Ellie Wilson, MS, RDN We are savoring summer at Price Chopper and Market 32, and continuing to celebrate July’s summer entertaining season with an amazing array of cheese! Our Big Cheese, Chris Boyle, is an explorer extraordinaire, and his passion brings you everything you need to build a delicious summer cheese adventure. We carry local, artisan, domestic and imported cheeses from around the corner and around the world. Explore with us, and discover a world of flavor and fun! There are some basics to the anatomy of a cheese board. Generally, you should choose about 5 -7 different cheeses, and accompany them with something sweet, savory, and crunchy. Some tips, tricks and twists to merit oohs and ahhs from your partygoers:
- Know your guests – are they into basics or excited to try new things? If you have a mix, plan on some favorites like aged New York cheddar, and something different like Red Apple Sriracha Cheddar.
- Consider a theme – all cow’s milk cheeses, or cheese from Italy, or cheese that starts with the letter “B” – it is fun and inspiring.
- Choose a range of textures and flavors – textures from soft to hard, and flavors from mild to intense. This is where the store cheese monger can be a great resource.
- Savories – charcuterie like prosciutto lends a salty-sweet element; olives or cornichons add a light vinegar kick to cleanse the palate.
- Sweets – dried fruit, fruit paste or preserve, fresh fruit like grapes or sweet cherries (in season!) are easy and their jewel colors decorate your cheese board. You can take it up a notch by roasting or grilling fruits – roasted grapes on the vine are easy, delicious and dramatic. Honeycomb is another sweet idea.
- Bread and crackers – Slice baguettes up just before your guests arrive. Or, drizzle with a good olive oil, and toast on a cookie sheet. Crackers are as diverse as cheese – look for multigrain types with seeds like sesame or flax, to bring in a nutty flavor that also has some nutrition benefits.
- Speaking of nuts – they are another way to put crunch on the board. Marcona almonds, toasted walnuts or pecans bring texture and taste.
- Cut cheeses ahead of time – use a wire cutter for soft cheeses like blue and brie, and a sharp knife for harder cheeses. Avoid cubing – they do not sit well on crackers or bread.
- Finally – summer food safety. Cheese should be served at room temperature, BUT -summer’s warm temperatures can impact the time you keep cheese out – experts recommend about a two hour time frame. If you see a sheen on the cheese, it is starting to lose fat and flavor. I love the ice filled trays that can be placed under plates and boards – consider using one to balance temperature on very warm days.