How to Build the Ultimate Cheese Board
At LeRoux Kitchen we are fortunate to have many wine connoisseurs and cheese lovers among our staff. Joining us today is our very own food and wine buyer, Cully Eisner-Terrill who has some wonderful recommendations on how to build the ultimate cheese board.
Of course anyone can throw crackers and slices of cheese on a plate, but with just a tad more effort a cheese board can take what was once a simple appetizer to now become an exciting eating experience.
To begin you’ll want to select a cheese board (or many depending on how many pairings you wish to do). There are so many options from slate to marble, and everything in between. Even a wooden cutting board will do.
Select the Cheese
Next it’s time to add some cheese! An ideal cheese board has 3–5 cheeses. You want each cheese to be truly memorable and distinct from the others on the board. Grab a mix of textures (soft, hard, and crumbly), strengths, and colors and shapes. Think firm like Parmesan, semi-firm like Swiss, soft like chévre, and super soft like brie. A good rule of thumb is to have all your milk bases covered: goat, sheep, and cow.
Make the Presentation Inviting
When it comes to arranging the cheeses, feel free to leave the cheeses uncut so that guests can cut their own slices using cheese knives, or perhaps pre-slice some of the cheeses. Next you’ll want to add a mix of salty and sweet accoutrements to accompany your cheese board.The options are truly endless! For instance, you can add: fresh fruit, local honey, nuts, bread, crackers, charcuterie (like prosciutto, salami, or sausage), mustard, pickled vegetables, dried fruit, olives, jam, preserves, marmalades, chutneys, and the list goes on. From a styling perspective, you can add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or sage to garnish your board once everything has been arranged.
Now for the fun part! A wine pairing can be the perfect touch to enjoying any cheese board and can bring the flavors out even more. At LeRoux Kitchen we carry a wide assortment of wines from all over the world. The things that are important to me about our wine section is that we focus on smaller producers, natural or sustainable wines, and find the best wines at the most reasonable prices. We don't carry stuff you can find at your local grocery store.
You can pair a selection of red and white wines with your cheeses, but I also often suggest to customers that cider is a natural pairing for cheese since they're both so complex and earthy. Cider can both compliment and contrast the flavors and aromas of certain cheeses. Slightly sparkling ciders help cut through the rich fat of creamier cheeses, and the acidity can temper the salt and fat and elevate the nuances of a cheese.
With spring in mind I reached for a light, dry rosé and fruity red.
Pro tip #1: Pair wines and cheeses with equal intensity.
As cheese ages and loses water-content, it becomes richer in flavor with its increased fat content. These two attributes are ideal for matching bold red wines because the fat content in the cheese counteracts the high-tannins in the wine. For the best results, select cheeses that have been aged at least a year, including Cheddar, Gruyère, Manchego, Gouda, Provolone, or Parmesan-style varieties like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano.
Red wine: We tasted Il Rosso
Cheese: manchego and asiago
Accoutrements: red grapes, salami, and raspberry hibiscus jam
Pro tip #2: Bold red wines pair best with aged cheeses
Pink wine - We tasted Pettirosso Allegro
Cheese: manchego and brie
Accoutrements: apple slices, green grapes, multi-grain crisps, and Savannah Bee honey
Pro tip #3: Sparkling wines are incredible with soft, creamy cheeses
Sparkling wines have high acidity and carbonation, which offer a palate cleansing effect to creamy, sticky cheeses such as Brie, Muenster, or Camembert.
Cider - We tasted a Whaleback Farm Cider (Barrel Reserve) Cheese: gouda and herbed chevre Accoutrements: salami, jam, red grapes, and Mike’s hot honey (a staff favorite)
Ciders with noticeable residual sugar complement cheeses that make a sweet impression, like aged Gouda and nutty alpine-style cheese. Ciders with prickly carbonation cut through creamy cheeses. Tart ciders welcome high-acid cheeses, like young goat cheese.
The thing to remember is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to build a cheese board. So long as you focus on a combination of textures and flavors, you cannot go wrong. When it comes to choosing wines to pair, opt for ones you love, but don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know what new flavor(s) you may find you really like by going outside your comfort zone.