Fall more than any other time of year seems to foster predictable menus filled with pumpkin and squash. A change of season begs for new eating picks.
Bored with the usual hearty fall food selection? Just say, “Cheese board.”
A cheese board makes a show-stopper holiday party addition. For the more adventurous, a cheese board can even serve as a full meal. Painterly food, yes, but great-tasting too.
A Cheese Board for Every Taste
With a little planning, you can create your own first-rate quality cheese board at a lower cost than pre-assembled versions. Don’t even think about buying any pre-cut cheese cubes. Let your family and friends whittle the cheese away as they may. Self-serving with cheese, crackers and condiments is all part of the fun!
Cheese connoisseurs start with the mildest cheese work up to the strongest. My family ignored that orderly method, yet enjoyed every haphazard bite anyway.
A Party of Possibilities
A nice cheese board can break the ice at a holiday get together. People who wouldn’t normally chat naturally mingle and munch over different cheese selections. A few bottles of white and red wine with some fancy long stemmed glasses wouldn’t hurt either. For non-drinkers, have fun alternatives like French Orangina or Italian soda on hand.
Cheese Board Instructions
Recommendations would be more fitting. Cheese board rules were made to be broken. How can any combination of good cheese be anything but great? Mix and match to feature your favorites but try to include some daring new prizes. Label the cheeses with the name, country of origin as well as flavor intensity, i.e. mild, medium or strong.
Cheeses: Select two or more with contrasting textures, flavors and colors.
- Hard: Cheddar, Swiss (Gruyere), Gouda, Manchego, Parmesan
- Soft: Brie, Camembert, Goat cheese, Blue cheese or gorgonzola, Port Salut, Havarti
Fruits: Select at least one. Whatever is season is usually best. If necessary, as a last resort during winter, use dried fruit instead of fresh.
- Apples, sliced
- Pears, sliced
- Fresh figs, cut in half
- Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries
Nuts: Feature at least one.
- Walnut halves
- Pecan halves
- Marcona almonds
- Hazelnuts (filberts)
Crackers and Bread: Have a few different types.
- French bread, sliced
- Water cracker rounds
- Whole grain crisps
- Melba toast squares
Condiments: Optional accents.
- Fig spread
- Quince paste
- Whole grain mustard
Olives: For a Mediterranean flavor.
Putting Together a Cheese Board
Arrange cheese board items on a new cutting board, marble pastry board or nice over-sized plate. All you need are a few nuggets of fine quality cheeses, fashionable fruit, crunchy crackers and snappy condiments. Be bold and try something new. A variety of contrasting colors, shapes, textures and flavors adds interest.
Scatter a few piles of toasted whole nuts. Drape mounds of grapes and feathers of apple slices for the finishing touch. Even non-food bloggers may be tempted to do a photo shoot of their edible creations.
Display a mix of soft as silk crumbles of goat cheese, smooth Brie or Camembert with a thick rind, hard Spanish Manchego and waxy red coated sharp as ale Cheddar. Place cheeses the in order of the mildest to the strongest.
Have a separate knife for each cheese and a separate spoon for each condiment. Also, be sure to supply a generous amount of napkins with a few small hors d’oeuvre-sized serving plates, forks and knives.
The Warm Up
The complex flavor of cheese intensifies when served at room temperature. If possible take the cheese out of the refrigerator an hour before serving. With a hunting dog on the prowl in my house, a cheese warm up period was not an option. Good quality cheese is good at any temperature and even better dressed up as a cheese board.