Whether you need one for cocktails, as a first course, or to finish a meal, it pays to put as little effort into the next cheese board you prepare. But the good news is that the only effort required is a little planning combined with finding a good cheese merchant, because a cheese board is one of the easiest courses you can prepare.
Follow these guidelines the next time you're planning a cheese course for your party.
Choosing Your Cheeses
Plan on serving from three to five cheeses. Any more than that will confuse your guests' palates.
Aim for variety in taste, texture and appearance. An interesting selection might include a soft, mild cheese like a Camembert, a hard, mild, nutty cheese such as an Asiago, and a semi-firm, sharp Maytag Blue. You can build your cheese selection around a theme.
- You could serve all goat cheeses: a Cabrales which is a semi-firm, blue cheese; a Montrachet which is a soft, fresh cheese; and a Gjetost which is a hard, whey cheese.
- Select a country for your theme. A cheese board comprised of cheese from Switzerland might include the traditional, semi-firm Emmentaler; a hard, cave-aged Gruyere; a semi-soft Tomme de Savoie; and a Mostkaese which is a semi-hard, apple cider, artisanal cheese.
There's nothing wrong with putting together a collection of your own personal favorites as long as you keep variety in mind.
Accompany your cheese board with crackers and bread that don't have very strong flavors that would detract from the flavor of the cheeses.
Apples, pears, grapes, and peaches all go very well with cheese. Nuts are also good accompaniments.
Pairing Cheeses with Wines
Wine and cheese are a classic combination like peanut butter and jelly, or soup and sandwich. But some people feel intimidated trying to pick the perfect match for their cheeses. Here are some simple guidelines that will make this an easier decision.
- Blue cheeses such as Stilton or Gorgonzola go well with dessert wines like Sauternes and Ports.
- To accompany fresh cheeses like a goat or feta, choose a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.
- Soft-ripened cheeses like Teleme or Brillat-Savarin go well with Chardonnay.
- For aged cheeses like Cheddars, aged Gruyeres and Parmigiano-Reggiano serve Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel or Burgundy.
For additional pairing suggestions visit Stacy Slinkard, About's Guide to Wine.
Serve the cheeses on a tray or platter that is large enough to keep them from touching and has a contrasting background color.
Remove the wrapper from the cheeses, but leave on the rind. Bring the cheeses to room temperature for serving.
Serve each cheese with its own knife. Soft cheeses can be cut with a butter knife. If the cheese is spreadable, choose a wider blade. Firmer cheese will require a sharp knife.