If you are standing in a nice cheese shop, putting together a delicious cheese plate for a party is a very easy two-step process: Ask the salesperson for recommendations and buy the cheese. You might need to throw down some cash, but you don't really have to know anything.
But for those who don't want to make a special trip to a cheese store to shell out for the super fancy stuff, it can be a little more complicated. You're standing in a plain old grocery store around the corner, staring at a (sad) refrigerated cheese section where everything is shrink-wrapped and looks vaguely similar; how are you supposed to know what's actually worth buying?
Here's the answer, in a nutshell:
...and that's basically it. With something like these five types (or just three of them, if you're serving fewer people), you can safely keep your cheese credentials intact without traveling an hour to Whole Foods or spending a huge amount of money.
Here are the brands we used for our board, all legitimately tasty and all bought at a totally average store near our office.
PS: Don't forget the other (non-cheese) stuff. Here's what we used to round out our cheese board, all bought at the same supermarket:
And do encourage people to get creative with snack assembly.
Photos by Macey J. Foronda and graphics by Chris Ritter.