The New Cheese Plate

Curating the perfect plate plus a no-cook fonduta recipe

"I don't know of any food that makes people as happy as cheese does," says Kay Michaels, the manager at Murray's Cheese, New York's iconic West Village cheese shop. "It's truly nourishing and wholesome. Our bodies tap into that."

Our bodies want to tap into that a lot these days as the weather turns cooler and the holidays approach. With so many options shopping for cheese can be overwhelming. Michaels offers some expert advice for getting the perfect range of the stinky, bloomy and blue stuff:

Robiola Fonduta with charred bread and crudités

Get the right mix. Michaels recommends five to seven varieties. "Any more and it gets confusing. Plan to serve about an ounce of each cheese per person. And remember to mix your milks—cow, sheep, goat. You want a representation of different styles."

Buy two to three days in advance, tops. "Any earlier and the cheese may dry out."

Soften up. "Before you serve, leave it out for 45 minutes to an hour because the cold dulls the flavor and the texture of the cheese needs to soften up."

When in doubt, go with cheddar. "You can never go wrong with a good cheddar, especially Cabot clothbound cheddar. English ones will get more savory, horseradish-y and vegetal, while American cheddars are sharper and sweeter."

Endives and potatoes make the perfect sides

See Michaels' picks for some can't-miss wedges.

To add a little variety to your cheese plate, try this super-easy no-cook fonduta robiola from Tasting Table's sous-chef David Kirschner (see the recipe).

The creamy, slightly tangy, soft-ripened Italian cheese gets blended into submission with heavy cream and olive oil for a few minutes. Serve it with crudités, drizzled on crusty bread or use it to dress endive leaves sprinkled with roasted pistachios to make a deconstructed salad.

You can also put the fonduta under the broiler for a few minutes, until it bubbles, then serve the gooey, bubbly, creamy condiment with roast potatoes or fries.