(All Photos: Genevieve Garruppo/Lonny)When it comes to crafting the menu for a low-key cocktail party, you can't go wrong with cheese and crackers, plus a loaf of crusty bread for good measure. But picking the right types can be a daunting task: you want crowd-pleasers that will keep people coming back for more, but also unusual varieties that will surprise unsuspecting palates. Luckily, we've teamed up with the experts at Murray's Cheese to help you find the perfect fromage for your next fête, plus the best items on which to serve them.
The firm Comté 2 Years, made in Franche-Comte, France is a raw cow's milk cheese that resembles Gruyere. Brooklyn Slate Special Edition Cheese Slate, $36; Crate & Barrel Porcelain 3.5" Mini Dish, $2; Laguiole Cheese Cutter, $10; Murray's Comté 2 Years, $34.99/lb.
Goat cheese is always a good choice for your lactose-free friends—it's naturally low in the enzyme. This Monte Enebro, from Castilla y Leon, Spain, is firm and salty with overtones of walnut near the rind. Terraine Marble and Wood Cheese Board, $58; Murray's Monte Enebro, $30.99; Berard Olivewood Cheese Knife, $27.95.
Dried fruits, such as these figs, bring out the sweetness in many cheese varieties. Canvas Seagate Handmade Rectangular Cheese Board, $14, West Elm Gold Cheese Knife Set, $29
Stilton, from Nottinghamshire, England, is made with pasturized cow's milk and ripened 3-4 months. It's creamy and buttery but ends with a delicous tang. Brooklyn Slate Slate Cheese Board, $29; Crate & Barrel Porcelain 3.5" Mini Dish, $2; West Elm Gold Cheese Knife Set, $29; Murray's Stilton, Colston Bassett, $30.99/lb.
The Hudson Flower, made in New York, is a soft sheep's milk cheese with notes of hope flowers, elderberries, thyme, and lemon verbena. Millie Fairhall Small Cutting Board with White Pattern, $55; Murray's Hudson Flower, $39/each.
The Jasper Hill Farm Winnemere, from Greensboro, Vermont, is my personal favorite of the five. It's soft and gooey, starting with cedar notes and finished with pine. West Elm Raw Wood Board, $39; Murray's Jasper Hill Farm Winnemere, $32.99/each.
Don't forget a few accompaniments, such as roasted almonds. Crate & Barrel Farmhouse Wood Teardrop Spoons, $4.95-$14.95.