Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Prep | 5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Cheese Board


Having a food blog, I'm now naturally primed for culinary curiosity, seeking out foodie events near and far. Tastings, demos, festivals... there are all kinds of things going on in and around most cities that draw in hungry event-goers -- and some are even free!

Just last week, my local Whole Foods Market shared an event on their Facebook page that caught my eye {mostly because it had to do with cheese, which is one of my main weaknesses in life}, so I figured I'd find an excuse to attend. I mean, they've got certified cheese professionals, guys. It's a thing. Look it up. Legit.

Anyway, the extraordinary cheese professionals at Whole Foods demonstrated how to put together the perfect cheese board for your holiday celebrations and beyond. It's a life skill you will want to have in your party-hosting tool belt. I promise.

But enough of all the talking, let's get to the cheese! Here are 5 Tips for Creating the Perfect Cheese Board according to Kate & Matt from Whole Foods Palm Beach Gardens:

1. Don't be intimidated by fancy cheese!

I have to admit, I am guilty of this. Approaching a well-stocked specialty cheese counter can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you don't already know what you're looking for or don't have a whole lot of cheese knowledge. But guess what? That's what the pros are there for!

They are usually happy to help you figure out what you want, like or need. They can help make suggestions, point out good pairings or let you sample a piece before you make your purchase. So don't be shy! Ask for their expertise and let them lead the "whey"... haha, I'm sorry, I couldn't help it. ;)

2. Create a cheese theme.

Ok, now you've kicked your fear of approaching the wide world of cheese and it's time to pick your pieces. Not sure where to start? Don't fret. Kate suggests creating a themed plate to guide your selections.

Maybe choose a specific type of cheese, say gouda, and showcase several different ages of that particular variety. It's amazing how different a "young" cheese tastes in comparison with an "aged" cheese of the same kind. You can also create a plate to highlight a particular region or country. Or how about putting together a variety of popular cheeses? The possibilities are endless.

3. Check out the seasonal selection.

In chatting with Matt, a newly accredited Certified Cheese Professional, I discovered that cheese is a living food that changes seasonally. Just as wines vary by vintage, cheeses can also taste different from year to year. That means that there are cheeses that you may only be able to get at certain times of year because that's when they're at their pinnacle of quality and flavor.

It's actually pretty interesting when you get down to the nitty gritty of how this works {Think: breeding/lactation cycles of cows & goats, etc.}, but for the sake of brevity, I'll just say that cheese is affected by nature. {Unless, of course, we're talking about the very processed kind you can get year round.} So, ask about what's "in season" and treat your taste buds to nature's peak products!

4. Serve at room temperature.

Now that you've gone through all the trouble of picking out the perfect cheeses to serve, make sure you're getting the most out of them by serving them properly! Cheese should be served at room temperature because that's when it tastes best.

Why? Well, mostly because of the butterfat. Cold butterfat doesn't release its full flavors. So, let it come to room temp so that the flavor is most pronounced. The amount of time it takes varies by the hardness of the cheese {the harder the cheese, the longer it'll take}, but generally 30 minutes to an hour should do. Bonus tip: Loosely cover cut cheeses so that they don't dry out while they're coming to temperature.

5. Provide some fun accompaniments. 

It's time to cut the cheese!! Err... Enjoy the cheese. You know what I mean.

While cheese is certainly tasty on its own {I've been known to polish off copious amounts of brie all by itself}, it's always nice to serve it with things that complement the flavors and textures. You can set out some artisanal crackers {I tend to like the seeded kinds} for a little crunch, some crusty slices of bread or some crisp breadsticks. Make it hearty with charcuterie like salami or prosciutto. Get creative with olives, specialty oils, vinegars and even honey.

Cheese also pairs wonderfully with fruit: Tart apples, sliced figs or dates, grapes, quince paste or maybe even some jam. Or, you could "go nuts"... literally! Set out some Marcona almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts.


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While I'm obviously a fan of cooking and baking, I know that not everyone is. I think cheese plates are such a perfect solution to this issue around the holiday season! They make a great item to bring to a party or a fantastic addition to your own gathering. So, get cheesy this year!

A big thank you to my friends at Whole Foods Palm Beach Gardens for sharing their expertise. Locals, be sure to check out their amazing cheese department and keep an eye out for their monthly events!

1 comments:

Karis said...

Last week I was waiting for my CSA box at Whole Foods and saw a cheese table being setup but wasn't sure what it was for. I get home, am looking at Facebook and realize it was a cheese demo that sounded really interesting. I could have kicked myself! I left right as it was starting. So anyway, I'm very happy you did this post because now I can see the tips they shared!

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