How to Build a Cheese Board
The most-entertained weekend of the year is upon us. Chances are, if you are going to a Christmas party, you’re going to one this weekend.
My dear friend Bronwen holds an annual party this weekend every year, and the party is themed around cheese and her husband’s birthday. The centrepiece of the party is a phyllo-wrapped brie. It’s 7 different kinds of amazing.
Entertaining with cheese is a great option. First off, there’s no cooking–you just buy what you need, and make it look pretty on the plate. Secondly, who doesn’t like cheese? Thirdly, cheese pairs well with wine. ‘Nuff said!
With a bit of know-how, you can look like a cheese-plate rock star, so here are some things to keep in mind when building your board.
How to Build a Cheese Board
Start with 3-4 cheeses, but make sure they have varying textures. I like to put out:
- something soft and creamy, like a brie
- something of medium firmness, like a gouda
- something firm and familiar, like an aged cheddar
- something hard and ripened, like a parmesan
- OR something a little exotic, like a blue
Cheese “vehicles”: thinly-sliced baguette is the most obvious choice. You want at least one kind of bread or cracker that is quite neutral, so you can get the essence of the cheese. I also like to serve some crackers. One of my faves right now is a rosemary-infused one, but I also really love fruit crisps (Lesley Stowe makes them and Terra Breads also does a nice one), and I like to include some gluten-free ones (Mary’s) as well.
Fruit: grapes are the most popular choice, but you could also go with thinly-sliced apples ore pears. You could even go with dried fruit here: apricots, figs or dates.
Nuts: nuts add a nice textural component to your plate. They add crunch. I’d do candied walnuts, pecans or almonds.
Condiments: it’s fun to add accents to your cheese and experiment with different flavour combos. So, to enhance your cheese board, include little pots of mustards, chutneys or jams. My favourite thing right now is brie with my garlic scape jam. Jalapeño jelly is also a wonderful pairing.
How much to buy: 3 pounds (total) for 8 people, 6 pounds (total) for 16, or 9 pounds (total) for 24. (Source)
Suggestions: over the last 3 months, I’ve had the opportunity to sample a lot of Canadian Cheese. Here are my favourites:
Soft and creamy: Comox Camembert from Natural Pastures in Comox. I love to support local, and this beautiful, soft cheese from the Island is about as local as it gets!
Medium: Love the smoked gouda (or in fact, any kind of gouda–it’s gouda!) from Glasgow Glen Farm in PEI.
Cheddar: I love every single cheese I’ve ever had from Cows and Avonlea our of PEI. Cows does an amazing Applewood Smoked Cheddar that I dream about, and the Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar is nutty and crumbly. Natural Pastures Aged Farmhouse was also a favourite.
Blue: I know some people think blue cheese is weird. That it tastes like feet. But I love it, especially with a big, bold red wine. My favourite blue, however, is a French cheese, not a Canadian one. It’s called St. Agur, and it’s the like the bastard love child of blue cheese and brie. It’s a delicious combination.