Several weeks ago, my husband Derek, our children and I attended our friend's, Jenny and Mike's, always fabulous “Annual St. Patty’s Day Party”. This is no ordinary party. Our friend Jenny, a “Culinary Expert,” never disappoints when it comes to “banging-out” delicious, mass quantities of seasonal delights.
Like me, Jenny takes a lot of pride when it comes down to detail therefore, I was delighted when asked to bring a meat, fruit and cheese platter to the party. I received a direct message from my husband, “Jenny and Mike want YOU to make the cheese platter because they know YOU will do a good job!” So, without hesitation, I made a beeline for Fresh Market.
As usual, I was on a mission to create something special and eye-catching. I started my venture by selecting a center piece of potted emerald colored shamrocks. Scanning the produce department, I unearthed unique, extra hardy, oversized lettuce leaves of heirloom varieties to line the round perimeter of my latest shopping find; a deep aged wooden pizza board that I purchased for this exact purpose. The first thing I knew my platter would require was eye-catching color. On that note, I stocked up on endive, baby carrots, ruby red grape tomatoes, extra large seedless purple grapes (though technically called red grapes) and one luscious looking green pear. I then proceeded to the deli counter for color coordinated cheeses. Oh and how can I leave out the specialty crackers to fill any void? I rushed home and assembled my massive platter which overflowed with appetizing delights.
My methods for design/embellishment embrace the same idea across the board, I call it the “the art of dimension and layering.” My number one rule: “A platter should always be lined” (unless of course the platter is special and you intend to show off its design). Second, start by placing your cheeses equidistant from one another. Next it’s time to fill in the blanks! Next to each cheese with color, place your coordinating fruit. For example, I found a cheese that had purple colored craisins in it therefore I placed my “purple” grapes right beside it. The idea is to sporadically fill in the blanks and balance the use of color throughout your platter. Add depth to your platter by adding small bowls and filling them in a creative way, such as slicing fresh mozzarella cheese and creating a “mozzarella rose” or using the same technique with sliced roasted red peppers or by using any food that is soft and flexible or simply filling them with olives, etc. I always add a tall glass with sesame breadsticks to add some extra height to my platter. From here, I sprinkle the platter with tiny grape tomatoes, crostini surrounding a round bowl or two, stack some crackers and scatter some slices of sopressatta and/or pepperoni.
The final step is to make it all look fresh and mouth watering. With a spray bottle full of spring water, spray your fruit. Drizzle, some extra virgin olive oil on your mozzarella rose with a dash of salt and pepper. For unique flavor and color, I drizzle maple syrup on certain cheeses, as well as on top of my pear, which I have sliced down into wedges. Voilá! Your basic cheese platter is now not only delightfully delicious but also the evening's topic of intriguing conversation.
The moral of my story is that food presentation should be viewed as an art, just as one would dress or decorate their home or parties. It is easy to stick a few blocks of cheese on a platter but it’s another thing to give it a “wow factor."