I remember experiencing my very first cheese board, at a great little Calgary restaurant called Farm. Before then, I liked cheese well enough – a bit of cheddar in my morning mushroom omelette, a melty slice of baked brie every now and then – but this cheese board changed everything. It was gorgeous, simple, clever, sensual. I was hooked.
Thus began a long love affair with cheese. I tend towards the more pungent blues, the crumbliest reggianitos, the smokiest of goudas. I bring some sort of cheese dish to almost every potluck I’m invited to. I’m a woman obsessed.
Crafting the Perfect Cheese Board
1. Keep it simple! Three to five cheeses are all you need. There’s a little cheese board mantra out there that goes “something old, something new, something goat, something blue”. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb, I find – you should have a variety of flavours and textures to explore, but there’s no need to go crazy with your selections. A hearty aged gouda or cheddar, a soft wheel of double-cream brie, a tangy log of chèvre, and of course, a crumbly, fragrant triangle of your favourite blue. Don’t be afraid to talk to your local cheesemonger if you’re not confident with your selections – they’re there to help you (and will probably jump at the chance to wax poetic about the camembert)!
2. Cheese should be eaten at room temperature – the flavours bloom, the textures ring true, and the deliciousness factor is turned all the way up. Take your cheese out of your refrigerator about an hour before you plan on serving it.
3. Savoury pairings work best in small quantities and with the milder cheeses. I love walnuts, pistachios, olives, onion jam, salametti, prosciutto, and Spanish chorizo.
4. Sweet pairings are fantastic with the stronger cheeses. Honey, dried or fresh figs, blackberries, apples, pears, grapes, chutneys, and jams are all lovely.
5. Your vessel is just as important as your pairings! I always have a fresh baguette on hand, but often include artisan crackers, biscuits, and glutino crackers (for the folks among us with a gluten intolerance).
After you’ve made your selections, arrange everything on a medium-sized slate or wooden cutting board. I always garnish with an herb or two – rosemary, sage, or even cilantro – and having that little bit of freshness really kicks things up a notch.