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How to Plan a Cheese Tasting Party

Appetizers and Snacks, Entertaining, Guest Posts | 20 comments

I’m taking some time off to be with my family for a little while.
How to Plan a Cheese Tasting Party is written by Sylvie of Gourmande in the Kitchen.
Welcome, Sylvie!

Throwing a cheese tasting party is a fun, casual way to spend a great evening with friends. And, since everything can be prepared ahead of time it’s an incredibly stress-free way to host a party. It just takes a little bit of planning to put together a great assortment of cheeses. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Planning a Cheese Tasting Party

Who:

Anyone who eats cheese. You don’t have to be a cheese aficionado to enjoy a cheese tasting party. In fact, it’s the process of tasting and discovering new cheeses that makes a cheese party so enjoyable.

How Many to Invite:

Ideally keep the number of guests somewhere between 6 to 12 people, large enough to spark conversation, but still small enough to keep it an informal occasion.

how to plan a cheese tasting party

Step 2: Picking Cheeses for a Tasting Party

How Much:

The amount of cheese to serve can vary greatly based on the number of accompaniments you are serving and whether your guests are light or heavy eaters. As a general rule of thumb I like to plan for at least 2 ounces per cheese, per person, but err on the side of caution and always buy a little more than you think you might need. You may have leftover cheese, but it can always be used later for sandwiches (related: 5 Ways to Gourmet Sandwiches) or making macaroni and cheese.

Choose at least 4 types of cheeses that will appeal to different palates. Limit the number of cheeses you buy, a large number of cheeses will just overwhelm your taste buds. It’s best to start with just a few cheeses and fully explore the different flavors and textures.

What Kinds

When choosing your cheeses variety is key. Cheeses are categorized by type of milk as well as style. The 3 main types of cheeses are: cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. Styles of cheese are defined by their firmness (e.g., Parmesan), their rind (e.g., Brie), their color (e.g., blue cheese) as well as their age.

Try to pick cheeses that represent different types as well as styles for a well-rounded offering. You could explore cheeses from various countries (e.g., France, Italy and Spain) or just do a tasting of one country’s cheeses.

Whatever you decide, be sure to select cheeses with flavors that vary from mild to strong to provide the best tasting experience, and serve at least one familiar cheese. Your local cheesemonger can help you determine what cheeses to buy as well.

Step3: Presentation – Serving your Cheese

How:

Cheese should always be served at room temperature for fullest flavor, so take out your selection of cheeses about an hour before serving.

Depending on the size of your group, you can either make individual cheese plates or have people serve themselves from a cheese board. A cheese board can be any surface that can withstand the force of a knife; good options are slate boards, wooden boards, granite, or any all-purpose party platters.

how to host a cheese tasting party

If you choose to make individual places, you can assemble them ahead of time, cover them with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator until about an hour before you plan to serve them.

If you are serving your cheeses on a cheese board, use a separate knife for every cheese. Specialty cheese knives are great but not a necessity, you can easily use the knives you have at home. For soft fresh cheeses a butter knife works well. Semi-firm cheeses and cheeses with rinds (e.g., brie) require a sharp, thin pairing knife. Hard cheeses (e.g., Parmesan) require a large chef’s knife and should be cut into chunks ahead of time.

Tip:

Pre-cutting at least one piece of each cheese will make guests more inclined to start tasting.

Arrange the cheeses on the plates or platter starting with the youngest and mildest to the most intense and aged and have your guests taste them in this order as well. Eating the stronger cheeses first will mask the more subtle tastes of the mild ones.

With What to Serve

Offer a few accompaniments with your cheese. Serve sliced baguette or peasant bread and an assortment of crackers, along with plenty of water for your guests to cleanse their palates between tastings.

Olives, toasted nuts (related: How to Toast Nuts) and dried fruit are other great accompaniments. Fresh fruit (like pears) and honey pair well with blue cheeses. Crisp apple slices are great with aged cheddar. Thick, aged balsamic vinegar is a classic pairing with Parmesan as is quince paste with Manchego. Brie goes wonderfully with figs and walnuts.

Wine is another classic accompaniment to cheese. For a versatile wine choice, choose at least one red and one white. Light and crisp whites (like a Sauvignon Blanc) go with young fresh cheeses and goat cheese. Fuller bodied whites (like a Chardonnay) go well with buttery semi-soft and rind cheeses like brie and camembert .

A light to medium body red (like a Pinot Noir) will go with a variety of cheeses and are good all-around choices. Full-bodied reds (like a Cotes du Rhone) are best suited with stronger cheeses like aged cheddar or Parmesan.

Sweet dessert wines are excellent with blue cheeses. And don’t forget sparkling wine or champagne which is wonderful with rich triple crème cheeses like Brillat-Savarin. Your local wine store can help you make the right choices.

Tip:

Since buying wine can get expensive, you can have your guests each bring a different bottle for the tasting.

Step 4: Taste and Enjoy!


What are some of your favorite cheeses?



About the Author:

sylvie profile picSylvie Shirazi is a freelance food photographer and food writer. On her blog, Gourmande in the Kitchen, she celebrates the joy that food brings to our lives every day.

Her motto is “cook simply.” She believes that good food isn’t fussy or pretentious; it’s simple, it’s real and it’s made with love for those we love. Through her blog, Sylvie hopes to inspire others to follow their instincts, trust their taste buds, and find a sense of confidence in the kitchen.

You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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20
RESPONSES - LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW
  • 1
    cynthia - June 01, 2011 @ 6:51 am

    love the idea! what beverages would work if you don’t drink alcohol?

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  • 2
    Fresh and Foodie - June 01, 2011 @ 9:06 am

    I love the topic of this post! I’ve actually been thinking about doing a cheese and beer tasting party, so these are great tips. Trying to find info on beer and cheese has been much more difficult, though — everyone automatically thinks about wine!

    [Reply]

  • 3
    Katrina @ In Katrina's Kitchen - June 01, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    It is so true that you should cut up at least one slice off of each cheese! It’s like that for desserts too!

    [Reply]

  • 4
    Kate@Diethood - June 01, 2011 @ 10:31 am

    Cheese and wine – my absolute favorite! Thank you, Sylvie, for sharing… I have never been to a cheese tasting party, but now I am seriously considering the option of having one.

    [Reply]

  • 5
    Allison - June 01, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    What a great idea! I want to plan a cheese party too!

    [Reply]

  • 6
    TidyMom - June 01, 2011 @ 2:52 pm

    I just want to jump thru the screen!! Sylvie’s photos are always SO fantastic! GREAT post!!

    [Reply]

  • 7
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - June 01, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    This sounds so fun! Love all of the photos.

    [Reply]

  • 8
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction - June 01, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    I have a serious obsession with cheese right now. I love this idea, your photos are stunning.

    [Reply]

  • 9
    JulieD - June 01, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

    What a wonderful post and beautiful photos! These are awesome tips. Like Jamie, I’m obsessed with cheese. I have a large supply of it right now and I keep saying I’m going to have a cheese tasting party, this really helps!

    [Reply]

  • 10
    Wenderly - June 02, 2011 @ 7:51 am

    Absolutely *stunning* as usual Sylvie! I feel like I’ve enjoyed the soiree without even being there! Think I need to throw one of these this summer!

    [Reply]

  • 11
    Betsy - June 02, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    Thank you for this! I’ve been wanting to do a cheese tasting for a while and have been intimidated on how much to buy. This was very helpful!

    [Reply]

  • 12
    Sneh | Cook Republic - June 02, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Lovely Sylvie! Gorgeous photos as always. Because of the sheer number of kids at our get-togethers and playdates, cheese is not as sophisticated as us grown ups would like it to be. But the platters always look colorful with a lot of fruit, especially green and red grapes.

    [Reply]

  • 13
    TheFromagette - June 02, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    Absolutely gorge as usual!! Love the spreaders, I am always looking for new ones to add to my collection…

    [Reply]

  • 14
    EA-The Spicy RD - June 03, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Great advice! I love your tip to Pre-cut a slice to get people started tasting. I’m just now remembering a food and nutrition class I took in college where we did cheese tasting. No wine that day, but still a lot of fun!

    [Reply]

  • 15
    apaler1 - June 03, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    These are great tips! I had no idea that pre-cutting a piece of cheese will make guest more inclined to sample. I’ve been wanting to plan a cheese tasting party and will definitely keep these tips in mind!

    [Reply]

  • 16
    Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) - June 06, 2011 @ 9:29 am

    Great tips here. I recently learned about serving cheese at room temperature. I used to wait until the last minute before putting them out on the tray. Their flavors come through so much better outside of the fridge! :-)

    [Reply]

  • 17
    Kim - June 09, 2011 @ 11:49 pm

    I’ve been a fan of the Mt. Tam cheese from Cowgirl Creamery for almost 10 years. Now that I can get it locally, it’s finding it’s way into salads, omelets, crostini, and just plain “out of the wrapper.” :)

    [K]

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  • 18
    Alexandra - June 12, 2011 @ 6:07 pm

    I was already a little hungry, and now I am DYING for some cheese!! One of my favorites is Irish Cheddar. Also on my must-have list is Humboldt Fog, which I can never get enough of.

    [Reply]

  • 19
    Diane {Created by Diane} - June 12, 2011 @ 8:12 pm

    Great post! I just love the presentation!!!

    [Reply]

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