For the longest time, a ‘cheese course’ for me meant the classic spread of Ritz crackers, block cheese, and Hormel pepperoni slices eaten as a snack while awaiting real food.
My first true cheeseboard experience happened in Vermont and our most recent trip there reminded me of the potential they have to serve as an entire meal.
The concept of a cheeseboard is obviously centered around cheese, but which ones to choose?
Cheeses are about as diverse as wines. They range in origin, milk type, color, texture, flavor, with so many distinctions, no wonder it’s easier to cling to our favorite name brand sharp cheddar* block.
*Or fill in the blank with your go to cheese.
The idea isn’t too have an especially large number of cheeses at a time, but to instead invest in two or three quality cheeses which differ in taste and texture.
After marveling at the intricate details of different cheeses we tasted in Vermont, dry and complex versus smooth and nutty, with hints of the pastures the cows grazed in, we decided cheeseboards needed to be integrated into our regular lives.
Rather than start or end a meal with a cheeseboard, we’ve made them the casual weekend lunch. After buying 18 pounds of butter at Cabot, we stocked up on a broad selection of cheeses, some theirs and some from surrounding farms, to kick start our cheeseboarding.
Aside from the cheeses, my favorite part is seeking out the perfect cracker/bread element. My favorite is a thinly sliced baguette toasted with a little olive oil.
For some crunch, we add nuts. We go a little overboard on the sweet element, adding jams, honey, and a fruit. But the best part of a cheeseboard is that it usually ends up being an unplanned meal. It’s a which of these things do I have on hand right now, kind of meal. And somehow it always turns out delicious.
While I can still put down Ritz stacks any day, I appreciate the art of the cheeseboard. The careful selection of cheeses and the consideration of pairing elements make it more than food. It becomes an experience.