Let’s be honest, there’s always a good excuse to devour a Cheese Board.
‘Tis the season for holiday get together’s, so here’s the inside Scoop on how to make the Ultimate Cheese Board for any occasion.
This article was also featured on ScoopCharlotte.com
Scoop #1: Strike up a conversation with your new best friend, your local Cheesemonger.
See those people behind the counter? Say hello. They are the Connoisseurs of Cheese and are happy to help you with your Cheese quest. Cheesemongers [cheese-mon-gers] have a plethora of glorious Cheese knowledge that they can’t wait to share with you. Seriously, go say hi and ask questions; you’ll even be rewarded with samples.
Scoop #2: Don’t be scared to try something new.
One of my favorite things about Whole Foods is the $4 and under bin, pure genius. Cheese can be pretty intimidating, especially a type you’ve never heard of. This nifty little bin will allow you to explore the unknown and give you the variety you want without breaking the bank. When determining what you want to include on your board, a good rule of thumb is to include a mixture of different ages, textures and milks.
Ages: A good example is Cheddar. Young Cheddar melts easily and typically has mild flavor. Aged Cheddar has a more intense (sharp) flavor and doesn’t melt smoothly. Both come from the same origin but taste very different. Go ask your cheesemonger for a sample of each and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Textures: Try to include at least one soft cheese, a spreadable or runny cheese, one semi-hard variety and one hard cheese. The different textures are fun to play with and will give you an assortment of flavors too – sharp, nutty, sweet, pungent, salty, tangy, etc.
Milks: The most common types of milks used to make Cheese are Goat, Sheep and Cow. Try to include at least one of each.
Scoop #3: Serve with a variety of other small bites and make the presentation appealing.
Cheese by itself is delicious, but it’s even better when pairing it with other flavors and textures. When creating the Ultimate Cheese Board, make sure to add a few of the following “nibbles” to the arrangement: fresh fruit, charcuterie, local honey, olives, nuts, crackers, crostini, pickled vegetables, jam, preserves or chutney. Not only do these items couple nicely with the Cheese, but they make the experience more of a conversation platform. Your guests will want to dig in and share their opinions about their favorite combinations. Accent the table with flowers and display items at different heights. For example, use cake stands, cutting boards, serving platters and large plates.
Scoop #4: Serve with a complementing wine, cocktail or mocktail.
When pairing Cheese & Drink, you want to think of either contrasting or complimentary flavors. For instance, contrasting flavors like salty and sweet. A salty Feta or Aged Gouda would be beautifully balanced with a sweeter wine, like Riesling. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the caramel notes of a fine Bourbon will couple nicely with the similar caramel notes of an Aged Goat Cheese. Play around with the flavors and find what combination you enjoy most.
In conclusion, I’ll end my love affair with Cheese by listing my four favorite varieties. You can purchase these Cheeses at Whole Foods in Lake Norman and Charlotte. I wish you all a festive holiday season and I hope you have some fun experimenting. Bon Appétit!
Scoop #5: Some of my go-to Cheeses and what drink I like to pair them with.
This extra creamy Blue Cheese comes from the central region of France. It’s qualified as a double-cream Cheese (containing 60% butter cream) which is why it is sinfully melt-in-your-mouth fantastic. It’s not as salty as the more traditional Blue Cheeses and pairs especially well with local honey, Chardonnay and Brandy.
A North Carolina family farm that specializes in handmade farmstead Cheeses. Local? Yes please. They even host events where you can go and have dinner at their dairy farm. With a variety of flavors to choose from, they offer more than just the classic flavored Goat Cheese. I find that I enjoy their varieties best with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Known as Spain’s most popular Cheese, Manchego can be aged anywhere from 3 months to 1 year. This mild flavored, sheep variety, is slightly nutty and pairs best with Sherry. This Cheese is a must-have for any occasion, I honestly never throw a party without purchasing a thick slice of Manchego.
Saint Andre Triple Creme Brie:
Everyone loves Brie Cheese and this particular Brie is my absolute favorite. Made with up to 70% butterfat, it’s beyond decadent. Interesting fact: This triple-cream Brie gets its salty tang from the ocean air that blows through Normandy’s coastal pastures. These cows are living the dream and you can taste it in their Cheese. Serve this Brie with some crusty French bread and an IPA.