In my humble opinion, cheese is the ultimate holiday entertaining food. It comes ready-made, requires minimal fuss and its creaminess adds an extravagance to any holiday table. I always make sure I have some wheels in the freezer that I can pop on a cheese plate at a moment's notice to make my even my unexpected guests feel spoiled.
Your cheese board can be as simple as one cheese with a couple of pairings, or more elaborate like the one we prepared for this year's Toronto Vegan Social. Here are some simple tips and ideas to take holiday entertaining up a notch or two.
Selecting the Cheese
Offer a variety of flavours and textures. Soft, aged, smokey, sweet.... On the above cheese board I chose our Holiday Brie (a bit sweet), Aged Gruyère with Cumin Seed, Garlic and Fine Herbs (soft) and Pub Cheddar (a bit sharper). Here I served the Garlic and Fine Herbs flavour in a wide mouthed mason jar. It gives the plate a bit of an earthy simple feel and it allows the cheese to take centre stage.
How Much is Enough?
Plan for 3 to 4 ounces per guest. That is approximately half a container per person. So if you are expecting 6-8 people, 3 or 4 cheeses should provide enough for all of your guests to enjoy.
Offer a selection of breads and crackers. Make sure to include at least one gluten free option such as rice crackers, Mary's crackers or apple or pear slices.
Choose two or three preserved condiments that pair well with your cheese selections. A few of my personal favourites are: Garlic Scape and Jalapeño Jelly from The Garlic Pantry, Pickled Beans from Top Shelf Preserves, Caper and Kalamata Tapenade from The Garlic Box and Sun Dried Kalamata Olives.
Other sweet and salty foods pair well with your fauxmages as well. Try adding some Gusta Sausage rounds (their new Montrealien style is fantastic), Yves deli slices or veggie paté. Dried apricots or figs a make welcome addition to traditional grapes. Spiced or Candied nuts are also a fun addition.
Label each cheese. Make sure you identify allergy risks. Nut allergies in particular.
Have a separate cheese knife for each cheese.
Place your fauxmage directly onto the cheeseboard from the refrigerator. They can soften and be a bit of a challenge to transfer onto the board if they've been out of the fridge for a while.
Serve the Brie style flavours at room temperature. The flavour is mellower and the texture creamier when they are a bit softer.
Use layers and platters of different heights for interest and impact.
If you're having several guests put place the cheese platters on more than one table to avoid guest gridlock.
More Fun Ideas...
Coat your Zengarry Gruyère style cashew cheese in chopped walnuts!
Wrap organic grapes in our Zengarry Brie style fauxmage and roll them in crushed sesame snaps!
Serve our softer Garlic and Fine Herbs or Sundried Tomato and Basil flavours in a hollowed out bell pepper! Garnish with capers and fresh herbs.
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