Here’s how to create a cheese board appetizer for an appetizer party, a wine & cheese party or as a starter for your awesome dinner party.
5 tips to creating a cheese board with the perfect balance.
1. Think three. Start with 3 cheeses, 3 breads/crackers, and 3 add-ons such as deli meat, pickles, nuts and fruit. If you are entertaining more than 6 people, you can add another choice from each group for every 3 people.
2. Mix it up. When selecting cheeses, create a range of flavors and textures from soft to hard and mild to sharp, and even pungent varieties. Consider these examples:
- A bloomy rind cheese such as Brie, Camembert or Formagella
- A soft or washed-rind cheese like Teleme or Crescenza
- A semi-firm cheese such as Gouda, St. George or toma
- A very hard cheese such as dry jack, aged Gouda or aged white cheddar
- A highly flavorful or pungent cheese such as blue or flavored jack
- Compare different milk types (cow, goat, sheep)
- If everyone likes one style of cheese, do a vertical tasting with different versions of that style – comparing can be very enlightening
3. Add contrast.
- Flavorful breads thinly sliced or broken into smaller pieces can enhance contrast in both flavor and texture. Try different textures like baguette slices, flatbread triangles, bread sticks, multigrain crackers in different shapes & sizes, gourmet crackers with fruit & nuts, water crackers, crostini or parmesan crisps.
- Add a color contrast with dried or fresh fruit such as apple or pear slices, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, tangerine sections, grapes, apricots or figs.
- Enhance your cheese plates with sweet and savory pairings. Add little bowls of tapenade, honey, chutney, preserves, salsa or mustard. Include savory choices such as olives, artichokes & pickles and sweet choices like candied nuts and dried fruit to make each bite unique.
For example, pears go well with blue cheese, Gouda and toma; olives accompany white cheddar and pepper jack; walnuts fit with Gouda and dry jack; and dried cranberries pair nicely with cheddar, blue cheese and mushroom jack.
4. Consider time. Aged cheeses should be allowed time to come to room temperature. Larger pieces typically take 1-2 hours for the full flavor to develop. However, fresh cheeses should be treated like milk, so don’t allow them to sit out for more than a short time.
5. Consider portions. Estimate 1 – 1 1/2 ounces of each cheese per person. If you plan to serve three or more cheeses, consider decreasing the amount to 1 ounce (or less) of each cheese per person. 4 oz total per person is the rule of thumb.
How to serve your cheeseboard.
Cheese should be served at room temperature.
Cheese will have its fullest flavor if you remove it from the fridge an hour before the party. Unwrap and let it breathe. Cover with an upside-down bowl to keep from drying out.
Serve from mild to bold flavor.
Serve cheese in a tasting order: mellow, mild, softer cheeses first progressing toward big, bold flavors. Begin with fresh, soft cheeses like a tangy fresh goat or buttery soft ripened style and then progress toward firm, nutty or sharp cheeses like cheddar and Gruyere and round out the tasting with with blue and assertive washed rinds.
Cut or crumble a few servings on board.
Serve each cheese with its own knife. Slice, chunk or crumble several portions of each wedge just prior to serving, making it easy for guests to grab. Getting serving started also tips guests off as to how to serve themselves, cutting the intimidation factor. Keep a portion of each wedge intact so guests can appreciate the form and appearance of each cheese.
Serve the cheese solo first, for a true impression, and then sample with the additions such as bread, nuts, etc.
Pairing with wine or beer.
To keep costs down, an easy choice is to ask friends to bring their favorites so the focus is on the cheese.
Many experts swear that white wine works better than red and a strong case can be made that beer is the better pairing partner.
Generally fruity, less tannic wines work best. Cheese friendly wines include: sparkling, Viognier, Riesling, Syrah, Zinfandel and Port.
If you have a beer crowd, a Nut Brown, Amber Ale, Porter or Stout makes an easy pairing.
Cheese Board Suggestions
California Cheese Board
- 1-2 ounces California Brie cheese per person
- 1-2 ounces California toma cheese per person
- 1-2 ounces California pepper jack cheese per person
- fresh herbs
You may also want to include: almonds, crackers and cherry tomatoes.
Red, White & Blue Cheese Board
- 1-2 ounces California cheddar cheese per person
- 1-2 ounces California blue cheese per person
- 1-2 ounces California mushroom jack cheese per person
- dried cranberries
- fresh apple slices
Experimenting with different combinations will lead you to your own personal cheese nirvana. Be sure to compare your tasting experience with your friends. What are the stand out favorites? Are there any that were never-again? Making a mental note of these observations will help you deepen your cheese awareness over time.
Want more? See our tips on how to have an appetizer party.
- An appetizer party is a great way to have a party on a smaller budget.
- It’s easier to visit with guests because the food can be prepared in advance.
- It is the perfect party when you don’t have enough space for all your guests – it can be a standing-room-only party rather than a sit-down party.
Want more? See our new appetizer recipes.
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