The Perfect Cheese Board

A cheese platter is one of the best parts of a party, or a wonderful evening having wine and conversation around the table. What makes the perfect cheese board? Usually it's well-traveled, in that the available cheeses are from many different countries and a variety of hardness. If you're looking to make the perfect cheese platter for your next party, read on to discover the best cheeses to select.

1. Brie

This soft French cheese is one of the most famous in the world. Brie can vary in its flavor, so it's best to try out some of the more popular varieties before choosing. It's best eaten after being in room temperature for a while, allowing the cheese to get runny.

Suggestion: Brie de Meaux.

2. Cheddar

Although we're accustomed to cheddar cheese in everything, and available everywhere, there are more varieties of this cheese than most people are aware. In America, what people call 'cheddar' is a pale imitation of the real thing.

Suggestion: Aged Irish Cheddar.

3. Goat Cheese

Goat cheese is available at several different ages and different types of hardness. The youngest is soft goat cheese; this doesn't have the pungent scent and tang of the aged variety. It is also available rolled in different herbs and spices. It would be possible to have a platter made of goat cheese alone.

Suggestion: Cypress Grove Purple Haze.

4. Parmesan

This cheese is probably most known as the type you put onto your spaghetti, but Parmesan is so much more than that. A very hard cheese, it is also one of the most flavorful. It's best to get Parmesan from a dedicated cheesemonger so you're able to try out different varieties. Make sure that 'Parmigiano Reggiano' is written on it in a tell-tale dotted pattern so you know that you're getting the real thing.

Suggestion: Buy from a cheese wheel, not the pre-packaged variety.

5. Sage Derby

This is a type of hard cheese made in the Derbyshire region of England. Its interesting flavors will put you in mind of an English garden. This cheese is a rarity and if you're lucky enough to find some for your platter then don't hesitate to purchase it.

Suggestion: Try to source it directly from England.

6. Cream Cheese

Most of us are familiar with Philadelphia Cream Cheese, but there are far more types and styles of cream cheese around the world. However, even Philadelphia now offers various flavors of cream cheese, from sweet to savory. If you are looking for a unique way to spice up your cheeseboard, try offering chocolate flavored cream cheese to the mix.

Suggestion: sample different flavors until you find one you like.

7. Camembert

This cheese is a soft style similar to brie but with a different kind of strong flavor. Unlike brie, Camembert does not have extra cream added to it. There are countless forms of Camembert to choose from, but it is a delicious French cheese that belongs on any platter.

Suggestion: Camembert de Normandie.

8. Blue Cheese

Many people don't feel like a platter is complete without a nice Roquefort or another blue cheese. Unfortunately, people can have strong allergic reactions to blue cheeses, so it's best to keep this in mind when arranging your plate. Strong and memorable, a blue cheese can be an excellent complement to a platter, but be aware that some guests may not be able to eat it. A blue cheese dip is a good idea if the platter is going to be served with other food.

Suggestion: Roquefort or Stilton.

9. Pepper Jack

Pepper jack, or any kind of cheese infused with hot spices, tends to be extremely popular at parties. It's also fantastic for cooking, and used on a platter it can provide a delicious counterpoint to the more earthy cheese flavors. There are varieties, like chili cheese and other hot pepper cheeses, that will bring the fire to your fiesta.

Suggestion: Mexicana Hot Cheddar.

10. Wensleydale

When you travel to the United Kingdom, you'll always see Wensleydale on their platters. Wensleydale is often infused with fruit like apricots or cranberries, which makes for an interesting and colorful section of the cheeseboard. The combination of sweet and creamy flavors is very popular with guests.

Suggestion: British Wensleydale with fruit.

11. Gouda

This cheese, often mistakenly pronounced 'gouda' instead of 'how-da', is a well-loved cheese from the Netherlands. When traveling in that region, it's possible to get a wheel of gouda just about as large as you are. This light and creamy hard cheese is great for those who dislike the stronger kinds of cheese usually available.

Suggestion: Look for a Dutch supplier to get ahold of the real thing.

12. Mozzarella

This cheese is most familiar to people as an essential part of a pizza. It has many more uses, one of which is bruschetta. Mozzarella is a great complementary cheese for any platter since its flavors are delicate, making it a good companion cheese for other foods.

Suggestion: Buffalo mozzarella.

13. Halloumi

This cheese is best served after being grilled. Halloumi is of Cypriot origin and in the summertime it is eaten with watermelon. It has a squeaky texture reminiscent of cheese curds and is a unique offering on any platter.

Suggestion: Serve grilled with accompaniment.

14. Feta

This Greek cheese is most often used on salads, but it can be part of a platter as well. This fresh cheese, along with others like mascarpone and mozzarella, serve as a counterpoint to the aged cheeses on the board. Feta is best eaten with accompanying crackers.

Suggestion: Serve with flavored crackers for the best result.

Once you've arranged the perfect platter, it's time to think about accompaniment. All different types of cheese are delicious, but it's the way cheese complements other food that makes it really shine. There are a few different options. Crisp white wines are always popular and go great with light cheeses. It's also a good idea to provide various things to pair with the cheeses, like fruits, crackers, and even chocolate. Finding the best cheeses to make the perfect board is just half of the battle; the other is finding the best things to go with it. Once you've organized everything, your guests will be thrilled at the time and effort you put in to making the best possible platter. They'll be talking about it for some time to come, and looking forward to your next party.

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