CHEESE COURSE Food Vol. 26 No. 06

Level Up Your Cheese Boards

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Cheese presentations are a versatile way to add a course to a meal, from start to finish, and are ideal for events. When considering a cheese presentation, think about the visual elements as well as textures and flavors.

Elle Simone Scott, author of “Boards: Stylish Spreads for Casual Gatherings” (America’s Test Kitchen) offers these tips on creating cheese boards:

Consider the vibe you want to convey- e.g., sophisticated, rustic, whimsical, colorful.

Start with a key focal point. This can be one ingredient as a centerpiece, a unifying theme, or both.

Create sections using bread, crackers, and/or fruit as dividers to establish zones on the board. Choose mild-tasting crackers and bread that don’t overpower the cheeses.

Think textures and flavors when adding in the cheeses. Consider types of cheeses as well as shapes and slices to add dimension.

Then fill in the spaces with different cheeses and the extras, such as condiments, dried fruits, nuts, olives, and herbs to complement the cheeses and add color and texture.

Keep it simple. Scott writes, “Not all boards have to be overflowing displays.”

Andrea Barnes, Cheesemonger for Bluepoint Hospitality in Easton, MD, procures cheeses for both The Wardroom and Bas Rouge restaurants. She selects up to five kinds of cheese for her cheese boards with a nod to styles and textures. The rule of thumb is one goat, one sheep, one cow, and a blue. Accompaniments are deliberate to accent but not overpower the cheeses.

“We always suggest an order in which you choose to eat the cheese, but it is the guest’s preference to the direction they choose. For example, one can enjoy the softest cheese first, as the blue will eradicate the others in strength,” noted Barnes.

From Bluepoint Hospitality:  Left to Right: Sofia, a fresh goat cheese, a soft double creme, Pont L’Eveque, a washed rind,
Ossau Iraty, a hard-pressed nutty cheese, and blue cheese. Accouterments: Dried Glacée Apricot, Muscat Grape, Pomegranate Aceto finished with a piece of almond and apricot cake. 

Board Basics:

As for the board itself, here are some tips from the folks at Cabot Cheese, known for its award-winning Vermont cheddar:

Non-porous hard woods like olive, birch cherry, and maple wood are the easiest to clean as they will not absorb oils and odors, and they are the most economical.

Slate boards are also an economical option, but they can easily scratch. Pre-slice cheeses before placing them on slate.

Ceramic and stone (e.g., marble or granite) or both good options when serving outside since both can be chilled to maintain the cheeses’ freshness. Marble tends to be porous, so wash thoroughly

Read more tips here: How to Serve Cheese on Cheese Board Platters | Cabot Creamery (cabotcheese.coop)

Another consideration is when the cheese presentation is being served and for what occasion. A cheese presentation for a cocktail reception or before dinner would be more extensive than a dedicated cheese course at the end of a meal.

Bored with boards? Think creatively. Bex Catering presents assorted cheeses, charcuterie, dried and fresh fruits and condiments in a vintage shoe repair box.
Photo: Bex Catering

Nut cheese presentations offer a nice option for vegan dinners and parties. Bex Catering Chef-Owner Becky Geisel makes her own vegan nut cheeses from macadamia nuts, almonds, or cashews. These specialty cheeses are hand crafted and take weeks from start to final product.

Nut Cheese Presentation with crudites – Bex Catering

If making vegan cheese is not an option, consider the excellent artisan vegan cheese wheels made from organic cashew milk made by Miyoko Schinner, Founder/CEO of Miyoko’s in Sonoma County. Eight flavors are offered.

This Artisan Cheese Plate combines locally sourced Midwest artisan cheeses and house made pickled vegetables and condiments – Travelle, The Langham, Chicago
Southern Theme: Artisan Cheese Presentation from Sweet Grass Dairy, Thomasville, Georgia.
This family-run dairy produces a selection of fresh and aged cheeses.
The featured photo is also a selection of cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy

Think about the focal point. In this presentation, slices of Roth Aged Gouda from Wisconsin take center stage.
This Gouda is aged six months giving it a slight brown butter flavor.
A selection of aged and clothbound cheddars Cabot Creamery and goat cheeses
encircles a centerpiece of fresh citrus and berries.
Photo: Cabot Creamery

Author Elle Simone is the founder of SheChef, Inc., a professional networking organization and social enterprise, and serves as Executive Editor for America’s Test Kitchen.

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An engaging speaker and writer, Melanie Young hosts the weekly national radio shows, The Connected Table Live, featuring conversations with global thought leaders in wine, food, spirits and hospitality (a Feedspot Top 10 Food & Drink Podcasts for 2021), and Fearless Fabulous You, a lifestyle show for and about women (both on iHeart and more than 30 other podcast platforms). Young has contributed articles on wine, spirits, food, and culinary travel to Wine Enthusiast, Seven Fifty Daily, Wine4Food and Jewish Week. She is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Wine Media Guild, and Women of the Vine & Spirits. Young’s former marketing and events agency, M Young Communications, worked with global wine, food organizations, publishing companies and nonprofits. She had an integral role in the creation, launch and management of The James Beard Foundation Awards, New York Restaurant Week, and Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund (2001) which raised funds to provide for the families of restaurant workers killed in the September 11th terrorist attacks. www.theconnectedtable.com www.melanieyoung.com Instagram @theconnectedtable

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