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          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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

Great substitutes:

  • Havarti
  • Brie

Honorable Mention:

  • 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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. Some raw nuts: walnuts or pecans for me. Not salted, and not almonds, if you please.
  4. 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.
  5. Grapes, apples – of course. Citris? No.
  6. 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?

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