I’m going to come out and say it: I love cheese! In any form. So when a few years ago my husband suggested that once a month we have wine and cheese for dinner, I was on board. The only thing better than cheese is cheese paired with wine. Making a cheese plate is an easy way to entertain, because serving a cheese plate as an appetizer platter looks fancy, but requires little work on your part. Little effort is a good thing, in my world.
Start by getting a mix of cheese styles: soft, mild, aged, hard, smoked, and blue. Here are some examples to mix and match: buttermilk blue, sharp Irish cheddar, smoked Gouda, baby Swiss, Camembert, and honey goat cheese. Columbus has some great farmer’s markets, and you can often find local cheesemakers, such as Laurel Valley Creamery and Blue Jacket Dairy touting their wares at these events.
So what else to put on the plate? I like to add a variety of flavors and textures. I always have some kind of jam, generally apricot, because it adds that perfect balance of sweetness and tang. Other fruit items, like thinly sliced apples, grapes, and figs are also a good idea. Now let’s talk about meat. I love the saltiness that prosciutto or salami brings to a cheese platter, but Serrano ham is a fun addition too. Whole grain mustard is a must, adding that perfect bite to your cheeses.
Now where do you put all of these goodies? On crackers or crostini! You can buy pre-toasted bread slices for crostini in most groceries in the bakery section. Near the cheese department, you can generally get interesting cracker varieties as well. I like to get a mix of wheat entertainer crackers, pretzel thins, or pita chips. Add some roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, or nuts on the side, and you are all set to entertain!
Here are some of my favorite places in Columbus to get unique kinds of cheese:
Curds and Whey (North Market): http://www.northmarket.com/meet-the-market/our-merchants/curds-whey.aspx
Hills Market (Downtown + Worthington) : http://thehillsmarket.com/
Giant Eagle Market District (Campus) : http://www.marketdistrict.com/Locations/Kingsdale.aspx
Weiland’s Market (Clintonville) : http://www.weilandsmarket.com/
Blue Jacket Dairy (Worthington Farmer’s Market) : www.bluejacketdairy.com
Laurel Valley Creamery (Athen’s Farmer’s Market) : http://www.laurelvalleycreamery.com/site/#/home/
Whole Foods (Upper Arlington): https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/upperarlington
Katzinger’s Deli (German Village): http://www.katzingers.com/