Cheese Basics

How to Eat a Cheese Plate

Keeping your knives and wedges straight

By Michele Foley

Cheese plates are to modern entertaining what potato chips and clam dip were to 1970s soirees. But many who wouldn’t dare double-dip are ignorant of cheese-plate etiquette. Follow these tips and avoid being the one holding the knife when the others ask, “Who cut the cheese?”

1. Don’t lop off the tip.

How many times have you turned a graceful triangle of cheese into an ungainly trapezoid? Rather than chop off the tip, you’re supposed to cut pieces off the sides to maintain a cheese’s wedge shape. Why? Two reasons: because it looks better, and so that someone isn’t stuck with the harder, drier part at the end near the rind. Rob Kaufelt, owner of New York–based Murray’s Cheese, says that cutting miniwedges lets you taste all the cheese’s parts, from the rind to its creamier center. Yes, unless it’s wax or has paper on it, try the rind.

2. To every cheese there is a serveware piece.

If the host puts out a separate knife for each cheese, use them. Norbert Wabnig, of the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, says, “Eating from a cheese plate is not like eating from a trough. Mixing flavors leads to contamination of the cheeses.” Some people actually want to taste a pure, snowy chèvre without crumbs of Gorgonzola sticking to it. And on a related note, it’s OK to spread soft cheese directly on your cracker with the serving knife.

3. It’s not gluttony, it’s cheese.

If your host offers many cheeses, it’s fine to create a sampler plate for yourself with a slice of each.

See more articles