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When’s the Best Time to Serve Cheese in a Meal?

Is it best to serve a cheese course before the meal, after the entrée, or at the end of the meal?
I am often asked when, during the course of a meal, is the “right time” for the cheese plate. Well, my friends, I ask you, when is the wrong time? Still, many cheese experts have different beliefs—rules even—as to when the cheese should be presented; wars have been fought over this very topic. But I am here to tell you that there is no right time. (Gasp! A hush settles over the crowd.) Yes, you heard it here first.

There are, however, some commonsense guidelines. When serving a large dinner, such as a Sunday roast of a whole venison leg with Yorkshire pudding and duck-fat-fried potatoes, for example, I like to serve the cheese course before the meal with a few cocktails. Get those digestive enzymes flowing; lubricate the old intestinal tract for the feast. If I am planning some light summery fare, such as a big kitchen-sink salad with lots of yummy pickled things, I like to plate the cheese alongside the entrée with a few bottles of white. This way the cheese is featured as a large accoutrement to the salad, or vice versa. For a simple pasta meal, I always prefer to have the cheese before the dessert course, as sort of a palate cleanser that sets up a nice break between savory and sweet.

Charlotte Kamin

Charlotte Kamin is part-owner of the Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. When she’s not filling the store with tasty treats and mongering, she’s spending way too much time thinking about food.