When planning a party that includes cheese the host must ask these questions: How many ounces per person? How many different cheeses? How much cheese to buy?
If other food is served three ounces of cheese per person should be sufficient. I recommend serving no fewer than three cheeses. If cheese is the main food you might increase that to 6 ounces total, and a minimum of 5 cheeses. I admit that I believe more is better yet a pretty good rule of thumb is to allow one pound each of the cheeses for every sixteen persons, about one ounce each. For the harder cheeses this is more than enough, for the softer cheeses or for the cheeses with thicker rinds that is about perfect.
Why the difference?
The softer cheeses have higher water content so people tend to eat bigger portions of those than they do of the firmer varieties. If the cheese has a thick rind that is not itself tasty you should factor that in. This applies to many aged and blue cheeses. Cheeses with rinds, wax coatings, leaf-wraps, and/or higher water contents should be scaled up a bit.
If you want to be a little more precise you might cut back a little on the harder cheeses, perhaps one pound for every twenty persons, and keep the others at about one pound for every sixteen. I have heard many people say “I can eat a ton of cheese.” I doubt that. Maybe a couple of tons in one’s lifetime is more realistic. If you consider that our per capita consumption in the U.S. is steadily rising to around 35 pounds each year, a ton of cheese should be easy enough. I sense that New Yorkers are doing their part to help raise that consumption.
Not to be gluttonous but to recognize cheese as a near-perfect food that enjoys a stellar track record for food safety, I believe we should all eat a little more of it, but only what I will call “real” cheese. On the other hand it is good to know that a little bit of cheese goes a long way, especially the harder cheeses. A cheese that costs over $30.00 per pound may seem high but one pound of a firm cheese can last for several days. I recently purchased a half pound of one of our new cheeses – the Stella Royale – and I expect that I will continue to nibble on it for several more days. A pound of this cheese is only $15.00!
We have some very soft and luxurious Quesos de la Serena in our caves now. I purchased an entire wheel of one yesterday. This one costs $21.50 per pound but it is worth every little dollop. I could not resist it; believe I ate nearly a pound of it last night! This cheese might be more appropriate for a special occasion with at least six people attending but when you see one this nice it should not be missed. The special occasion was having one in such marvelous form (as they usually are this time of year).
We usually serve the equivalent of about 6 ounces cheeses total in our classes here, which may not sound like much. Many people finish their entire selection but others opt to take a little home with them. This is after the opening receptions where several other cheeses and delicious fondue is served. Between the reception cheeses and those that are on the class plates, one could easily eat nearly a pound of find “real” cheeses in two hours. It can be done! Having all these outstanding cheeses within easy reach is one reason the New York per capita consumption is so high. Imagine a per capita consumption of 365 pounds each year! I am doing my part.Posted by Artisanal Cheese