Gourmet Cheese Parties for Beginners

Step One: Picking out a good board.

You might remember the old wedding adaged, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…” This holds true for selecting a proper cheese board as well. You’ll want to go to your local cheese shop – whether a chain like Whole Foods, or a smaller boutique – and find a nice aged cheese to start.

Some great aged gormet cheese for your party are:
Grafton Village 5-star Cheddar

This potent, “Super Sharp”, Vermont white cheddar attains it’s robust flavor from being aged for a minimum of 5 yrs before being sold to the public. (Most mass produced “Super-sharp” cheddar is only aged for 6 months to a year before being offered to the public.)

Parmigiano Reggiano (pronuonced parm-a-john-no reg-e-on-oh)
True Parmasan from Parma, Italy, this sweet and nutty cheese is often grated over pasta, but is a fine addition to any cheese board. Most parms offered on the market today come in either 10 yr, or 15 yr varieties, and the delicate crunch found in the cheese is only more enhanced with age. (The crunch comes from the carmalization of the lactate in cheese during the aging process.)

Cave-Aged Emmenthaler or Gruyere (pronounced em-m-th-all-er & gre-air)
Where Americans derived their concept of “Swiss Cheese” from. Emmenthaler is a fruity and nutty raw milk cheese with small “holes” that melts perfectly for fondues. It’s gormet cousin, Gruyere is often preferred though in most taste tests. Either one however will be a definite conversation piece at your party. (The “holes” in Swiss cheese are formed when carbon dixoide form pockets in the cheese while it’s being made.)

From there you can branch into fresh gormet cheeses like Camemberts, Bries, and other Soft Ripened Varieties.

Brie de Meaux (Brie of Meaux; Meaux prounounce “Mo”)
Don’t let it’s pungent odor fool you, this cheese has a smooth and delicate flavor that is worth every bite! (Brie de Meaux was recently voted one of the “Top 10 Stinkest Cheeses” beating out the cheese consumers common favorite, Limberger.)
Fleur Verte (Green Flower; fl-er v-er-t)

This light and smooth concoction is coverted in fragrant herbs and is easily spread upon a cracker of ones choice. (This cheese is “unpasturized” which means that the milk used in it hasn’t been heated to kill the natural bacteria in it, thus the term “raw milk” is often used.)

Tomme de Savoie (pronounced toe-ohm-d-sav-wha)
The “tomme” is in reference to the type of milk that’s used in this cheese. The milk comes from free-range cows that roam the Alpes thus the reason why so many think it has a more earthy and grassy flavor than other cheeses available.

Now, we can get our hands on something “borrowed”…perhaps from another country all together.

Sottocernere (pronounced so-toe-sur-nair)
This gormet cheese has one of the oddest flavorings of anything I’ve tasted. The outer rind feels like cement, the cheese itself holds the scent of nail polish remover, and it tastes like liquorice. But don’t be deceived, this cheese is held in high regard for it houses slivers of black truffle. (It’s flavoring is most derived from it’s rind which is rubbed in nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, licorice, cloves, and fennel.)

Tetilla (pronounced t-teal-ya)
Shaped like a “hershey’s kiss” this Spanish cheese’s inedible rind yeilds a buttery and rich cheese that is certain to satisfy anyone’s cravings. (The name, consequently is a joke of itself as the cheese is “breast shaped.”)

Mimolette (pronounced mim-mo-let)
Charles de Gaulle’s favorite, this cheese originated out of a war in the 1800’s in which France disallowed the importation of Dutch Edam. It resembles a cantalope and has a taste similar to an Edam mixed with a Cheddar, it’s often aged for 2 yrs before being placed on the market.

Yep, time for the blue, “blue cheese” that is…

Point Reyes Farmstead Blue
A creamy, mild blue made right here in the US of A from Holstein cow’s milk in California. This blue cheese is a great starter blue for those that want to try a blue cheese, but fear it’s strong flavor.

Colston Bassett Stilton
A “yellow” stilton that has been blued. It has a rich, nutty blue flavor that’s well worth savoring.

Harborne Goat Blue
My personal favorite amongst blues, this mild, goaty blue cheese is yet another great “starter blue”. (Blue cheese is made by “blueing” a preformed cheese with a bread mold such as penicilum roquefort.)

Step Two: Finding the Right Accoutrements for Your Gourmet Cheese Party

– A good bottle of wine is a fine side item to accompany any cheese board and picking one is easy. All you have to do is look a where the cheese originated and pick a wine from the same region of that country. Hannible Lecter had it right all a long, Chianti and fava beans are great together, but they’d be superb with some Parm from Parma!

– Fresh fruit is always a great choice to add to your cheese tray. Consider grapes, raspberries, strawberries, and apples.

– Chutneys and comptes are also inspired choices to dip milder cheeses into. I adore Forever Cheeses Strawberry Balsamic Vingar Compte with my bries.

– Fresh baked Baguettes, Whole Wheat Breads, and Sourdoughs are an aromatic addition to any cheese board and make consumption far easier.

– Roasted nuts bathed in cinnamon or other zesty spices are a wise choice to add to ones plate.

– Chocolate. Yep, this sweet treat is a great companion to softer, more mildly flavored cheeses. My personal favorite is Caro Spanish Artisinal Milk Chocolate (hand-made in Spain).

Step Three: Making a stellar arrangement for Your Gourmet Cheese Party

– Consider forgoing the traditional wedges n’ fruit on a pine cutting board and instead vote for a simple white plate with hand-size portionsof cheese leaning against either some kind of fruit or chutney surrounded by nuts slathered in compte with a slice of bread on the side.

– Making impromptu sandwiches from the cheeses with a compte or chutney and then having fresh fruit as a tasty side snack wouldn’t be unheard of.

– You could also serve each cheese individually to each guest on an empty plate and have a separate tray of all the accoutrements allowing your guests to do as their taste buds desire and mix n’ match as they please.

There’s no right or wrong way to compose a cheese board, but an artistic eye can always benefit this feast. You shouldn’t be wary to mix and match cheese as you wish or stick to more traditional cheeses if you fear more exotic ones might no suit your palate ultimately it’s what you savor the most that will make this experience hold true to you.

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