Cheese plates, like the one I am eating now, are simple elegant and delicious, but there is a formula for maximum enjoyment. Here's my first draft of the perfect cheese plate.
|Texture||1 soft||1 semi-soft||1 hard|
|Flavor||1 strong||1 medium||1 mild|
|Source||2 cows||1 sheep or goat|
|STARCH||1 white bread||1 dark bread||1 cracker or other|
|FRUIT||1 stone fruit||1 berry||1 other|
|1 fresh||1 dry||1 processed|
|PROTEIN||1 hard, salted meat||1 nut|
|ADDITIONAL ITEMS|| honey, balsamic reduction, herb butter, maple butter, olives, pickled vegetables, etc.|
As an afterthought, I dug up some articles on making a cheese plate:
Wikihow says have a theme [disagree], go with odd numbers [agree], Arrange your cheeses from mildest to strongest [lame], Add accompaniments [duh], and Pick a drink to go with it [to which I must ask, "only one?"]
Chow says diversify by regional origin as well as texture and source [good point, but not as crucial unless you are trying to impress someone, and it won't work], choose 4 cheeses including a semi-firm [I still like odd numbers and am fine with a semi-firm or semi-soft], plate according to strength of flavor [still lame, and I'm not going to arrange my cheese in a straight line regardless].
Artisinalcheese.com is broad but boring and commercial.
Food Network divides cheeses by production style (fresh, washed-rind, bloomy, pressed, and blue) which I found thought provoking.