The cheese world can be overwhelming, especially if you're buying a bunch of different varieties to serve at a party. What wine do I serve with a triple-cream like Pierre Robert? Should people eat the Beaufort before or after the Idiazabal? Thanks to the folks at Artisanal Cheese, creating a well-balanced cheese plate has just gotten a lot easier. They have created the "cheese clock" (pictured above), an apt and simple metaphor for guiding you through the process of selecting a group of cheeses.
The idea is that you start in the 6 to 9 o'clock quadrant with simple, mild cheeses like fresh goat or bloomy rind (e.g., Brie, Camembert) cheeses. As you progress clockwise around the circle, you introduce bolder and bolder varieties, till you get the final quadrant (3 to 6 o'clock) where you serve a blue cheese and/or a really stinky washed rind cheese. The clock also includes some guidance for pairing wine and beer as well. Very handy.
Another nice thing about the clock, as it appears on Artisanal's website, is that you can click the various quadrants and get taken to a page that lists all their cheeses in that category.
I think it's an ingeniously simple way of approaching cheese selection, and I would love to see a similar approach in cheese shops as well (i.e., this case has cheeses from the 6 to 9 quadrant, whereas that one has 9 to 12 cheeses, etc.). A system like this makes much more practical sense than organizing by milk, country of origin, or even rind. Stinky Bklyn has a system where they rate each cheese by its "stink factor." This system somewhat approximates the cheese clock idea, but stink isn't the only factor that guides a well-formed cheese plate.
What about you? What criteria do you use to select which cheeses will go on your cheese plate and where?