It's one of the first tenets of cheese etiquette: don't eat cheese straight from the fridge. Ever.
Cold cheese doesn't taste like much. But how long should you leave a cheese out? And what's the one thing not to do when bringing your cheese up to room temperature?
Cheese is composed largely of fat. And since fat means flavor, the goal is to amplify it as much as possible. When fat molecules are cold, they contract. When they warm, they relax, allowing greater perception of flavor on the part of the taster.
Pull your cheese out of the refrigerator at least an hour and a half before serving. Runnier cheeses like bries are great pulled out even sooner, like two or three hours before, especially if they're really ripe and gooey.
Remember: Never unwrap your cheese when you bring it out of the refrigerator. Keep it in its packaging so that it doesn't dry out, and unwrap just before serving.
Fresh cheeses may be the one exception to this rule: 30 minutes is just about right.
Related: The Cheesemonger: Why Fat Means Flavor in Cheese
(Image: Flickr user jb.puig licensed under Creative Commons. )