I used to be a little intimidated when it came to cheeses. There are just so many options and I worried that I would pair them incorrectly. But after receiving a cheese board and knife set last Christmas, I built up my courage and started playing with the combinations. And what I found is that creating the perfect cheese board really is a no-brainer. Whereas before I thought there was some sort of science for selecting cheeses and their accompaniments, I have since learned that it's more of an art and meant to be fun and experimental. Here is my simple formula and a few additional tips for creating a spread that is sure to be a crowd pleaser:
Perfect Cheese Board = Cheese + Bread + Something Sweet + Something Salty
Cheeses: I typically choose 3-4 varieties that are different enough from one another with the hopes that there will be something to satisfy everyone's palates. I also like to play with the textures and can always depend on some aged cheddar, gouda and something soft, like brie. I also like to include a cheese that incorporates a unique flavor, like mushrooms or caramel. I call this my wild card, because you never really know which way it'll go, but it's always fun watching everyone try it.
Bread - I always include some bread for the spreadable cheeses and so that guests have something to diffuse the flavors with between tastings. Some thinly sliced baguette drizzled with olive oil and lightly toasted will do the trick. Occasionally I'll throw in some crackers too.
Something Sweet - Most times I'll cut up an apple or two or add a bowl of grapes. Again, they can be used for spreading cheeses over or cleaning your palate between samples. Occasionally, I'll add a fruit spread which is great when smeared over the bread and topped with cheese. You could also use honey or a dried fruit, like apricots.
Something Salty - In addition, to the bread, I also usually include some almonds. It's nice to have something else to snack on in addition to the cheeses. Some meat, like prosciutto or salami, or olives are also a great option.
And there you have it! A deliciously well-rounded cheese board that is sure to wow your guests.