour, but we think fresh fruit is a perfectly refreshing addition to this cheese party. Consider the following:
GRAPES – Grapes are often served with cheese and although there are many different varieties to choose from we have one, in particular, that impresses us in appearance and flavour. We’re talking about those juicy, sweet, red beauties – Concords. There’s just something about them!
APPLES & PEARS – These two types of fruit get a resounding thumbs up because of their flavour-boosting qualities when paired with cheese. The tart flavour of apple and the juicy sweetness of pear do a fabulous job bringing out the best in cheese, especially hard ones.
FIGS & MELON – I know many of you have enjoyed cheese and figs, but have you tried pairing it with melon? If I just piqued your interest, pair it with some Mission figs and perfectly ripened cantaloupe melons – you will love them both!
NUTS & DRIED FRUIT – Something quite surprising happens when you add nuts and dried fruit into accompaniments. Walnuts and pecans are especially lovely with cheese, as are dried apricots, figs and cherries. Place these small tidbits out in an attractive bowl near your cheese station and watch them disappear in no time.
PICKLED & PREPARED VEGETABLES – This suggestion is for all the canners out there. Place your tangy pickled beans, asparagus, carrots and peppers out with your cheese. A vinegar-flavoured bite acts like a palate cleanser between the different flavours of cheese.
CRACKERS, BREAD, CRISPS & FLATBREAD – There are so many options in this category, but we think the pure-flavoured varieties are best. Always try to track down interesting stuff like oatcakes, crusty baguette or artisanal crackers. If anything, have more than you need – nothing would be worse than running out in the middle of your party.
CONDIMENTS – You may need to think out-of-the-box on this one, but consider adding unusually flavoured items like jams, jellies, honey and anything else that might brighten the flavour of the cheese. Not everything will work but it’s fun to try different things and notice the difference in flavour it creates.
The last thing is a comment about the elephant in the room? What about all the wine pairings?! We’re on it friends, but we’re gonna save our story about SETTING UP A WINE STATION for another time. For now, we’re expecting great things from you each and every time you say CHEESE, PLEASE!
Thanks again to Ally and our friends at THE CHEESE TABLE! They just announced they’re planning some summer magic, doing CHEESE CLUB bags for those of us heading out of town for cottage weekends – I for one will be staying tuned for that!
Make your next party especially memorable and say CHEESE, PLEASE!
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