Organizing the perfect holiday party is something of an art form. Between planning food and cocktails and setting the mood with music and décor, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way in making sure your party’s a success. The same is true of crafting a crowd-pleasing cheese board – which, in our opinion, is the hallmark of any good party.
From great bread and cheese to honey and jam, building a beautiful cheese board is all about thoughtful pairings.
There are a couple approaches you can take to pick a the perfect spread. Try to choose an assortment of milk varieties, including a cow’s milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese. For a full-on and well-balanced cheese fest, choose a blue, goat, hard and a creamy cheese. And just for fun, throw in something unique – a showstopper, if you will.
With their contrasting blue swirls, blue cheeses bring color and a bold taste to your board. We suggest selecting a mild blue that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.
We went with a Bleu d’Auvergne, a cow’s milk AOC protected cheese, which has all the characteristics of a classic blue cheese, yet is nice and mellow in flavor.
Part of the fun of a good cheese board is having lots of color and textures on display. Goat cheese, whether it’s a pyramid, log or round shape, will add variety to your board.
Our pick is French Selles-sur-Cher, which is melt-in-your mouth rich and striking with its gray-blue mold exterior. Other favorites: Vermont Creamery Bijou and Humboldt Fog.
Otherwise known as firm cheeses, hard cheeses bring a more solid texture to your board. Cheddar is one classic option, although any nutty, alpine-style cheese – think comté – would work well.
We chose a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenées region called Ossau Iraty Vieille. It’s smooth and creamy with a nutty taste and notes of toasted wheat.
Triple cream cheeses are the perfect holiday indulgence, given that they get their rich, creamy flavor from a high fat content close to that of extra-heavy liquid cream. These cheeses are made by having extra cream added to them.
We like Four Fat Fowl’s St. Stephen, a buttery cow’s milk cheese with a delicate, bloomy rind. We also like Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam and Délice de Bourgogne. For something soft, but slightly funkier in flavor, try Zimbro.
A showstopper cheese is one that will kick your board up a notch – a unique cheese you don’t see everyday, to be indulged in for the special holiday occasion. If you have some connoisseurs in your group, have some fun and try something a bit bolder in flavor.
We went for Epoisses, a stinky cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy. Hint: it’s not for the faint of heart! You could also try a bright orange Mimolette or a beautiful cheese with an herb encrusted rind.
Good cheese deserves a sturdy base – this is where the bread comes in! We recommend having a bread basket with many options to complement all your cheeses. Our bread basket includes our baguette, whole wheat sourdough, rye, five grain and our hazelnut and raisin flûtes.
Jams & Honey
Whether your cheese is creamy and indulgent or has a bit more bite, nothing pairs better than a sweet jam or drizzle of honey. We like the following flavor combinations…
- Apricot jam and goat cheese
- Four red fruits jam and creamy cheese
- Fig jam with nutty cheese
- Honey with blue cheese
Some of our other favorite accoutrements to consider are charcuterie (think prosciutto and salami), dried fruit (think apricots or cherries), Marcona almonds, olives and olive spread!
We hope these tips help you build the perfect cheese board – and keep hunger at bay at your next holiday gathering!