Setting up a cheese board
My second son is leaving for college in about two weeks. We are having a small going away party for him with about 20 guests. We are not having a sit down meal, he has in mind appetizers, small bites, etc. (This one is my foodie budding chowhound) He has requested charcuterie and a cheese board. I IKinda new to me. We do this on a small scale for the family, which is where his love of it comes. My question is the mix. There are just so many choices. Hard, soft, pungent, mild, fruits, pates, chacuterie, fruit pates... i have the apps down but am trying to come up with a plan for this. How much to plan for for this size group. He tends to like strong flavored and sharp cheess and i feel like i must balance it with more mild choices. And how to pair the rest. I know its a subjective question but what would you do on this scale? And most of the people coming are open to tring new things so it doesnt have to be safe
On the cheese board, I'd have really simple selections--camembert, asiago (personal fave...include your son's) cheddar, something like a Boursin.
For meat, bresaola, kielbasa, turkey breast.
Then olives (brine, dry cured, kalamata, stuffed green)
Then sweet gherkins and baby dills
Salted Almonds and dried fruits and grapes
Good chutneys, mustards, etc
Good crackers and hearty bread
This may be too much, but I'd have a spiral ham next to the cheese board if there'd be young men there. They like to eat (as you know).
I took the advice given here, and found a little quote online that pretty much matched that advice "Something old, something new, something goat, and something blue."
I am at work so i dont have the exact names, but will list them later.
I had a very sharp cheddar, a gorgonzola, i used a recipe from pinterest with green grapes covered in goat cheese then rolled in chopped almonds, and a brie. My brie tasted odd to me for some reason. A woman at bristol farms helped me, and i ended up a little overboard. Medjool dates, toasted baguette slices, mustard, salami, olives, and a quince pate, sliced apples were kind of a mistake. It was kind of a hodgemodge but it looked so pretty. I used a huge wooden cutting board and lemon leaves. Im not really sure how to post a picture. Working on that.
I would stick to around 2.5 oz per person - so about 50oz total of cheese or 3.25 lbs for that many people give or take.
When planning for a group, I like to have a couple of "safe" cheeses which are approachable to everyone and then throw in a couple more adventurous types. Be careful not to buy too many - probably 5 at the most - otherwise it's too overwhelming. After you choose, pick the appropriate fruits, pates and spreads based on the cheeses.
What's even more fun is if you've got a good cheese shop or monger nearby, just give them a budget and quantity and ask them to choose for you!
Another thing to keep in mind is how the cheeses will look on your plate or board. A rectangular wooden board looks very nice with three cheeses spaced so you can cut 'em. A round platter could hold three or four depending on the size. Agree not to go for more than five at the most unless you want to do two separate platters.
One of my pet peeves is having one knife for all the cheeses. I don't like getting blue cheese on my soft white cheese, thanks! You can't force your guests to use one knife per cheese, but I like to provide that anyway. It's also helpful to have a spreading type knife for really soft cheeses if you can stretch to it.
You didn't mention breads etc. When I worked in a cheese shop a thousand years ago, the proprietor was always careful to ensure that the "delivery vehicle" did not fight with the cheese. Pick something that can be cut to a small size (baguette slices are a favourite of mine) or comes small already (avoid those great big rye crackers). Also give breads and crackers a pass that contain a lot of salt or other herbs and flavourings. Finally, it's very nice to have a gluten-free option these days, either in a cracker form or spears of endive. Even if no one is gluten intolerant, many people are trying to avoid carbs.
For that many guests you can have several types of cheese available. You should have a good variety ranging from creamy to sharp. I would go with a brie, a Cheddar, a sharp bleu, and a soft goat cheese. That way there is something for everyone. The specific types of cheese will just have to depend on what you have available in your area.