Soft cheeses, such as chèvres and blues, can crumble with even a skillful stroke of a knife. To ensure accurate, straight cuts, it is best to use a wire. A thin guitar string or dental floss (not mint!) pulled tight between your thumbs works just as well.
Bries and other soft, ripe cheeses with rinds, require a sharp, thin blade that won't stick to the cheese. A paring knife works well. Dip it in hot water to assure a clean cut.
Hard cheeses like Romano and Parmigiano Reggiano call for a big knife and a firm grip. Use a sharp chef's knife, and be careful and steady.
Be sure to cut each cheese in a way that will give each person an equal amount of the center and the rind. For example, cut small wheels like Camembert into wedges, from rind to center, as you would a pie; cut log-shaped chèvres crosswise into little disks.
Make sure to clean the knife between cuts so the flavors do not mix.
Serve cheese at room temperature as this will bring out the best flavor, aroma, and texture. Cold cheese has very little flavor or natural texture.
Leave the cheese wrapped while it is warming up, usually for about an hour. When ready to eat, remove any wrappers but leave the rinds in place as this a natural part of the visual appeal and identity of the cheese.
Serve up to four cheeses at a time. Choose cheeses not only for their contrasting flavors and textures, but also for their different sizes, shapes, colors, intensities and milk types.
Serve cheeses whole and let your guests cut what they need. While cubes of cheese are convenient, they deprive the cheese of its shape and identity and cause the cheese to dry out quickly.
Arrange the cheeses on a plate from mildest to strongest.
Garnish your cheese plate with nuts, dried fruit, or preserves. Be creative, but don't crowd the plate. Serve fresh fruit, bread and crackers on the side.
Separate the stinky cheese