How to Build the Perfect Cheese Board | chicago foodie girl


How to Build the Perfect Cheese Board

Not counting the month in which I decided I didn't like cheese unless it was powdered and found in a macaroni box (it was one of those weird/defiant kid stages), cheese and I go way back. I began my love affair with it at an early age, all thanks to my grandmother, who had an afternoon cheese break built into her daily schedule (3:00 was always cheese and Coke time in her house). While she favored various Italian cheeses and sharp cheddars, I grew to realize that my cheese love had no bounds. I definitely have my favorites (it's an alarmingly long list!); however, I'm always down to try new cheeses. So of course, when the good folks at Caputo Cheese Market invited me to tour their store and sample some of owner/cheesemonger Nat Caputo's favorite picks, I immediately grabbed my fellow cheese-obsessed friend Jess, jumped in the car, and headed up to Lake Forest to get my cheese nosh on!

Caputo Cheese Market (or cheese heaven, as Jess and I named it) is a family-owned market that has been in business since 1978. They carry high-quality cheese offerings from around the world, with an emphasis on locally produced products and Italian cheeses that are either imported or produced by the Caputo family in their Melrose Park headquarters. At any given time, you can find over 400 types of cheese (including their award-winning mozzarella, burrata, and ricotta) in their Lake Forest shop/café and over 1,000 varieties at their Melrose Park location. Jess and I spent the afternoon touring the market, eating our way through delicious cheese after delicious cheese, and talking the business of building the perfect cheese board.

It should come as no surprise that I love a good cheese board; really, I've never met one that I didn't like - even if it's a simple board with one type of cheese and a few crumbly crackers, I'm still down. Generally, when I put together my own cheese boards, there's no rhyme or reason to them beyond these are the cheeses I like/these are what I have on hand. While preference is definitely a major factor in creating a cheese board, Nat gave me some easy tips to follow on building one that is not only ascetically pleasing but also maximizes various flavors and textures:
  • The cheese selections should be driven by the time of day, wines, and crowd.
  • Include a combination of soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, and hard selections.
  • The soft cheese should be the focal point: buratta, brie, or Humboldt Fog are popular choices.
  • Include a few crowd pleasers like a cheddar that engulfs the palette and a velvety Gouda.
  • Include a cheese with a bite such as a Pecorino or another sheep's milk selection.
  • Include a savory selection, such as wine-coated, espresso, or balsamic cheese.
  • Avoid anything extra hot, overly infused (like a whiskey cheese), overly aged (10-20 years can too hard to bite into), or overly sharp.
  • Avoid anything with a strong smell on the board itself (put blue cheeses to the side to avoid contaminating the others).
  • Cut the cheese in the way it is formed and arrange each selection around the focal point cheese.
  • Include a variety of mild and spicy meats, dried and fresh fruits, olives, jellies/preserves, nuts, and crackers (to be used with the soft cheese).
Along with his list of tips, Nat sent me home with some of his favorite selections so that I could try my hand at building a few cheese boards of my own (more cheese! yay!). 

Delice de Bourgogne, a triple creme full-fat cow milk with fresh cream (one of my new favorites!)

Gouda with Truffles

Hungarian Swiss

Sartori Bellavitano Espresso

Applewood Smoked Cheddar

My all-time favorite preserves come from Kitten and the Bear: Strawberry, Raspberry & Cream preserves + Delice De Bourgogne = foodiegasm!

Don't forget to include your cutest cheese spreader!

You can find all of this deliciousness and more at Caputo Cheese Market: 231 E. Wisconsin Ave., Lake Forest, IL.


© chicago foodie girl | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Crafted by pipdig