When designing a grazing table, I like to mix things up a bit and give the taste buds a road trip full of flavors & textures. The best grazing tables offer a montage of flavors. One of the stars on your grazing table should be your choice of cheeses. From a sweet, creamy cheese to the sharp and tangy, it should always be a journey of flavors. For that added wow factor in both presentation and taste, look to offer the unexpected and unusual.

So, what are the best cheeses to buy and how should cheese be served? These are great questions and ones we get from customers all the time. Today’s blog is going to help get you some answers; before you know it, YOU will be the cheese expert and giving advice to all of your friends!

What are the best cheeses to buy?

There are over 1,800 different types of cheeses around the world – how can you possibly choose! Believe me, I understand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of a gorgeous cheese counter and been completely overwhelmed. If you’ve ever found yourself drooling over the cheese counter at Eataly in downtown Chicago, you will know exactly what I’m talking about!

So, let’s break it down …

First, and foremost, buy the best quality cheeses you can find. The flavors will be as they were intended, and their shelf life will be longer as well. Next, you MUST sample different types of cheese – how are you ever going to know what flavors you like if you don’t try them?

Don’t shy away from trying atypical flavors of cheese, you might just be surprised at how amazing they are. Just last weekend, I tried an Espresso Bellavitano cheese that was just spectacular. It is a unique Cheddar-Parmesan inspired Italian cow’s cheese, rubbed with fresh ground Italian roast espresso beans. Who knew cheese and coffee could go so good together?

So, think outside the box and find a great local cheese shop and get tasting – I know, it’s a rough life! A great cheese shop will also point you in the right direction of cheese pairings as well, so don’t be afraid to use that valuable resource.

How should cheese be served?

In order to enjoy the full flavor of your cheese, always serve it at room temperature. Remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit for at least an hour before you plan to serve it. You also may want to cut a few slices to start your display, but refrain from cutting the entire block or wedge of cheese. It is best when it is cut fresh.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want your cheeses to be overcrowded on your charcuterie board. There is the possibility that a stronger cheese might affect the flavor of a milder cheese. Also, if your guests are going to be slicing as they go, they will appreciate a little room to maneuver the knife.

You should consider labeling your choices as well. Your guests will appreciate knowing what they are eating, and it will save you from having to answer “What type of cheese is this?” a gazillion times during your event.

For a really gorgeous presentation, add in artisan charcuterie meats, the unusual cracker and hard crusty bread, pepper jellies, honey comb, seasonal fruits and gourmet chocolates. I always serve these displays on one of my handcrafted charcuterie boards as it adds another element of delight to the senses.

Now that your charcuterie board is arranged, take a little time to sit back and relax a bit. Let the flavors work their magic – cheese is a living, breathing edible delight. Bon Appétit!