A cheese tray is pretty much a staple at my friends' gatherings, so it goes without saying that I'll be making one or two throughout the holiday season. Choosing cheeses used to stress me out until I discovered a tried and true way to build the perfect cheese tray: it's all in the clock. Allow me to explain.
Before you ever go to the store, take a look around your cabinets and decide your cheese tray platter. It could be a white serving dish, a glass platter, or a simple cutting board like I've used here. Knowing what you're serving your cheese on will help you determine what cheeses & accompaniments to buy.
Next, think of your serving tray as a clock. Working clockwise, you'll want to add a variety of cheeses, crackers, fruits, etc. However, you'll want to start with your softest cheese (typically a goat cheese), move to a semi-hard or hard cheese (like Parmesan), and finish with a full-flavored cheese (like Blue Cheese or Gorgonzola). Fill in the areas between the cheeses with crackers, fruits, and jams. I always choose fruit that's in season, versus simply grabbing grapes and calling it a day. Apples are fantastic in the fall and early winter, and pomegranates would be beautiful for the holidays. Whatever fruits you decide, make sure you're choosing ones that fit with the cheeses you've selected.
For this tray, I chose Stella Cheese. Stella offers a ton of cheese varieties, so it helped me narrow my selection at the store. By choosing one brand, I was able to select different types of cheeses without being overwhelmed by all of the options. Then, I used pecan crackers (also seasonal!), apples, and a little locally made jam.
If you're salivating just thinking about a Stella Cheese tray (and maybe craving a little wine, too?), head to the store to pick up a few items for your own cheese tray. And don't forget to enter Stella's contest to win an amazing trip to Napa. If that doesn't say Christmas vacation, I don't know what does!
What are your favorite cheeses to include on a cheese tray?! Spill your secrets!