When I think of cheese, I can’t help but laugh at Wallace & Gromit’s trip to the moon to eat it. The world seems divided between those with an intense passion, like Wallace (and one of my cooks), and those who rage at cheese’s weird tastes, smells and textures. Just like with wines, there are great books on the subject (check out “Cheese: A Connoisseur’s Guide to the World’s Best”); it’s fun to read up on those that pique your interest, then find a great cheese shop and begin to experiment.
You should always ask at what temperature the cheese should be served. Temperatures can have a tremendous effect on flavor— usually the colder the cheese, the milder the taste. Maturity plays a large role as well: Overripe cheeses are just like overripe fruit (past their prime, cheeses can take on a pungent ammonia smell). A good cheese purveyor should be able to tell you which need to be eaten right away and which need a bit of ripening. For instance, mozzarella is a fresh cheese (buffalo mozzarella, prized for its rich flavor, does indeed come from buffalo milk), which can be eaten as soon as it is made— when aged, it becomes provolone.
Some aficionados like their cheeses plain, with just some crackers or bread; I prefer them with condiments selected specifically for each type. Select ingredients that complement or contrast with the cheese. Most know mozzarella tomato and basil, but try tart apples with aged cheddar cheese and quince paste; brie cheeses hold up well to fruit preserves. The dishes here are designed for light lunches or dinner appetizers, and are perfect for entertaining.