No need to be intimated by the world of cheeses. Here are the basics you need to know: Cheese is made from cow, sheep, or goat milk. To learn about the differences of each, try young, mild cheeses made from each variety of milk. Texture is as important as flavor. Since textures change as the cheese ages, try visiting your local cheese shop and sampling the same cheese at different ages. Like wine, the flavor of cheese is affected by climate and geography. Seasonality of the milk plays a role as well. That's why a New Zealand Parmesan-style cheese tastes so different from a true Parmesan Reggiano. When assembling a cheese platter, stick to 3-6 types. Select different flavors and textures, but consider tying it all together with a theme (cheeses from a single country, for example). Pair the cheeses with neutral crackers to they don't interfere with the flavor, and complement your platter with nuts, fruit spreads and olives.
Ariane is the chef/owner of CulinAriane, a four-star restaurant located in Montclair, N.J. She was inspired to cook at a young age by her grandmothers. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, she worked at some of the best restaurants in the country before she and her husband, Michael, opened CulinAriane. While much of her time is spent at her restaurant, she loves spending time with her daughters, especially at the beach. She also enjoys entertaining for family and friends. Her strong belief is that anything can be fixed and to keep smiling.