My appreciation for artisan cheese developed while living in the Netherlands as a grad student. Saturday mornings usually included a visit to the local cheese vendor at the Leiden farmers market.

Having invited a few friends for a spontaneous get-together one summer evening, I had an opportunity to showcase some, I bought earlier that day. My display included firmer like Gouda and Edam, deliciously displayed alongside Maasdammer, the legendary large holed, and of course a hearty portion of the original Leidse cumin, cheese known for its piquant and somewhat tart flavor. A hodgepodge of snacks and mix of drinks completed our table arrangement.

  • Fruits like watermelon, mango and papaya taste delicious on their own, or as part of a fruit medley, but not with with cheese. The texture and high sugar content of these fruits often subdue rather than compliment the flavor of cheese, defeating the purpose of a cheese plate.
  • Spicy peppers, even when stuffed with cheese, are not a perfect pairing. Most cheeses are overpowered by the bold flavors of spicy foods including pickled veggies and certain cured meats. Bite-sized sandwiches are a better option if you’re set on mixing and matching flavors.
  • Vodka and gin-tonics are just not meant to be consumed with cheese. Unless you’re planning to shake up cocktails, spring for traditional wine or beer pairings when planning a cheese reception.

For a unique twist on the traditional favorites, try adding a few smoke-cured cheese varieties to your next display. Some of my favorites are smoked Gruyere, Provolone, Gouda or the Georgian Suluguni.