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Many elements go into the perfect cheese board. Of course, we’re going to start with the cheese itself. Here you want to think about contrast and variety. Some hard, some soft, some mild, some stronger and a variety of styles and milk types. And as you do nothing more to the cheeses than unwrap them, it’s crucial to buy the best cheese you can afford, from a reputable seller who has a passion for the food they sell, like us! You can come in store and chat with our knowledgeable staff behind the cheese counters, or order online and we’ll send those very same cheeses to your door.
The cheese world is full of odd traditions, and one of which is that a cheese platter ought to feature an odd number of cheeses. So think about your party size and then choose a three, five or seven cheese platter. And if you happen to land yourself a particularly excellent wedge of something, you could even go with just the one.
But let’s start with three. A three cheese platter will likely be soft, hard and blue. You could stick with the classics and have Brie de Meaux, Comté and Roquefort. That is soft Brie, sweet and nutty Comté and intense Roquefort. Two cow's milk cheeses then the Roquefort which is sheep’s milk. Contrast and variety. Check!
Alternatively, you could go regional, and say, have all Italian. Then you’d choose a big, beautiful ball of Mozzarella di Buffala, Parmiggiano Reggiano (amazing on a cheese platter, not just pasta!) and some Gorgonzola. Soft, hard, blue. Creamy, crumbly, intense. Buffalo and cows’ milk. Check check check!
When you up the number of cheeses, you can include lesser-known styles. Mould-ripened goat's cheeses such as St Maure or Crottin, washed rinds like Reblochon, Langres or Époisses, or marinated, smoked or truffled cheese like Meredith Dairy Marinated Goat Cheese or a smoked or truffled cheddar.
Then we move on to accompaniments.
It is nice to pair each cheese with a thoughtful accompaniment, but as they’ll all be on the same platter, your guests will be free to mix and match. (We’ll leave a list below of some classic pairings.) Think carefully about the character of your cheeses, then pick condiments that will enhance or add contrast to that character. A rich, buttery cheese such as Brillat Savarin, for example, will pair beautifully with a slightly acidic condiment, think apricot jam, ripe cherries or raspberries, even an aged balsamic vinegar. Salty cheeses want for something sweet, Parmigiano Reggiano with honeycomb or Manchego with membrillo. And the rich pungency of blue cheeses can be tempered with the gentle sweet/savouriness of nuts or nut infused crackers or even charcuterie. And while we’re on the subject of crackers…
For a French person, crackers have no place near a cheese platter, a fresh and crusty baguette or loaf of bread is a must. However, here in Hong Kong we’re constrained by no such tradition! Purists serve their cheese on the plainest water crackers that truly let the cheeses themselves take centre stage. One good rule of thumb is soft cheese hard cracker, hard cheese soft bread. It’s purely practical – ever tried getting a crumbly cheddar to stick to a rough seed crisp?
We like to serve our cheeses on a large wooden board that leaves ample space between each cheese giving your guests easy access to the cheese of their choice. Condiments can be dotted between, either in small bowls or dolloped directly onto the platter. Ample crackers and bread should accompany, ideally in a bowl or basket alongside.
Sadly there isn’t one unicorn wine that pairs with all cheeses, and likely your platter will feature multiple cheeses, so pairing a wine for each cheese could mean a very boozy affair! However, if you choose a wine (or beer!) to pair with one of the cheeses on your platter, you’re well on the way to success. And, when in doubt, Champagne, for cheese, there’s no better friend. Broad cheese and wine pairings are as follows.
Fresh soft goat cheeses (Picandou, Valençay) pair well with lighter styles of white wine – Sancerre, Sauvignon Blanc, Chablis.
White mould cheese (Brie, Camembert) pair with Champagne or other sparkling whites.
Washed rinds (Époisses, Muenster) and also firmer Alpine cheeses (Comté, Gruyère, Beaufort) work with richer white wines, Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris.
Robust hard cheeses such as Gouda or Cheddar hold their own with fruity red wines, Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, but are also excellent with darker beers, Porter, Stout, IPA.
Blue cheeses work particularly well with dessert wines. The sweetness of a Sauternes, Muscat or Port works wonderfully with the spiciness or saltiness of blue cheeses.
Whilst cheese and wine pairing is ultimately a personal thing (who are we to tell you you didn’t like this wine with that cheese?), there are some tried and true partnerships. This goes for condiments as well, some cheeses are traditionally served with particular condiments, and the pairing just works. Let us take the guesswork out of the process for you and leave you with twenty of those sure-fire hits. All you do is look down the list, pick your favourite cheeses and grab them and the suggested pairings from any of our retail stores or online, and you’re set.