Did you know there are more than 2,000 varieties of cheese across the globe? With everything from babybel to Brie; cheddar to Camembert; and mascarpone to mozzarella – it can be pretty tough to know what to put on the ultimate cheese platter. After all, how is one to know what’s gouda?
To solve the issue once and for all, we sat down with international cheese expert Claudia Bowman of McIntosh & Bowman Cheesemongers. For the past 14 years, Claudia’s life has been consumed by the world of artisan cheese. She’s worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, and has even completed a Diploma of Cheese.
Not only does she regularly consume it, Claudia also takes great pleasure in sharing cheese with people who are A) already familiar with it and B) completely new to it. There's something for everyone in her helpful hints and tips.
If you’re new to cheese and starting out, what cheeses are essential for a platter?
You should definitely get five different types of cheese: a hard, a soft, a washed rind, a blue and something in a different milk type like a goat or sheep. It would be such a shame to try one cheese and decide that you hate it altogether. If you have a variety of different types, styles, aesthetics and colours you’ll be more likely to say, “I didn’t like that, but this one is amazing”.
What would your recommend to have on the platter other than cheese?
I like to have a mix of sweet and savoury. I’m a big fan of the pastille nash. It’s a caramelised prune, walnut, honey and lemon log. You should also have fruit – mustard fruits, fresh fruits, dried fruits. You could also include cured meats and sundried tomatoes. Us Aussies have a bad habit of going overboard with bread and crackers, but when you’re buying really good quality artisan cheese you’re less in need of having crackers and accompaniments.
When it comes to accompaniments what’s best: water crackers, biscuits, bread or breadsticks?
It depends entirely on the cheese you’re having it with. If you’re having something soft and oozy, go for something like a piece of sourdough bread that will soak it all up. If you’re going for a hard cheese like a beautiful cheddar or aged Gruyere, then go for a wafer thin lavash.
Less is more in so many things in life, but not when it comes to cheese.
It can be overwhelming choosing from hundreds of different types of cheese at a store. Do you have any advice?
Pick something you know and like, and then pick two things you’ve never seen or tried before. That’s my biggest recommendation. As human beings, we’re creatures of habit and don’t break out of the things we’ve already established a connection with. Be adventurous! The most exciting stuff in life happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone.
Do you have any tips for arranging the perfect platter?
Avoid the desire to make it look Instagram ready and do what’s practical. A really good cheese platter is not one where everything is on top of each other and there’s no room to cut into it. Lay it out as if you were at home by yourself and your favourite show was on TV. You’d arrange it in a way that made sense and so you could jump straight into it. You want it to look inviting. Nothing is less desirable than when it looks plastic and out of a supermarket photo shoot.
What should people do with leftover cheese from a platter?
I’ve never had that problem. We’ve never had leftover cheese. My storage tip is that if you have cheese leftover, you’re buying the wrong cheese. It’s time to pick better cheese.
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