Why Ina Garten Loves Serving Cheese Platters To Guests

If you're in the mood to throw a dinner party then you might be pulsing with excitement over the plans. What you'll make, what kind of wine you might pour, how you'll decorate the table... will there be flowers? Candles? Maybe both! Will you do a soup or salad course to start? Will there be dessert? In spite of all the excitement that can come in tandem with planning and hosting a dinner, it can be a bit of an arduous task to take on, particularly if you're planning to serve multiple courses and appetizers.

The truth is that most of your guests will be delighted just to be invited, and you don't need to worry about offering them an enormous feast. While having a huge spread of hors d'oeuvres can be delightful for guests upon arriving, by the time you sit down to dinner, most people are full and can't enjoy their entree. So what's a host to do? Rather than serving a decadent spread of appetizers at the jump, hostess with the most-ess Ina Garten recommends serving the cheese platter as a second course.

Cheese boards are low-maintenance

According to an episode of "Barefoot Contessa," Garten loves serving cheese platters to guests because, as she describes it, there's no cooking required, and the presentation is still very elegant. She also feature a platter after the main course and before the dessert, as long as they aren't eating something heavy; Garten likes a cheese course served after a light fish dish and before a light dessert like granita.

To create the perfect cheese platter, Garten begins with large, flat fig leaves to ground the presentation. Then she adds a generous portion of grapes in the center of the platter. The fig leaves and the grapes give the cheese board and elegant feel and also create a perfect template for her to place her cheese, crackers, fruit, and other accoutrements. Garten explains that she likes to use a mixture of both hard and soft cheeses with varying flavor profiles, and that she always has the rind facing in and the cheese itself facing out towards her guests. 

Another huge lesson from Garten? Keep it simple and don't go overboard. A crowded cheese board can be intimidating and cumbersome for guests. Keep it simple and you're sure to impress your guests.