A cheese course following a leisurely meal is always enjoyable especially at a holiday gathering. Here are a few tips. First, it’s best to serve cheese at room temperature. Keep the cheese wrapped until ready to serve to prevent the surfaces from drying out. Allow one- to two-ounce chunks or slivers per person. Accompany the cheese with crusty bread, seasonal fruits such as sliced apples, pears, or berries, and nuts. Cheese plates often offer a blue cheese (Maytag blue, Danish blue, or the French Bleu de Bresse, or Stilton), and a hard cheese (Provolone, Pecorino, or Parmigiano-Reggiano).
You can experiment with the fruits and nuts you like to serve with a particular cheese, but here are some ideas. Toasted walnuts go well with blue cheese, as does fresh blueberries (especially with Bleu de Bresse). Serve strawberries with a creamy Brie. Fresh and juicy seasonal fruits, like apples and pears, can be served with most cheeses.
If locally made cheeses are available in your area, by all means, use them. In New Orleans, we are able to get local cheeses made by Chicory Farm in nearby Mount Hermon. We like to call them fromage de pays, or the special cheese of the region. A plate of their cheese (see Mail-Order Sources) is often served at Emeril’s and our customers love it.