Petite Version

I recently attended an event in collaboration with Real California Milk. One of the biggest takeaways was that milk and dairy foods provide important nutrients such as calcium, protein, vitamins are minerals, which is hard to replicate with alternatives.

My favorite session was definitely learning how to craft the ultimate cheese board. A few days prior to that, I actually attempted to make my own cheese and charcuterie board. Let’s just say that I wish I learned a few of these tricks before my first attempt to make a cheese board.

What are your favorite cheese and food pairings? Comment below!


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Pick a board or a plate

This is where the creativity starts. I particularly love the look of a slab of marble, but I know how heavy that can get, especially once you add cheese, fruits, vegetables, and other accompaniments. You can also opt for a wooden cutting board, or a large plate. If clean up poses a hassle or if you’re afraid of potentially staining your marble slab or wooden board, you can always opt to use a large leaf (like chard) as a base to go in on top of the plate/marble and underneath the food.

Selecting Your Cheese and Food Pairings

Pick Your Favorites

The first thing that comes to mind when curating my cheese is to pick my favorite kind! I’m a big fan of soft cheeses, such as brie, but I have recently warmed up to harder cheeses.

Think of Opposites!

One thing to consider is texture. I love pairing softer cheeses with crackers or nuts. I love fruit, fresh or dried, with harder cheese.

Another thing to consider is the flavor profile of the cheese.  I naturally pair meats with the lighter cheeses and fruits or preserves with the more savory cheeses. I’m not sure if this is a general rule of thumb, but I’ve noticed that the stinkier the cheese, the sweeter the fruit tastes.

Eating With My Eyes

I am also visual and do take color into consideration. Most people assume that a cheese plate will be full of yellows and browns and perhaps some reds with the meat, but I love the idea of adding color through the accompaniments. Green grapes add a nice pop of color as well as bell peppers or tomatoes.

Make It Nutritous

Did you know 1 oz. cheese provides about 20% of your daily recommended calcium intake? Let’s not forget that dairy is also a good source of high-quality protein!

Pairing dairy with other fruits and vegetables is also a great way to make a cheese plate a nutritious snack. I like to let the season inspire me. For instance, during the summer, stone fruits, like peaches and nectarines are my fave. I’ve even seen asparagus on cheese plates. Now, I’m not quite too sure if Brussels sprouts will ever make it onto my cheese platter, but who knows?

My Favorite Cheese and Food Pairings

Brie is a favorite of mine.  I particularly love brie with berries (raspberries and blackberries are my fave), or ham and charcuterie. I’ve even paired brie with dark chocolate once and love the contrast in flavor and texture.

Foggy morning is something I recently tried for the first time and I can’t get enough. (Can you tell that I am biased towards soft cheeses?) It is super soft and has a slight tang. I found that foggy morning pairs well with both sweet or savory. I love pita crackers with a scoop of foggy morning and chopped up fruit is quite harmonious to the taste buds.

Gouda is semi hard so I love pairing it with dried fruit like apricots or dried figs, and perhaps using sliced up baguettes as a base.

Monterey Jack, another semi-hard cheese, pairs well with pumpernickel bread/crackers. I also like the contrast this has with the softness of cashew nuts. Did you know it was first created in California?

Havarti is one of my favorite savory cheeses. I love pairing this with sweet nuts or perhaps some dried fruit. Trader Joe’s now comes out with slices of dried oranges and they are so pretty!

Asiago just reminds me of my favorite bagels. So I love pairing this with cured meats like a spicy salami.

There are obviously tons of more cheeses out there, but these were just a few of my faves. I’m always willing to try new cheeses!

Presentation

A good rule of thumb is to add variety. Perhaps selecting two soft cheeses, two semi-hard, and one to two hard cheeses is a good starting point. From there, a few types of crackers or breads alongside with a few sweet and savory accompaniments and you are set!

Spread out the various cheeses across the board and perhaps place the accompaniments near the cheeses you think they pair with best. Note that I’m sure I will be that one person to mix and match cheese pairings across the platter, so no worries if this isn’t perfect. Filling up the board will make your cheese platter seem like a feast and will look like a celebration.

Your guests will already think you’re amazing that you created such a delicious cheese board when in reality, this was perhaps the easiest dish of the night given that cooking was not even required! Do you see why a cheese plate is my go-to for any potluck situation?

Tip: For semi-hard and hard cheeses, perhaps consider cutting them into wedges or slices. This will invite your guests to dig in! Certain cheeses that are medium-hard to medium soft are best cut with a wire slicer. Hard cheeses are best cut with a tear-shaped knife.

Regardless of what cheeses and accompaniments you choose, don’t be afraid to try new pairings. The average person is not the cheese connoisseur and will simply enjoy the cheese platter that you’ve created. The possibilities are endless!

What are your favorite cheese and food pairings? Comment below!

A few fun facts about Real California cheese:

  • California has been producing cheese for as long as it’s been making wine — more than 200 years. Perhaps this is why cheese and wine go well together, but since I do not drink much wine, I didn’t venture into those pairings in this post.
  • Today, more than 50 cheesemakers are producing more than 250 varieties and styles of cow’s milk cheese that carry the Real California Milk seal, available in grocery stores, specialty markets, and cheese shops nationally.
  • The seal means that the product is made with 100% Real California Milk from Real California Dairy families. Real California Milk is made by real California people who truly care about nourishing the world.
  • On an annual basis, California dairies produce 2.5 billion pounds of cheese! Mmmm
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, fear not! You can still have cheese without upsetting your stomach as harder cheeses are lower in lactose, which is simply a natural sugar found in milk. Some options to consider are cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, mozzarella and swiss!
  • Use this link to locate Real California Milk and products near you.

This post is sponsored by Real California Milk Advisory Board, but all opinions are my own.