The Easiest Way to Serve Cheese at a Dinner Party

When a cheese plate is too complicated, it’s time to grab a bowl.

Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that putting together a cheese plate is hard. It’s not. It’s easy. We’ve discussed this.

But putting out cheese for a party can, believe it or not, get even easier—and still feel luxurious, decadent, and interesting. All it takes is a small, attractive bowl; some 2- to 3-inch chunks of cheese; and generous pour of balsamic vinegar over the top.

I encountered this the other night at New York City restaurant Porsena, where I initially mistook the shards of cheese for crackers. The fact that it was a nutty, salty chunk of Grana Padano was a happy surprise. And as I ate one piece, then two, then three, I started wondering why I wasn’t putting little bowls like this out on the counter when I have friends over.

Sara Jenkins, the chef and owner of Porsena, laughed when I called her to talk about the dish, and I get it—did I really need direction from her on how to put some cheese in a bowl? But as is often the case, this is just slightly more involved than it seems.

“It really depends on the ingredients,” Sara said. “We use Grana Padano, but if one were going to go hog wild and buy the best Parmigiano Reggiano, you can take it up a whole other notch.”

But the cheese (which should be an aged, dry cheese) is secondary to the balsamic. For this dish to really work, you want to get a decent bottle of the stuff. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive bottle on the shelf, but it definitely shouldn’t be the cheapest. “I’d say spend the most money you feel you can,” Jenkins says.

This is a snack you probably want a red wine for—especially, Jenkins says, if that red wine is lambrusco. I see it as an opening act to a dinner party, or maybe just something you scatter around the house at a cocktail party, but Jenkins says that in parts of Italy it’s “probably more of an after-dinner snack.” I’ll add a third scenario to the list: You, by yourself, with a glass of wine and a bowl of cheese, which becomes dinner itself.

The Easiest Way to Serve Cheese at a Dinner Party

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