It's the time of year when family and friends want to gather to enjoy each other's company. Whether you choose to host a holiday party or attend one, nothing brings a crowd together quite like a beautiful and festive cheese board. Don't know what kinds of cheese to get or what to serve with them? We went to food stylist Whitney Kemp for some easy and delicious tips to creating a cheese board that is sure to be a hit!
Honey is a natural pairing with cheese and turns a mundane appetizer into something special. There are some basic guidelines for putting a cheese selection together that will create interesting combinations and flavors that your guests will enjoy. This a great way to try some special varietals of honey, but is just as delicious as honey from your local grocery store. Here are some tips for an appetizer or dessert course that will impress your guests and family… and it's a snap to make!
Choose an attractive plate, tray or cutting board to serve your cheese selections. Don't be too fussy with the arrangement, the natural beauty of the ingredients create an edible "still life" on their own. Keep the serving utensils and dishes simple, and be sure to set out a separate knife for each cheese.
Serve a couple of different honeys in small glass jars or bowls to take advantage of the natural beauty of honey's golden glow, serve with a small spoon or drizzler. You can also use a piece of honeycomb in a small dish that guests can eat as is. Many people have never tried honey from the comb and will be delighted with the taste and texture, also it is just beautiful!
Play off the idea of opposites, for example, salty cured meats such as prosciutto and salami go well with fresh apple slices, small fresh oranges and figs. Salty nuts and olives pair great with dried fruits.
Along with the honey, you might serve a spicy condiment such as course mustard, chutney, marinated vegetables and tapenade.
Offer a selection of thinly sliced baguettes and simple crackers such as water crackers to complement but not compete with the cheeses.
As for the cheese, you want to select 4 or 5 varieties, one in each basic flavor category: aged, soft, firm and blue. You can also select a variety of cheeses by the type of milk it is made from: cow, goat, sheep or a combination. Shop for your cheese at a store that has knowledgeable people to help you make your selections. If your cheese board is only one of several other items being served, you should buy 3 to 4 oz. per person, if the cheese board is the main appetizer, buy about 6 oz. per person. Bring the cheese out to room temperature about one hour before serving.
Labeling the cheese and honey varieties for your guests is a nice touch.