A cheese course adds a touch of elegance to any meal. And since most varieties should be served at room temperature, you can prepare the plates long before guests arrive, says Laura Werlin, author of The All American Cheese and Wine Book. Some guidelines:
1. Less is more. “We tend to overdo it,” says Werlin, “and that gives cheese a bad name.” When serving after the entrée, figure one ounce of each cheese per guest, and don’t do more than three varieties. A bold cheese, like Brie, can stand alone.
2. Move mild to strong, soft to hard. Start with goat cheese, then cheddar, then blue. Or begin with ricotta drizzled with honey, then Gruyère, then Parmesan splashed with balsamic vinegar.
3. Skip the crackers. They can add competing flavors. Better: apples, pears, toasted walnuts, almonds or dried cranberries.