It's that time of year to stock up the pantry with a few holiday entertaining staples for those planned and impromptu gatherings of friends.
A well-presented platter is of my favorite ways to entertain. With a cheese platter at the top of the list. With very little preparation, it is a feast at which relaxed great conversation can flow.
Staples for the pantry include great cheeseboard accompaniments like olives, dried fruit such as figs and mirabelles, almonds and walnuts, and some good crusty bread and water crackers. And don't forget the wine!
For optimal flavor, serve cheeses at room temperature. Remove them from the refrigerator 30-60 minutes prior to serving. Don't overwhelm your guests with too many choices. Always serve crusty bread or water crackers to cleanse the palate between cheeses. Remember to avoid placing delicately flavored cheeses alongside strong, pungent cheeses as the stronger aroma will overpower the lighter.
Hard cheeses take longer to come to room temperature than soft ones. When you take it out, leave the cheese wrapped so that the exposed surfaces don't dry out. To cut any cheese properly—hard or soft —use a good chef's knife (a good all-purpose utility knife).
Image and Content Sources: Olive Bar, London; Wegmans; Little Brown Pen; Wisteria; The Art of Serving Cheese