So the cheese may not be the healthiest of indulgences, but we can almost all agree that is it certainly delicious. Beautiful, well-made cheeses are an easy way to introduce yourself to farms, flavors, and regions of the world. Wherever you procure your cheeses, its composition and flavor is tied to the animals and the land in which it came-and that is just a part of what makes it so charming. Having the basics down for a good cheese board is also having a perfect party secret. When you’re combining cheeses together on a single board it is a bit like an art; it is like a painting that is comprised of texture and color and a feast that tells a story. Don’t get the wrong idea though, picking and pairing cheeses is easy. Just follow these simple cheese board ideas and suggestions.
Presentation is key. Stick to one big rustic board or even use a large piece of slate. Set your cheese on the board in order from mildest cheese to the strongest. Then put out a few different knifes. For softer cheeses like goat or blue, use a cheese wire (or plain dental floss!), because they tend to crumble easily. For soft cheeses like brie, use a butter knife. For harder cheeses like parmesan or cheddar, use a triangle-shaped knife.
The Main Event
If you are going to put in the time to put together a cheese board for a special event, this is the time to be choosy. The saying “quality over quantity” applies perfectly in this situation. Instead of picking five so-so options, choose two or three fantastic cheeses. Also choose a variety- a mix of goat, cow, and sheep’s milk cheeses. The next step is to pick different textures: hard, soft, and crumbly. So if you are looking for a firm, rich cheese, Gouda or Pecorino are good choices. For something soft, a French Brie is the perfect buttery option for your board. For something a bit crumbly, chose a smokey blue with an earthy complexity to add to the selection. Be sure to let your cheeses sit at room temperature for at least an hour before serving, allowing all the lovely flavors to develop.
When choosing companions for your board, make sure they don’t overshadow the cheeses you so diligently selected. Here, simple is the way to go. Opt for locally made rustic bread, dried apricots or cherries, grapes, apples, pears, berries, nuts, pickled vegetables, and charcuterie. Pick your accoutrements according to the season, as well as when you are serving it. Is the board going to be an appetizer? Go minimal with pickled vegetables or olives. Is it going to be served as dinner? Bulk it up with bread or plain crackers, nuts, charcuterie, and figs. Is it going to be the dessert? Freshen it up with pear slices, honey, jams, chocolate, and nuts.
Don’t be afraid to be a bit adventurous with your cheese board! Try different cheeses, and never hesitate to ask the cheesemonger for suggestions. Chat with them, tell them what you like, what kind of wine or beer you would like to serve- they would love nothing more than to help you pick cheeses you will enjoy!
Guest Author: Becky Grzesik is a writer and fervent home cook from Portland, Maine with an affection for rustic New England decor and culture. She is inspired by local designer Sturbridge Yankee Workshops for home decor elements like rustic kitchen tables, chic country curtains, wool-hooked rugs, and kitchen gadgets.