DIY cheese board: expert advice on putting together a great appetizer at home

by Amy Brooks, BDC Editor

Cheese from Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile

An assortment of cheeses available at Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile. photo Amy Brooks

We all know how great going out to eat is. You get to dress up (or down), kick back, and enjoy some amazing local foods with your friends and family. But hosting a dinner party at home has its perks too - you get to play post and show your guests how much you appreciate them by taking the time to prepare a delicious meal. The best part, though, is that you can still support the Buffalo food scene, even when you’re eating at home.

A great way to greet guests and help them settle in is to have a tray of appetizers prepared when they walk in the door. So we caught up with Laura Sutter, the Cheesemonger at Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile to learn how to create a cheese board with pairings that are sure to impress.

“Normally, when we’re making a cheese plate what we’re looking for is just having as many varieties of textures, milk types and styles of cheese as possible,” Sutter explained.

Decadent cheeses come from more than just cows. In fact, Sutter explained that there are four main animals that we get out cheeses from - cow, goat, sheep and buffalo.

“Buffalo is a rare one so you can count that out,” Sutter said. “If I were making a cheese board for a party, I would try to have one cheese from each milk variety just because they have are really different flavors.”

The trick is getting not only a variety of milk types, but also a variety of textures so that guests can enjoy spreading soft, creamy cheeses on crackers or munching on pieces of firmer cheese along with nuts or fruit.

The best thing to do, is arrange the cheese from milder flavors to stronger ones. Sutter says cheeses like Délice de Bourgogne - a soft creamy triple creme cheese - is one of their most popular, crowd-pleasing style and a good choice to start the board on.

“I would say nine times out of ten when you give it to people, they’re going to like it no matter what,” Sutter said.

Condiments sold at Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile

Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile sells just about everything you need to put together your own cheese board. photo Amy Brooks

Along with the cheese, it’s a good idea to include a sweet condiment like jam or honey as well as fresh or dried fruit and nuts. If you’re including savory cheeses in your selection, serve mustard, gherkin pickles and a variety of meats, too.  

As far as drinks go, we all know the stereotype that wine is cheese’s best friend, but Sutter suggests you stick with white.

“White wines are always going to be easier to pair than red wines because red wines can sometimes bring out a bitterness in cheese or vice versa,” she explained, “but if you have a Chardonnay or a Dry Riesling or a light, fruity red wine like a Pinot Noir, it’s going to go with most things.”

The best thing, though, is a bit of bubbly.

“Anything sparkling is going to be great,” she said, “There is a little bit more sweetness and a little more nuttiness, and the acidity goes really well with the fattiness of cheese.”

If you want to flip the script a little bit and have a cheese pairing with dessert, Sutter says that bleu cheese and port are the way to go. The reason is that the richness of the bleu cheese is strong enough to stand up to any flavors you might have had with dinner, and it’s a great compliment to a fruity, warm glass of port.

Interior of Le Cruit Brasserie Buffalo

Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile is located in the same building as Le Cruit Brasserie. photo Amy Brooks

When in doubt, though, ask. Not only does Sutter welcome customers with questions, but she enjoys teaching people about cheese so much that Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile is offering classes twice a month.

Each class has a different focus, so be sure to check out the schedule online to learn more. Reservations cap at 20 per class so be sure to sign up today!

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