Labeling cheeses on a cheese plate
Here's my question: do you have a system by which you identify the cheeses you've laid out on a cheese board?
If it's just you and less than a few people, it's easy enough to congregate around the cheeses, have a few beverages and describe them. However, if you are laying out a multitude of cheeses for a multitude of people, do you strive to identify the cheeses in any way?
I usually do try to identify the cheeses, at least in name, for a couple reasons. First, and most commonly, I will be approached and asked what fabulous cheese my guest just had. If it's written down they can take better note of it and not bother me at the same time. Secondly, a lot of cheeses looks similar but have very different tastes, so such a practice helps people get something they like. Finally, it just keeps me from repeating the same thing over and over (and over and over, especially if we're drinking, which is always).
Like I said, for small groups that are hanging around a common area I won't label the cheeses, as I will generally be available to identify and discuss. For larger groups, however, I like to label the cheese with at least a common name and sometimes an origin. A few years back I made cheese flags with toothpicks, paper and tape. Now I use ceramic. Either way, if I can't be there to discuss, I at least like to have them labeled.
I regularly do several cheese trays with three cheeses per. IDing comes from a computer printout that I create and cut up (yeah, kickin' it old school). I then put the piece of paper near the cheese it IDs on the table. Not perfect but easily updatable and changeable. Also leaves me with a neat archive of all the cheeses I've served and when.
I include the cheese name, provenance, style, history and sometimes what kind of beverage it goes best with.
I totally get that my guests are going to skew the population here....
but I basically never label - I'm in France, so everyone can pretty much identify cheeses by class at a glance (hard, soft, chevre, bleu, Brie, etc.)
The only time I've ever labeled was once when doing a Brie flight for visitors (7 kinds of Brie....and the labels were to keep ME straight, too).
I rarely bother to identify cheeses. I just explain what they are if people ask.
You can buy reusable cheese tags, but I don't like things that you have to stick in a cheese. They are fine, if you're reasonably sure that all of that wheel/piece will be eaten, but when cheese is left over, it's better if there isn't a hole in the rind. A solution is to buy some tag holders at a restaurant supply store. They come in various sizes and heights and have a split ring at the top, like the one that some key chains have. You can then make up a card on stiff paper for each cheese, with just the name of the cheese, or with as much information as you want to put on it, and slip the card onto the holder, which you can put on top of, or next to, the cheese.
i just use an index card and identify the cheese and the source (goat, cow, etc...) I have too many friends that need to know what they're eating - I'd be answering questions all night if I didn't do this. (I only do it for big parties - as you say, small dinner party it's easy enough, and fun, to talk about the cheese with everyone)
I use a small chalkboard with table easel that stands near the cheese plates and I ID the cheeses for company. I really appreciate it when a host takes the time to ID the cheese and wine they are serving.
If I have more than 2 cheeses I always label. For a buffet style I will just fold a piece of paper in half and use a slant tipped faux calligraphy felt tip marker to make the signs look nice. If the cheese is especially stinky or strong or if there is something in particular I want to point out (like eat the rind, don't eat the rind, this is my favorite, etc) I will write it under the name. If I am doing a composed cheese course for people I will do a small (quarter page) write up of the cheeses with milk, region, and anything else that I think is pertinent.
Yes my friends think I am crazy BUT they all have become better cheese buyers now that they know the names of the cheeses that they like!
I am thinking that I should start keeping a database of cheese preferences for my regular guests :) But that's a little too much even for me :)
Oh I don't think that's crazy at all. When I think back to all the blind cheese eating I've done it's no wonder I'm still trying to figure out what cheese I enjoyed and didn't care for. Not all cheese shops allow for a great deal of sampling and I rarely buy a cheese without tasting it first...so knowing what you like & what you don't can rest on knowing what you ate! And, When the cheese plate is prepared by someone other than the host (which happens often at parties) and even the host doesn't know the name of the brand/selection presented to guests-labeling would help deal with all the questions bound to occur.
Now the databasing..lol, that's passion.