A good cheese board is an easy way to take a party to the next level, but many hosts get lost on the main component: The cheese! Don’t worry if you don’t have the confidence to pick out some really awesome cheeses; I have created the perfect guide below. The cheese may be the star, but a good board will have some other great flavors as well. Here are a few things to think about when going grocery shopping.
Cheeses are split into two categories: hard (cheddar, Gouda, Parmesan…) and soft (i.e., goat, Camembert, Brie…). Hard cheeses are often the ones left over at the end of the night. This is largely due to the additional effort of cutting yourself a slice and the pressure of doing that in front of other people. This can prevent your guests from letting loose and enjoying it. I personally recommend pre-slicing at least some of your hard cheese to make it more approachable. I guarantee your guests will thank you for it.
Start with three classic cheeses that everyone will enjoy and then feel free to experiment with more exotic ones from there. For your hard cheese, choose a cheddar or a Gouda. (Fun fact: during the aging process these cheeses develop crystals which are the purest form of the fifth taste, umami.) My personal favorite hard cheeses are:
For your soft cheeses, go for a Brie, Camembert, or goat. Goat, also known as chèvre, comes in one of two ways. The first is a log form with other flavors mixed in or as a more camembert-sized wheel. The wheel has been aged a little, so I would go for the logs. Another cheese that everyone loves is Boursin. It’s soft and spreadable like goat but even softer in flavor. Brie and Camembert can be difficult because flavor varies so much from one producer to the next. Search for a double cream Brie as the extra cream will make you salivate, and ask your cheesemonger about the Camemberts they have.
Fruits are simple. Get grapes, red and green, in bountiful bunches! You can stop there or get fancy with some figs and strawberries. If you are willing to do some slicing, peaches and cantaloupe can be amazing. The last two are more for pairing with some prosciutto than the cheeses.
I don’t always include meats, but a basic prosciutto or salami are always a good bet. I like to buy an entire log and slice it myself if I have the time. You’ll get more for your buck.
A great plain cracker is essential! Once you have a plain cracker, like Brandless’ Organic Wheat Crackers, have some fun selecting some with spices in them or that are made with whole wheat or rye. I choose simple cheeses that hold their own and then add flavors in other places like the crackers. Slicing a baguette is also a nice option.
There are endless combinations and items that can be used on a cheese board. The photos above are of a Brandless cheese board I designed using Almond Chocolate Biscotti Thins, Aged White Cheddar Partially Popped Popcorn, Cookie Thins, Stone Ground Wheat Crackers and Pita Chips. Get wild with some high quality Organic Dijon Mustard, your favorite preserve, dips, cheese curls, or that impulse buy at the store. Remember that you will also be eating this board, so buy things that you enjoy and have fun with it!
- Trust your palette. When it comes to choosing a cheese, trust your taste. If you love it, eat it, and have it all the time, chances are it will pass with flying colors.
- Choose the right fruit. Be inspired by seasonal fruit, and take an extra second to quality check the items in your basket for ripeness. Nothing is more disappointing than eating unripe fruit.
- Don’t Stress! A cheese board is about creating an EASY, high quality appetizer for your guests. It will always look inviting, and if you’re stressing out about the perfect pairing, the “easy” aspect is gone. Keep in mind that sometimes the best combinations come about serendipitously.