Easy, crowd-pleasing cheeseboards make fantastic appetizers, a tasty course in place of dessert and satisfying midnight nibbles. To help you construct the perfect cheeseboard for your guests, we spoke to Sobeys’ Cheese Guru Andy Shay, who offers these tips before getting started:
- Take the cheeses out of the fridge an hour before serving so they come to room temperature.
- If serving nuts, toast them beforehand to bring out even more flavour.
- Put breads and crackers in a basket on their own so they don’t crowd the cheeseboard.
- Variety is the key: Vary your milks (cow, sheep, goat), colours, shapes, textures and flavours.
Scenario One: The Drop-In Visitors
You can’t predict when unexpected guests are going to ring the doorbell, but you can be prepared. Shay recommends having these three cheeses on-hand at all times:
- Sensations by Compliments Applewood Smoked Cheddar: The smoky flavour is a twist on a Canadian favourite and brings something different to the cheeseboard. Unpasteurized whole milk and natural applewood chips give this cheese an unmistakable depth of flavour. From cheeseboards to omelettes, this cheese is an endlessly versatile fridge staple.
- Sensations by Compliments Goat Cheese: This also has a long shelf-life, is soft and creamy and available in a variety of flavours.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano: This versatile cheese is a staple in most Canadian fridges, but it also makes a fantastic table cheese. Serve our 30-month-aged Parmigiano Reggiano with a pointy-edged knife so guests can pry off little shards from the wedge.
Tip: Serve with Mary’s Organic Crackers, Sensations by Compliments Mini Crisps and any fruits or nuts on hand.
Scenario Two: The Cocktail Party
Whether it’s New Year’s Eve or just a fancy party with friends, here are the gourmet cheeses du jour for a special event:
- Camembert Rustique: A runny cheese from France with bold flavour, perfectly paired with slices of fresh artisan baguette.
- Wensleydale with Cranberry: This firm English cheese with a hint of sweetness makes a nice addition, or as Shay says, any English cheese with fruit will do.
- St. Agur: This is a creamy blue cheese, not too strong and very approachable for most people.
Tip: “A neat trick for grapes is to freeze them,” says Shay. Pick grapes off the stem, wash and dry, then freeze on a lined tray. When served on a cheeseboard they’ll frost over, adding interest to the display. You can also try our recipe for Frosted Autumn Grapes.
Scenario Three: A Family Affair
Hosting kids and adults of all ages? No problem — this combination of milder cheeses will appeal to everyone:
- Oka: A Quebec classic that’s not too strong in flavour.
- Frico Gouda: A traditional Dutch gouda that’s also available in flavoured varieties such as cumin, herbs or black pepper.
- Pecorino Romano: A little wedge goes a long way with this bold sheep’s milk cheese.
Tip: Serve with dried sausage, such as Le Sauciflard Rosette de Lyon, alongside olives, cherry tomatoes and baby pickles to round out this family-friendly board.
Scenario Four: Cheese On-The-Go
Whether you’re bringing a cheeseboard to a potluck or an office get-together, Shay recommends forgetting the cheese trio altogether and arriving with one giant chunk for people to slice from. Pack your cheese along with a nice artisan bread, dried fruits and nuts and you’re ready to go with minimal prep work and cleanup afterwards.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano: As mentioned above, it’s fun for guests to pull apart chunks from the wedge.
- Cheddar: Choose from mild to aged varieties.
- Brie: A giant wheel of brie tastes great with just about anything.
Tip: Shay recommends consulting your store’s cheese department for the right cheese knives to bring to the party.