Last Minute Holiday Game Plan: Entertain with Cheese

By Suzanne Corbett, Food/Travel Editor

Ok sports fans, the clocking is running out.  It’s party time and there’s little time left to cook.  So, what’s the answer when you need a great food try that will knock it out of the park for your guests? Create a holiday cheese tray.

Shop the  and arrange  an assortment of your favorite cheeses from around the world or locally. To dress up that cheese board more add charcuterie; that’s the fancy way to say meats and sausages.  Add an assortment of crackers, mustards, dried fruit, pickles or olives. Display on a tray  or something a that can serve as a try such wood slats, tiles, picture frames or an old mirror.  Decorate with  herbs such as fresh rosemary, fresh cranberries or pomegranate seeds, which add a touch of color and a holly look.

I enjoy using local cheeses form small farmsteads and those from dairy regions across the country as those produced by California’s dairy farm families.  California cheese are often overlooked, but are worth adding to the tray.

When creating a cheese tray  offer a selection of cheeses that range in texture and flavors from mild, sharp and pungent.  Consider a soft rind cheese such as Brie, Camembert or Formagella, or a semi-firm cheese such as Gouda or St. George. I love hard cheeses such as dry jack, aged Gouda or aged white cheddar. And don’t forget to add in something pungent such as blue or flavored jack.

To add contrast, add flavorful breads thinly sliced or broken bread sticks into smaller pieces, which can enhance contrast in both flavor and texture. When including aged cheeses, allow time for them to come to room temperature. Larger pieces typically take 1-2 hours for the full flavor to develop. However, fresh cheeses should be treated like milk, so don’t allow them to sit out for more than a short time.

Estimate 1-1 1/2 ounces of each cheese per person. If you plan to serve three or more cheeses, consider decreasing the amount to 1 ounce of each cheese per person.

The following cheese tray ideas are courtesy of Real California Milk ( )  A holiday gift to readers who need a little last minute help to make the season a little merrier.

California Continental Cheese Board

1-2 ounces California Brie cheese per person

1-2ounces California toma cheese per person

1-2ounces California pepper jack cheese per person



fresh herbs

On cheese plate, arrange cheeses, almonds, crackers and cherry tomatoes.

Cheese 2Red, White and Blue Cheese Board

1-2 ounces California cheddar cheese per person

1-2 ounces California blue cheese per person

1-2ounces California mushroom jack cheese per person


dried cranberries


fresh apple slices

On cheese plate, arrange cheeses, walnuts, cranberries, crackers and apple slices.