I’m all about a glass of wine and Brie every night but sometimes you just need a little extra when you have friends over. Here’s everything you need to know to host a quick and easy cheese tasting party!
Pick a cheese tasting theme
Is this an appetizer cheese board, or a dessert cheese board? If this an appetizer before a meal, select a board of little nibbles with sweet, savory, and crunchy options. Dessert cheese board? Opt for cheeses that are lighter in body, served with both fresh and dried fruits, honey, and nuts. Pick a dessert wine like Moscato d’Asti to end the meal on a sweet note!
Focus on seasonality in cheese as well as fruit
I like to follow the seasons so you can showcase different cheeses at their peak time. Holiday cheese plate may be more indulgent, while simple summer cheese plate may utilize more fruit and plain crackers. Since it’s summer right now, I wanted to go with a lighter cheese board that featured the fruits that are in season, peaches! These are Texas peaches from Pittsburg, Texas.
Shopping for cheeses
When shopping for cheeses, pick in progression of either flavor or textures – or both! For example, mild to strong cheese or soft to firm cheeses. Find a reputable local market with a cheese counter, and become acquainted with the cheesemonger and the cheese. Cheesemongers are like matchmakers, pairing you and your individual tastes with the appropriate cheeses. Don’t be afraid to also ask them what their faves are. I like shopping at Whole Foods – they have over 250 cheeses on display (700-900 different cheeses during the holidays) and their cheesemongers are certified by the American Cheese Society.
Cheese plate condiments
Chocolate pairs fantastically with any cheese. Bittersweet and dark chocolate works best with cheese by bringing out the buttery nuances. Skip the milk chocolate and save that for desserts. Try adding fresh fruit like pears, figs, and peaches, dried cherries, Marcona almonds, honey, and marmalade to dress up the plate and add a variety of flavors to complement the cheese. Trade plain honey for a specialty type, like Mitica orange blossom honey.
Texture, texture, texture
Opt for a plain cracker so you don’t overwhelm the cheese. You want the cheese to the center stage. I love these mini toasts and sourdough flatbread with sea salt. What’s your go-to cracker choice?
The cheese board
We eat with our eyes as well as our mouth, so display the cheeses and condiments on a wooden cutting board, or a piece of slate for an appealing presentation. I love these pi cutting and serving boards from from Cogworks, a small woodworking company in New Hampshire. Engraved with “π”, the 16th letter of the Greek alphabet representing pi, the wooden board also features the first couple hundred digits of the mathematical constant! Plus, their small size makes them perfect for private cheese tastings for yourself during the work week! Available in maple or cherry.
Arranging the perfect cheese board
Arrange the cheeses starting with the freshest and lightest, ending with the ripest and most intense. Lay out the crackers and bread, and then the fruits, nuts, and spreads. Here’s our selection:
3 month Manchego
St. Nuage- soft
Sartori Raspberry Bellavatano
Confituras orange vanilla orange marmalade
Mitica orange blossom honey
365 whole wheat mini toasts
Rustic Bakery sourdough olive oil and sea salt flatbread
El Rey Apamate 73.5% dark chocolate
Olli Napoli salamini
Olli Toscano fennel pollen salami
Texas peaches – Pittsburg, Texas
Let the cheese breathe
Once you’ve arranged the cheese plate, allow the cheese plate to breathe by letting the cheese reach room temperature together. Cheese has its fullest flavor at room temperature.
What’s are your favorite cheeses for a cheese tasting party? Share in the comments below!
Cogworks makes cutting boards, tableware, gears, bookmarks, boxes, and accents. All their items are made by skilled craftsman in Antrim, New Hampshire. They offer personalized gifts to celebrate special moments -from wedding gifts and favors to professional gifts and awards.