Jay Nutt, executive chef at Viamede Resort in Woodview, ON, shares five steps to a perfectly curated cheese course.
Here’s how to curate a party-perfect cheese board
MIX IT UP
Include three cheeses and make sure that their textures and flavours are varied. Incorporate one that’s creamy and mild, such as Brie or Camembert; one that’s rich and pungent, such as mild blue cheese or ripe tomme; and one that’s sharp and salty, such as ParmigianoReggiano.
Creamy cheeses pair well with nearly everything, pungent cheeses pair well with sweet grape tomatoes and ripe strawberries, and salty cheeses offer a perfect contrast to sweet wines and fruits. But you can also deck out your cheese board with pickles (anything from classic gherkins to pickled onions) – the sweet, sour flavour and crunch will contrast nicely with the cheeses. Spiced nuts will add even more crunch to the board and bring out the nutty undertones that are part of the flavour profile for most cheeses, so use these as a finishing touch.
MEAT THE BOARD
Add some charcuterie-style meats – their saltiness and richness will help stimulate your appetite. Prosciutto, salami and capicollo are goto choices. Want salami, too? Try a game-based version – it is often denser and has a more complex flavour than other varieties.
BRING ON THE BREAD
A freshly sliced baguette never disappoints. If you’d rather prep ahead, you can make crostini the morning of your soirée: Thinly slice a baguette, drizzle with olive oil and toast it in the oven. Include rice crackers, extra veggies and fruit, too. Don’t shy away from flavoured crackers but avoid ones that are too overwhelming – let cheese be the star. Try rosemary or savoury cranberry pecan crackers instead.
ADD LIQUID ASSETS
Go for sweet chutneys, such as fig and rhubarb. They’re sweet, tangy, a bit spicy and boldly familiar, which makes them the perfect partner for many styles of cheese. Balsamic-infused honey is a choice accompaniment as well. Savoury and spicy jams, such as caramelized onion, work, too. Keep small ramekins at the end of the board rather than drizzling them on top.