First things first, I should make it known that while I appreciate that there are correct and proper ways to do things, I rarely gravitate toward that goal when it comes to food and entertaining. I prefer good over proper, any day. With that said, there is a correct way to serve a cheese plate, and this is not that way. Instead I want to share my tried and true good way that'll make entertaining a breeze.
What you'll need:
2-3 variety of cheeses: One hard, one soft. It's great if one can be a subtle flavor (like gouda, havarti or mild cheddar) for those friends who aren't... let's call them, strong cheese lovers.
1-2 easy to eat fruits: Grapes, apple slices, pear slices, figs, the sort of thing you can pop into your mouth without getting your hands sticky or messy.
1 variety of chocolate: I prefer dark with nuts when serving fruits and cheeses, but you can serve anything at all. No chocolate fan will complain.
1-2 spreads or jams: Think about the flavors you're already serving and pick your spread with this in mind. A fig, mixed berry, or a fruit + spicy (like mango jalapeño) would be an easy addition no matter what's on the table.
Assorted olives and pepperoncini.
1 baguette for every four people.
1 bottle for every two people: I tend to pick a crowd please white-- usually a Sauvignon Blanc in the winter, and a Pinot Grigio or Rosé in the summer.
I don't like having tons of extra food in my fridge, so I keep my grocery list short and reasonable when I'm having friends over. My general rule of thumb is to only buy what I think we'll eat together, plus one to two days of leftover snacking. That gives you enough wiggle room to not tightly monitor what people are eating ("Only two apiece, please." -- Who wants to be that person?) and to have some extras on hand if something is particularly popular, all without getting stuck with wasted food. The same thing with the wine. Each person won't drink half a bottle, but there will definitely be some who do. And hey, it's a party.