Put Together the Perfect Cheese Platter

12/06/2013 at 02:12 PM ET

Spoon Fork Bacon Cheese Plate
Courtesy Spoon Fork Bacon

Jenny Park and Teri Lyn Fisher are the food stylist/recipe development/photography duo behind the blog Spoon Fork Bacon. Visit PEOPLE.com every Friday for their take on celebrity recipes, plus tips on cooking, entertaining, food photography and more.

The cheese plate is truly the holiday host’s best friend—it’s easy, self-serve and always a crowd-pleaser. But with so many cheeses at the grocery store—how do you choose the right ones?

It’s actually a pretty good problem to have. Supermarkets, once home to cheese brands that only came packaged in cans or plastic-wrapped slices, now have gigantic cheese sections that rival many gourmet markets—and sell them for a lot less money, too.

With all the options in front of you, it’s easy to go overboard when shopping, but remember this rule: All you really need is three cheeses:

1. A hard (or firm) cheese with a sharp flavor. Manchego and Parmesan are popular options, but Beemster’s Dutch sharp cheddar is our favorite.

2. A creamy cheese, like a chevre or brie. If you want to go extra-indulgent, pick a triple-cream brie, which is made with extra cream and has a butterfat content of 75% or more. (Hey, it’s the holidays!)

3. A blue cheese to round out the plate, like gorgonzola or stilton. We know blue cheeses aren’t for everyone, so you can swap it out for a soft goat’s milk cheese—we used a hybrid brie and goat cheese because we like the semi-soft texture and creamy, tangy flavor.

Now for the big question everyone has: How much cheese should you buy? If your platter is the main event, plan on buying 3 pounds for 8 people, 6 pounds for 16, etc. If cheese is just one element of the menu, plan on buying 3 to 4 ounces per person. Simple, right?

Once the cheese stuff is out the way, it’s time to dress our your plate with accompaniments. Sliced baguettes, bread sticks and crackers are classic for a reason—they go great with cheese. (Hello, grilled cheese sandwich!) To complete the plate, we recommend putting out your favorite jam or quince paste for something sweet, nuts for crunch, grainy mustard to balance the sharp cheddar, and—a must!—some delicious cured meats. We went with mild prosciutto and spicy Spanish chorizo, which contrast perfectly.

We love how simple yet impressive a cheese and charcuterie plate can be, especially during the busy holiday season. The best part? There’s no cooking involved—just unwrap, plate and serve!

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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