Filling Your Cheese Board
Here are my 5 favorite cheeses to serve on a cheese board (and you only need 5 on a big board):
- Cheddar. It’s the classic. I prefer sharp; Colby just seems bland to me. Sorry, not my style: I’m a purist. And if you only have processed “cheese food” singles available? Go back to the store. You’re not serious about having cheese yet.
- Camembert. My love of this cheese started when I was the Lion in “Reynard The Fox,” a children’s play at the University of Missouri. I had to eat a chunk of Camembert that I found hidden on stage in every performance (and the props guy just LOVED to give me a BIG piece that I had to wolf down before my next line!), I’ve loved this cheese. After I recovered from the whole stage experience of having to wolf it down on cue, of course.
- Smoked Gouda. I didn’t appreciate this cheese until we started using it for some of our homemade pizzas, and now I can’t get enough. Smoked is much better than regular Gouda, I believe, but you’ll have to try them both to know!
- Swiss. You need a hard, nutty cheese on every cheese board, and Swiss is always my favorite. Many options here. After all, when a cheese is named after a country, you can bet there are many variations available!
- A soft spreadable cheese. Go crazy. Try something different, like a new goat cheese blend, or even (shudder) something with herbs mixed in. Have some fun and talk to your cheesemonger about what’s good. Try something new.
- Muenster. It’s my favorite sliced cheese for sandwiches … but it just doesn’t seem right on a cheese board, even when I put it on a cracker with ham. Sorry, Muenster, you are off the board.
Not for me:
- Monterey Jack. Too bland; I don’t see the point.
- Pepper Jack. Horrible combination. Pass.
When you’re going for style points:
- Three or four different kinds of crackers. No Ritz or Triscuits for me. Milton’s are essential. Don’t go for heavily flavored crackers (the cheese is the star here).
- Summer sausage is the most common meat to serve on a cheese platter, for good reason. Don’t be afraid to add sliced ham or other deli meats … rolled & cut to size for your crackers.
- Some raw nuts: walnuts or pecans for me. Not salted, and not almonds, if you please.
- Kalamata olives! Other pickles are OK, but if you don’t have olives, you’re not trying hard enough. If you have garlic stuffed olives, I know you belong in Velda’s kitchen.
- Grapes, apples – of course. Citris? No.
- A sweet fruit spread or topping can be a nice counter point as well. Just don’t go too crazy. 5 cheeses, 4 crackers, 3 meats, nuts, olives … isn’t that enough?