A cheese course doesn’t have to be elaborate to be inviting. A single carefully chosen cheese served with its perfect accompaniment can be more alluring than a tray loaded with options. The key is figuring out when you plan on serving your cheeses and going from there. Here are my guidelines for creating a no-stress cheese board that everyone will love.
How much should you buy?
Type of party and when the cheese will be served will dictate how much of each cheese you will need.
- With cocktails: 5-6 oz. per person
- Before dinner: 4-6 oz. per person
- Appetizer Course: 3-4 oz. per person
- Cheese Plate: 2-3 oz. per person
Select 3-6 cheeses that vary in shape, size and color for a visually interesting platter. For instance, Petit Basque, fresh crottin, Langres, Barely Buzzed and Heinen’s Hand-Selected Gorgonzola create a nice flight.
Choose cheeses from soft and runny to firm and crumbly. For example, a ripe piece of Gorgonzola Dolce, Gruyere, Vintage Aged Gouda and Burrata would create nice textural contrast on a cheese platter.
Select cheeses made from the three main milk types: goat, sheep and cow. Coupole, Lamb Chopper and Prairie Breeze are great choices.
Select cheeses that have varying flavor profiles from mild to strong.
You might choose to develop a theme around your presentation such as serving all Spanish cheeses, all goat cheeses or cheeses by the same cheesemaker.
Jazz up your presentation with seasonal fruits, nuts, dried fig cake, membrillo and, perhaps, honey. Baguette, fresh figs and dried apricots are simple additions that complement all cheese types. A selection of olives, roasted peppers and tomatoes are a good match for goat and sheep milk cheeses.
Remove your cheeses from the refrigerator in time for them to come to room temperature (approximately 1 ½ hours before party time). Keep the cheeses wrapped until ready to serve.
Use a different knife or spoon for each cheese.
At the end of the day, remember one thing: choose really good cheeses that can stand on their own with no accompaniments, not even bread. You and your guests will experience its character fully, and they’ll enjoy it even more, it isn’t that what we want when we’re entertaining? Use your local Heinen’s Cheese Specialists as a resource to help you choose outstanding cheeses that would even wow Scrooge. Happy holidays!
– Shannon Welsh
Heinen’s Cheesemonger and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional