Cheese: A serious topic.
Ah, cheese… where do I even begin? From rich, gooey centres to beautifully crisp crumbles, cheese in all its forms is almost pure perfection! While this glorious dairy product basically speaks for itself, there is an art to how it should be served — particularly when you are entertaining. It’s simple enough to construct a cheese plate, but choosing the right cheeses (and complementary accoutrements) for the occasion is vital. This does not mean celery sticks and little squares of Coon Tasty. You’re better than that.
Firstly, you need to have a good selection of cheeses to tantalise your guests, and hopefully help cut through that awkward party small talk. Three or four different cheeses is generally appropriate for small to mid-sized gatherings. If you have too few cheeses, people will just scoff them down and not appreciate the cheese, whereas if you have too many, people’s palates will get confused.
Generally, it’s good to serve a soft cheese, a hard cheese, a blue, and a soft feta or labne — a nice diverse range from the cheese family. For your soft cheese, brie and camembert are all-round crowd pleasers, but a ripe washed rind will separate the connoisseurs from the casuals. You can never go wrong with a crumbly vintage cheddar for your hard cheese selection, and St. Agur or Roaring Forties blues are household names for a reason. Try a marinated Persian feta for your final slot.
Next is bread and crackers. Wafers are a neutral flavour and a good carrier for your cheese, but don’t stop there — consider spicing up your board with an exotic cracker like a lavosh. Whatever happens, leave those Jatz on the shelf. It’s not 2008. (Sorry Jatz, we had a good run.)
“Whatever happens, leave those Jatz on the shelf. It’s not 2008. (Sorry Jatz, we had a good run.)”
You’re ready to serve now, right? Wrong. Special cheese needs a special vehicle: bread. Stop by the bakery and pick out a nice, dense brown bread. Fig and walnut rye is my go-to. The slight sweet, maltiness of the bread plays really well with strongly flavoured cheeses. Add some slices to your board and remember to keep an eye out on cracker and bread levels — you want to keep these topped up so your guests get full before all the cheese is gone. (Leftover party cheese is the consolation prize for having to clean up.)
You’re not quite finished yet! We’re going for the full antipasti board. You need your guests to feel like they’re visiting with some kind of snack emperor. Prosciutto, salamis, and other cured sausage are good starters — try a mixture of mild and spicy. Pepperdews, roasted artichokes, pickled octopus, and olives are vital to add a pop of colour and flavour.
Finally, to finish your board with some more colour and variety, add fresh fruit. Try some tart berries for contrast, or slices of apple or pear to offset your salty selection.
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