Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Banquet Cheese Platter ~ Brie, Danish Bleu, French Aged Goat Cheese, Parmigiana, P'tit Basque

     A Classic Cheese Platter For A Big Party! 
     Cheese Platters are highly regarded by many chefs, especially during the holiday season.  Many chefs like to present traditional cheeses of the local region they are working in.  Some chefs like to assemble a platter of select cheeses from several different countries.  As one can see, a cheese platter usually has a well planned theme.  A well planned cheese platter not only is entertaining, it is a medium for introducing interesting gourmet cheese varieties to guests.  
     The better that you know cheese, the easier it is to plan an interesting cheese platter.  When designing a platter that is meant to introduce unfamiliar cheese varieties to guests, it is best to think on the same level as a cheese monger.  Being a cheese monger requires good sales tactics.  When guests ask questions about the cheese, being capable of delivering intriguing answers actually parallels cheese monger sales tactics.  
     Not everybody is interested in trying a new cheese variety or a cheese that is practically unheard of.  When guests are clueless about the variety of cheese on a banquet platter, offer some assistance.  Often the best response is to key upon the preferences of the guests and to find out what cheese varieties that they liked in the past.  
     If a cheese variety on a banquet platter compares with the likes of a guest, then start from there and try to expand upon their tastes.  The worst thing that can be said to a guest inquiring about a specific variety of cheese is "Do not try that cheese, because I am sure that you will not like it!"  Negativity will not sell cheese and such a statement may offend the guest.   It is better to use the preferences of the guest to point them in the right direction.  For example, "If you prefer a milder tasting cheese, then this Mexican Manchego or Basque Sheep Milk Cheese is well worth giving a try!"   
    As one can see, the better that one knows the cheese they serve, the more intriguing the banquet cheese platter tasting experience will be.  All it takes is some time spent researching each cheese on the internet or at a library.  Often the vendor that carries the cheese will provide the history, cheese making process and authenticity regulations that influence the qualities of each cheese variety.    
     Banquet Cheese Platter:
     These bullet points are key items to consider when planning a banquet cheese platter for a large party:  
     • The yield of a cheese platter depends on the number of guests and the event function.  For a New Years Eve Party, about 4 ounces per guest is a good estimate, because the guests will want to indulge.  For a dinner party event, about 2 ounces of cheese per guest is plenty, because guests will be inclined to save room for the main course.  
     • The amount of each cheese variety offered does not have to be equal.  Example:  For a New Years Party of 100 guests, about 25 total pounds of cheese will be needed.  If 5 varieties of cheese are planned for the platter, then the amount of each cheese does not have to weigh 5 pounds.  It is best to go a little heavier with the cheese varieties that the guests will certainly like and go a little lighter with the cheese varieties that the guests will hesitate to try.    
     • Choose a theme for the platter or just go with whatever cheese bargains can be found.  For example, plan a platter that features great cheese varieties of the Alps or a specific country.  Featuring a variety of cheese that comes from one animal (like goat cheese or cow milk cheese) is a good theme too.  Even better, a banquet platter theme that features ancient cheese varieties or the cheese of Trappist Monks that are descendent of the Roman Empire can offer a glimpse into the history of cheese.
     • A clean, spot free mirror surface platter is the best choice for showing off fine cheese.  
     • The presentation style of a banquet cheese platter does make a difference.  Each slice of cheese should be aligned with its own respective Grande Piece.  The Grand Piece is a large piece of cheese wheel that acts as a primary focal point and it lets guests imagine what the whole cheese wheel looks like.  
     • Arrange the cheese slices, so they lead the eyes to the focal point.  This is call flow.  Overlapping cheese slices in a row helps to achieve flow.    
     • The color and texture of each cheese must be considered when planning the design.  For example, place a sharp aged hard cheese next to a soft double cream fresh cheese to create a texture contrast.  Place a light color cheese next to a bleu variety to create a color contrast.          
     • Variety is the spice of life!  Offering a variety of cheese will please nearly every guest at an event.  For example:  
          1. A variety of fresh cheese - Fresh Chevre or Mozzerella
          2. A variety of aged hard cheese - Parmigiana or Extra Aged Gouda
          3. A variety of soft cheese - Brie, Camembert or Limburger 
          4. A variety of semi soft cheese - Bel Paese, Lappi, Kasseri or French Aged Goat Cheese 
          5. A variety of semi firm cheese - Mexican Manchego, P'tit Basque, Cheddar 
          6. A variety of bleu - Danish Bleu, Saint Agur, Roquefort, Stilton, Gorgonzola 
     • Garnishing the cheese platter adds to the pleasing visual effect.  Fresh herbs, carved vegetables or fruit add a nice touch.  The garnish does not need to be complicated or distracting.  One cannot go wrong when simply garnishing with Italian Parsley and Tomato Roses.   
     • Accompaniments should be chosen that compliment each cheese or the entire cheese platter.  Artisan bread, crostini, rusk, shortbread or fancy crackers nearly always accompany a banquet cheese platter.  Fruit preserves, chutney, fine mustard or a variety of pickles make nice accompaniments too.  (Pecan Shortbread Crisps and Crostini accompanied the cheese platter in the photos.)   

     Bias cut (45º angle) a baguette loaf into 3/16" thick slices.
     Place the baguette slices on a sheet pan.  
     Brush both sides of each bread slice with olive oil.
     Bake the baguette slices in a 325ºF oven till they are a crispy golden color.
     Arrange the crostini on a platter or a cloth lined basket.

     Pecan Shortbread Crisps:
     Follow the link to the recipe in this website!
     • Pecan Shortbread Crisps  

     If you are planning a banquet event or party of your own, then this cheese platter article may come in handy.  A cheese platter is a real crowd pleaser! 

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