When I host a party, I usually include a cheese tray. It used to be pretty straight forward – a brie, a cheddar, a blue, and maybe a gouda. As I’ve become more interested in cheese and more committed to supporting local dairy farms, the varieties of cheese on the plates I create aren’t as straight forward.

When I put together a cheese plate to take to a friend’s Oscar party this past weekend, I spent some time carefully picking out wedges. I wanted to find a way to label them so I didn’t have to spend the evening repeating what types of cheese I had included. I also wanted to identify the names and locations of the wonderful dairy farms that made the cheese.

I love the look of a slate cheese board with the names of cheese written in chalk, but I wanted to give more information than that would have allowed. Plus, I imagine that as the evening goes on, whatever is written in chalk disappears.

I’ve seen porcelain cheese markers that you can label with erasable pen, but again, you can’t write much information on them. I also imagine myself dropping and breaking one or not being able to find the right pen when I need it.

I went into a Sur La Table Sunday afternoon looking for a solution for my problem. I found the Stainless Steel Menu Clips pictured at left. They’re small, 2" tall x 2½” diameter. They aren’t likely to break if dropped. They’re infinitely reusable. The information clipped in them won’t get wiped away. And, I can put as much information on a card about each cheese as I want, put the card in the clip, and spend my evening enjoying people’s company – not explaining that the cheese they’re raving about is a goat cheese from Pennsylvania.

Each clip was $1.95. I bought six. I usually do a plate of four cheeses, but I bought two extra incase I ever do a larger plate. I thought about eight, but then Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman registering for a china pattern in “Sleepless in Seattle” got stuck in my head. When they’re asked how many place settings they want, they both say, “ten” because “eight’s too few but twelve’s too many.” Suddenly, all I could think of was “four’s two few but eight’s too many” when it came to the menu clips. Clearly, I think far too long and hard about these things.

You can see in the photo above how the menu clips used as cheese markers looked on the cheese plate I created. I think they worked really well.

If you want more information about the mostly local cheeses on my Oscar party cheese plate, you can find details on my  South Jersey Locavore blog.

Do you have a clever way for identifying cheese when you’re serving it to guests?

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