Some of our favorite memories aren’t from the big nights out on the town bumping into strangers while trying to get a drink at the bar. Instead we cherish the laid-back nights at home surrounded by our closest friends, where the hours pass full of laughter and conversation as we munch on delicious cheeses and sip delightful wines. Typically we’ll just throw together a few different types of cheese on a plate and open whatever bottle of red or white we have on hand. There are times, though, when we appreciate an elevated experience. For such occasions, we sought out the experts at Reid’s Fine Foods for tips on how to really impress our guests when we host a girls’ night in!
There are so many different ways to go with a cheese board. It can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin, so it’s important to start with an idea already in mind. “You could do an all blue lineup, an all goat lineup, but 90% of the time you’re going to do something that’s a mixture,” says Regina Healy, the Reid’s SouthPark Cheese, Charcuterie and Pastry Department Manager.
To avoid getting overwhelmed, a light mix of cheeses is the easiest way to go. “I try to choose cheeses that are different in textures, different in milk — for example a goat’s milk, a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk — because they have different flavors. Also they have different flavor intensities — you don’t want a board that has all bold cheeses, so you just want to mix up your selection,” says Regina.
We suggest choosing at least four different kinds of cheeses to have several options available for your guests. (You may want to choose more depending on the size of your party.) Also, it’s always a safe bet to go with recognizable names when it comes to cheese. “Guests are often more comfortable trying cheeses that are familiar to them like cheddar, manchego or brie,” offers Regina. Consider this when picking your selections.
While you want a variety of flavors on your board, there are some cheeses that you may want to stay away from. “I don’t typically put a bleu on a board, because not everyone loves a bleu. A lot of bleus are overly salted,” Regina explains.
SB TIP: Pick three familiar cheeses and one wild card to switch things up. You might just be surprised!
Presentation is also key when it comes to creating a great spread. “On a cheese plate you want the pieces to be different shapes to make it look more interesting,” Regina suggests.
SB TIP: Avoid cutting up a creamy piece of cheese before serving to guests — it gets messy and won’t look very pretty.
Little added extras on your board can go a long way when it comes to looks and flavor combinations. “You can go so many different ways with pairings like pickled vegetables, spicy okra, peppadews and some olives. You can pair it with a variety of different things. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, cured meats, honey and marmalades. A honey comb looks beautiful on a cheese platter,” says Regina.
Once you’ve got all the right mix of cheeses and goodies, you’re all set to pop the bubbly — or whatever you wish to serve. “There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to pairing,” Regina explains. “It’s all about what you like!”
The best thing to remember is to keep things simple. Don’t get overwhelmed, or it won’t be enjoyable — your friends are there to spend time with YOU, not judge the cheese board you’ve put together. But when you have a beautifully put-together presentation, it’s the icing on the cake! Cheers!
Reid’s Fine Foods has two Charlotte locations: 4331 Barclay Downs Drive, Charlotte, NC 28209, and 2823 Selwyn Ave., Charlotte, NC 28209. Hours at both locations are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Thank you to Regina and Reid’s for your time and expertise. And thank you to Avonné Photography for the wonderful photos.
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