The Restaurant Menu
The menu itself is one of the best ways to communicate cheese information to diners. The menu can convey the range of cheeses you serve and their pairings along with flavor descriptions and stories about each one. Menus provide the perfect way to announce a unique approach to serving cheeses, such as a featured cheese of the week, a seasonal pairing or the chef’s recent discovery. A cheese menu given to diners as they are seated gives cheese a prominent role, suggesting that it can be part of the start, middle or end of a meal. Knowing early that they want to try your cheese selection helps diners order their meal accordingly. Techniques such as numbering the cheeses, printing phonetic spellings, and including the origin and flavor profile of a cheese will put customers at ease. Cheese menus can be presented early, with the wine and dinner menus, or before dessert. When bringing the cheese to the table, servers can point out, or circle on the cheese menu, the varieties being served. They can also suggest that customers take their cheese menus home to help remember the cheeses they enjoyed.
One way to support and encourage cheese sales is to display cheeses where customers can see them. Cheeses can be placed on cloth-covered ice to keep them somewhat cool. Covering the display with a glass or plastic dome can keep cheeses from drying out and enable them to maintain a fresh appearance. To minimize waste, display small amounts of cheese and replenish the display frequently throughout service.
Some restaurants simply present a preselected list of cheeses for the day. Others allow customers to choose cheeses from a cart or cheese board, or a fromager (cheese steward) might make suggestions and serve. A trained fromager or server will be able to keep the cheeses looking good, inform customers about the varieties and assure standard portion control. In some restaurants, the sommelier oversees the cheese service, with the advantage that he or she will be able to recommend wine selections that complement the cheeses. Remember to allow aged cheese to sit for about an hour at room temperature before serving, but fresh cheeses should be treated like milk and kept cold until serving.