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The perfect cheeseboard

Welcome back readers! This week our eclectic wine column is being hijacked by a few good amateurs of dairy products: they are intent on deciphering the long concealed art behind the festive season’s cheese board.
Constructing a cheese board is just like playing Jenga, all it takes is one wrong piece or clumsy move and the whole show tumbles down like a block of wooden bricks, leaving you red faced with burning embarrassment in front of your distinguished guests. Here are a few tips on how to avoid looking like one of Pocahontas’ tribesmen at the dinner table, before desert…
Cheese boards are exactly like company boards, on them you will have the smelly, the extravagant, the exotic, the local, the mature and the milder personalities, those with character and those who are bland and the blander…
The centerpiece of your cheese board is essential. Every other slice of cheese will revolve around it. Therefore you have to weigh the pros and cons of placing a cheese that is a little extravagant such as a true French Roquefort. It is a strong, pungent and fierce blue cheese, mentioned in Pliny the Elder’s writings in AD 79. However remember that you can only have so many strong blue cheeses on your festive season’s board, therefore choose wisely between your English Stilton, Italian Gorgonzola and the fames French Roquefort.
Coveting the centerpiece like bankers do bonuses will be your second class of cheeses. This will usually be an opportunity to whisk in something with a particularly striking taste but not necessarily pungent. Camembert, made from un-pasteurized milk, has such a character trait as does a Brie de Meaux. Naturally if you’ve had enough of those frog-eating French then there is always the option to bring out a lesser known British or other continental soft cheese. However in soft cheese we are still referring to those which are firmly cut with a butter knife and not scooped up with a spoon like vanilla and pistachio ice cream on a hot summer’s day. Therefore Mascarpone is out of the question, Madame Loic is a decent choice however it is perhaps a little too soft in texture and could never seriously be placed on your cheese board. As it’s nearly Christmas, Toffee apple cheddar would make a fine addition but then again so would Snowdonian cheese (Welsh) and usually Wensleydale’s cranberries can be replaced by nuts or even berries if you should be so fortunate to find it…
Then arriveth the pawns, the cheeses you place in strategic spots to distract your friends with while you cut generously into the centerpiece and the upper second class. Pawns is not demeaning to this last class of cheese, it merely highlights the fact that they would be more accessible and lack that magic aura. Enter the gruyeres! These can be both salty and soft, either way they are perfect in their hard nature and definitely a must have. The same can be said of Comté, a fainter softer type of French cheese which ravages the desert course of many a dinner party. In this category you can throw in some pickled onion with whatever decent cheddar catches your eye. If you are going all pickled onion though, then extra mature cheddar will compensate the acid nature of your vinegar soaked vegetables. Dutch red Gouda and Belgian ‘Bruges’, the latter stronger and more characterful than the former, are two other cheeses which would make fine additions to your cheese board.
Finally, if you have anything else lurking around in your fridge or you’re feeling particularly banterous then you can demonstrate it through babybel. We always laugh at babybel but it remains,
unexpectedly, a quite popular cheese as people enjoy peeling off the red wax and tasting the bland industrial nature of mass industrial production.
In any case, it is down to you and your measly student allowance to find the perfect balance. Piecing together a cheese board is in the end, an art, so if you cannot learn it – just copy furiously and hope that the plagiarism police isn’t on campus that day.

Tags: Cheese, Christmas

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