Hello, my friends! I’m still recovering from the cheese overload we had in France with all our friends and family, but glad to be back in the sunshine. Paris is pretty soaked and cold right now! After doing a huge hike last week around Muir Woods and Stinson Beach, where flowers were beginning to bloom, it’s hard to want to return to the cold (unless it’s the Yukon!).
That said, I am still looking back with fondness on our visits to all our French friends and family! Because of Miss Cheesemonger, it seemed like everyone was ready to break out the good cheese for us. When I learned that M. Cheesemonger was planning an all-day board game fest with his best friends, I knew this was my chance to prepare an enormous cheese board!
If you’re planning your next board, here are some things I picked up from prepping this board for a room full of hungry gamers.
Choose seasonal cheeses.
In this case, I was thinking of one cheese in particular-Mont d’Or. Made only in wintertime, its ultra oozy texture and tongue-coating, opulent flavors instantly step up any cheese board. You can serve it warmed from the oven, just make sure you cut the top crust off to better spoon out the gooey insides. If you serve it this way, you will want to find a whole little wheel. Or, you can serve it as is; there are large wedges available for this purpose.
Choose cheese from a variety of milks.
I always like to have variety on my boards. It makes tasting them a gustatory adventure! In this case, we went for a sheep’s milk cheese—Ossau Iraty, a goat’s milk cheese—Ste Maure, and a couple different cow’s milk cheeses—Camembert and Mont d’Or. Each milk type has different characteristics, and as the seasons change, so does each cheese. Mix it up and discover!
Serve different styles of cheese.
Another way to mix things up is to serve cheeses of different styles or ages. The Ste Maure, aged 3-5 weeks, is going to have a noticeably different texture than a very aged goat cheese. The Ossau Iraty, because of its origins in the warm Pyrenees mountains in the southwest of France, will carry with it different savors than a Cantal, which is made in the center of France, in Auvergne.
Don’t forget accompaniments!
You can serve cheese by itself, but in the spirit of mixing things up, I also like to serve fresh fruit when possible. These grapes I paid an arm and a leg for were just too glowing and beautiful to pass up! We also found some delicious saucisson sec made from Bigorre black pork (porc noir de Bigorre), an AOP designation. It was HEAVENLY, and went faster than the cheese, to be honest! Walnuts added a little crunch. One of M. Cheesemonger’s friends offered us chocolates from master chocolatier Patrick Roger, so we added them to the table. M. Cheesemonger fetched some baguette from a former winner of the Best Baguette in Paris competition, and we were good to go!
Set the mood.
Good cheese and good eating cannot be rushed! Serve your cheeses at room temperature, so take the piece you will eat out of the refrigerator about 30 min-1 hour before serving time. You and your guests will eat with your eyes first, so a little effort goes a long way in making the board as aesthetically pleasing as possible. When you taste each cheese, take the time to truly taste the flavors of each one. Do you notice any differences? Do any cheeses evoke anything else for you? Oh, and this TABLECLOTH that was at our friends’ home! It was hand-embroidered by a family friend. I don’t think it gets better than that in setting an inviting table!
Don’t forget to drink something.
One French ex-pat friend insists that white wine is best to taste with cheeses. Knowing his excellent taste in wine, I am not complaining! What you drink should be at least a little informed by your cheese selection. Goat cheeses tend to be more delicate, so find a lighter wine. Hunky cheddars will be able to stand up to bigger flavors. There are no rules for wine and cheese pairing, so feel free to play around! I mean—have you been looking for an excuse to open that bottle of rum from the Canary Islands? There may be a cheese out there for it.
If you’re like me, though, you might want a non-alcoholic option. I like Badoit for the fine bubbles. Or try different teas for a new take on things.
What is on your cheese board these days? I want to know in the comments!
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