‘Tis the season for holiday parties, which means you’re most likely going to be treated to several festive cheese platters over the coming weeks. But as the Good Book says, “It is more blessed to give cheese than to receive cheese.” Or something like that.
When it comes to gift-giving, a homemade cheese-plate-in-a-bag (or basket) has become one of my standbys for hosts, hostesses, co-workers, and friends. They’re fun and easy to curate, and best of all, they can range in size from a few food items to a full-blown basket with accessories galore. If you want to assemble a thoughtful present for a cheese lover in your life, consider this your shopping list.
1. Cheese! (The Main Event)
One of the most exciting things about the world of cheese is just how vast it is. But at the same time, the seemingly infinite choices can make it challenging to narrow down your options. Luckily, there are two rules of thumb you can turn to when shopping for your plate.
First, pick at least one recognizable cheese like a cheddar or a Manchego. Everyone should feel welcome at the cheese plate, and less adventurous eaters may be looking for something familiar, at least at first.
Second, embrace variety. Some folks like to pick one cheese from each of the three dairy animals: cow, sheep, and goat. Others turn to four categories that you can remember using the acronym FABS: Firm (e.g. Manchego, Parmesan, etc.), Aged (cheddar, Gouda), Blue (Gorgonzola, Stilton), and Soft (brie, Camembert).
Regardless of your philosophy, the important thing is to end up with a sampling of diverse textures.
A good next step is adding a bread as well as something salty or sweet. But that’s just the beginning. Since so many things pair beautifully with cheese, only your budget will define the limits of this list!
Bread: Grab a fresh baguette, crackers, or both. In terms of crackers, something simple—maybe with nuts and dried seeds—will do the trick. There’s no need to seek out any zany flavors that may compete with the cheese!
Sweet: This could be anything from honey to candied nuts to seasonal fruits (fresh or dried) like figs, pears, and grapes. Or if you’re prepping a few days in advance, use jam or preserves (either homemade or store-bought).
Salty: Mustards, cured meats, and jarred veggies like artichoke hearts and olives can fill this role beautifully. Nuts like pistachios and marcona almonds are good options too. Try roasting them with rosemary for an extra seasonal touch.
If you really like this person…or they set the rules by giving you a huge gift first… add some accessories to the mix, and fill your bag to the brim!
The Plate Itself: From marble to wood (or both), there’s a cheese board to suit every aesthetic. Chalkboard-style slates are a fun option that let the host identify the different types of cheese right on the plate.
Cheese Markers: Alternatively, cheese markers can be used like nametags to identify who’s who.
Knives: A standard cheese knife set will include a variety of shapes suited to different textures.
Spoons: Miniature cocktail spoons are a classy touch for scooping honey and other spreads.
Bowls: Ramekins and other containers are practical and stylish ways to serve nuts, olives, and other cheese-adjacent snacks. If you’re buying more than one, consider selecting bowls of differing heights both for looks and for practical reasons (fitting more food on the plate!).
Inside Out Nut Bowl
Once you’ve acquired your desired elements from the list above, just pop them in a basket or bag and—voila! You’re ready to give a thoughtful and sophisticated gift. Of course, it would be unsanitary to ship this particular present or leave it under a tree for a few days. However, removing cheese from the fridge about an hour in advance is actually recommended to ensure maximum flavor, so it can safely handle a short journey to your destination. Once you’ve arrived and witnessed the glowing reaction to your gesture, you’ll know you’ve rocked the season of giving. Now all that’s left to do is rock the night away!
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.