This is the second time I will have discussed cheese etiquette on Uncommon Courtesy, because it is a subject near and dear to my heart, and it’s half my website, and I’ll do as I please. But first, let’s have a moment of appreciation that in many fancy restaurants it’s still the style to label things in French, and in French the name for cheese cart is fucking CHARIOT DE FROMAGES. Just breathe, let this sink in, picture the glory.
Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s all remember that your waiters will not actually be racing cheeses by your table in fancy little armor getups. A chariot de fromages is a method of serving a restaurant’s cheese course. Instead of bringing you a plate of pre-selected cheeses, a cart full of cheese will be wheeled to your table, the cheeses explained, and you will have the ability to choose whichever you like. It’s the most glorious thing, and I really hope we get with the trickle-down trends on this one so that I can go to a Denny’s and have this experience.
Your waiter will have a few ways to explain the cheese selections to you: by milk (cow, sheep, goat…), by region, or by style (hard, soft, runny…). Choose about four or five cheeses–any more will come off as a bit greedy, and may overwhelm your palate. Of course the only time I partook in a cheese chariot, I did not know the etiquette and probably took about eight. So maybe just pretend you didn’t read this and pig out.
Ok, now that you have your cheeses (and any paired snacks, such as honey, chocolate, or jam), you want to eat your cheeses from mildest to strongest, i.e. don’t start with a blue cheese and end with a brie. The cheeses will be arranged on your plate in order of flavor, clockwise, so just follow that. You should also have a bite of bread in between each cheese, to cleanse your tastebuds.
It’s absolutely fine to let the fromager choose an assortment of cheeses for you, but it’s nice to give him or her some direction before you’re not going to choose them all yourself. If you know you like one style of cheese, or cheeses from a particular region, ask them to select a few based on that, or perhaps ask for one of each style. But remember–it is not the server’s goal to shame you. If you know nothing about cheese besides the fact that you like it, say so, because the server is there to help.
Do not ask for American cheese from a chariot de fromages.