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Mix It Up: Designing a cheese board

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By Carie Birkmeier EBS STAFF

Who doesn’t love a great cheese board? They often become the centerpiece of gatherings, offering a little something to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. With countless types of cheese and accompaniments, it can be daunting to choose the “correct” ingredients. Here are a few simple tips to follow when assembling a board for your next shindig.

The main event

When it comes to the cheese itself, variety is key. Consider factors such as the sharpness of the cheese, milk type, texture and its visual appearance when making your selections. If you keep the options diverse, you will end up with a cheese board that is both visually appealing and includes something that will please every guest’s palette.

Incorporate some cheeses that are more approachable, such as a mild cheddar, and complement it with a more potent variety like blue cheese. Similarly, choose a firm cheese—Manchego and pecorino are great options—and one that is soft or spreadable, like brie or goat cheese.

The number of cheeses depends on the number of guests, as well as your preference. I typically choose at least three varieties. In terms of portions, a good rule of thumb is 3-4 ounces per person. Here are some of my favorite cheese combos for a small group of people:

  • Jarlsberg, goat’s milk brie or camembert, and sharp cheddar
  • Chèvre, gorgonzola dolce, gouda and Manchego
  • Triple cream brie, Mimolette or gruyere, and a mild blue

The accompaniments

Every cheese board needs a few elements to round out the cheese flavors. I like a variety of crunchy, acidic and sweet accompaniments. For the crunchy component, choose a few different kinds of crackers or crusty bread, and slices of apples or pears that can also act as a vehicle for the cheese.

Nuts and pickles, such as cornichon or gherkins, offer a welcome crunch, with pickles adding an acidic component, as do whole grain mustard or olives. Whole honeycomb makes for a beautifully presented sweet element, but a small ramekin of store bought honey can do the trick as well. Fresh fruit preserves or dried fruit make for a great accompaniment to sharp cheeses.

The filler and the tools

If you find empty space on your board bothersome, you can fill these gaps with grapes or greenery like fresh rosemary or, my favorite come summertime, edible flowers. Be sure to include plenty of utensils so that your guests can slice, share and shmear the night away. Don’t forget serving utensils for accompaniments such as honey or mustard as well.

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