It’s what I want for dinner. Tonight, tomorrow, any day of the week, any season of the year and any occasion you can think of. Now, please, as you read on, I ask you to remember with every fibre of your being that a cheese board is not simply some mish-mash of leftover fridge scraps and stale crackers thrown together and shoved to the back of the table in a shadowy corner of the room where it collects nothing but sneers and judgement like some unwanted fruitcake. A cheese board is a work of art. It should be front and centre, proudly displayed; the Mona Lisa of the party. Simply put: it is the perfect meal.
What makes it so supremely wonderful is made in part by the infinite options of textures, flavours, regions and techniques. It is then heightened by the countless creative accompaniments that can go alongside; pickled vegetables, roasted nuts, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, ruby chocolate, fresh breads and pastries, crackers, pates, jams, jellies, dips, meats, dried fruit, fresh fruit, candied fruit and fruit roll ups, the list of possibilities is endless. But what really, truly and honestly makes it the perfect meal is the community that brings it together; all without turning on a burner, stove, cooktop or grill.
Now, I’m sure that I could do very well at tackling a full charcuterie board solo, but, for one it probably wouldn’t be wise for my digestive system and, second, I simply wouldn’t have any fun eating it. No, it’s the company of family, friends, neighbours or even complete strangers that makes it all work so well. Sharing a harvest table is one of the most exciting ways to enjoy a meal; free-flowing conversation with no conventional requirement for serving a specific cadence of courses. It’s a free-for-all food fest, where you can assemble countless flavour profiles in single bites over the course of an hour…two…take the whole night!
Our family dines this way on a weekly-basis and it’s something we all look forward to. It’s something I am grateful for because of our time together, revisiting and recounting our days with one other and bonding over the many joys of food. It’s something of a tradition and a method of dining that I hope our children take with them into their own families some day. Lastly, it’s something I want to encourage all of you to embrace, experiment with and enjoy for all of its endless possibilities.
But I’m not just going to leave you there. It seems just cruel to carry on with the pleasures of cheese and not put forth a recommendation or two. So, here then are my current top suggestions for building the foundation of your next community meal.
A few suggestions
By no means is this list comprehensive, exclusive or even required; it’s simply a suggested starting point made up of a few of our favourites with which you can start painting the canvas that is your cutting board. I would encourage, however, that the most important parts in building your foundation here are three-fold: variety and indulgence for starters. beyond that, your pallet is your own and, whatever it is you choose, the third and perhaps most fundamental component to this whole thing is to remember to have fun!
Below I’ve posted links to a local cheese shop – TOMME. I’ll be clear here that I am in no way affiliated with them but I can’t say enough good things about their selection, services and quality. I will also take a second moment to recognize that the four images above were taken courtesy of their website. The header image for this post, however, was taken by yours truly.
- Chateau de Bourgogne – a triple cream delight you can eat with spoon but pairs equally beautifully with dark chocolate
- Shropshire Blue – a mellow blue with a distinct orange colour; as the folks at TOMME suggest, it pairs well with a goo brown ale. Black Oak Nut Brown Ale is a go to for us.
- 1608 – deliciously nutty and wonderfully Canadian, it is, simply put: beautiful.
- An aged cheddar, the older the better; something sharp with a deliciously crystal-like texture.
- Bleu d’Elizabeth – yes, this is the second blue to make the list but I would be remiss for not including it. Firm and flavourful, serve with more Bleu d’Elizabeth.
And there you have it. By no means and end point, but the starting line for what will undoubtedly shape up to be an engaging evening for you and your family. I’d love to hear what recommendations you have as well, so please feel free to comment and share below.