Cheese has been bringing people together for over 7,000 years. How do I know this? Well I don’t, I just quickly skimmed the cheese Wikipedia site, but that’s beside the point.
Cheese nights offer a fantastic and cost-effective alternative to a typical restaurant meal. When you go out to eat, you are not just paying for the food. You are also paying for the service, the ambiance and the overall convenience. What this really means is that you are often paying way too much money for a simple plate of food. So rather than meeting your friends, family or date at a restaurant, opt for a homemade cheese spread instead. It will be easier on the wallet and you will get to impress your loved ones with the exquisite food knowledge that you will learn below.
Creativity is key when it comes to putting together a killer cheese night. I will give you an outline to follow, but it will be up to you to fill it in. At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong. Cheese is delicious and your guests will love and appreciate your efforts regardless. So, relax and take it ch-easy.
The toughest decision to make when it comes to the cheese is how much to buy. If you purchase too little, then each bite will be accompanied by the stress of depleting your limited resources. If you purchase too much, then all your guests will feel obligated to overeat and will conclude their night with an uncomfortable cheese baby. Try to aim for around 200 grams of cheese per person.
The next question is how many different types of cheese to buy? When it comes to a cheese board you want a variety of flavors, textures and smells. A good rule of thumb is to select 3 different cheeses:
- Hard (ex: Gruyère, Parmesan, Asiago)
- Soft and Creamy (ex: Brie, Goat, Mozzarella)
- Wildcard – something in between soft and hard (ex: Havarti). Something strong and pungent (ex: Blue Cheese). Something sweet or spicy (ex: Monterey Jack). There really is no rule when it comes to the wildcard. Follow your heart here and don’t be afraid to try something unique.
This is a nice-to-have, but non-essential component of cheese night. It really depends on your penchant for charcuterie. No idea what charcuterie means? It’s a fancy way to refer to prepared and cured meats such sausage, salami, ham, etc. You can impress your friends with this word as well. Just make sure you pronounce it correctly: Charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree). If you do decide to include some meats, don’t over do it. Pick 1-2 meats and aim for about 100 grams of meat per person.
Jam, Mustard and Other Spreads
A good jam or honey is essential. The salty-sweet combination of jam/honey and cheese is unrivaled. I personally love fig jam and think it complements most cheeses, but again, creativity is key here. Don’t be afraid to have 2-3 different flavors of jam or honey. When it comes to cheese night, the world is your oyster.
Mustard is also a nice touch and pairs quite well with the cured meat. There are endless varieties of mustard out there, and guess what? They will all work, so no pressure.
Additional spreads/dips are optional. Hummus, artichoke dip, crab dip, etc. Really, anything goes.
Bread and Crackers
Just like with the cheese, variety is key here. Having a soft bread and crispy cracker available allows your guests to derive maximum enjoyment from your spread. Some like soft cheese on a hard cracker. Others like soft cheese on a nice fluffy baguette. Others like to mix and match. Give your guests the tools to create their own mini-masterpieces. Decent bread and crackers will not break the bank, so do not worrying about buying too much. After all, you can always store the leftovers for another day.
Often overlooked, but this will really bring your cheese night to the next level. Alternating bites between fruit and cheese will keep the taste buds guessing. Fruit helps to reset the palate a bit and allow you to enjoy the savory cheese even more. You can also combine the cheese and fruit into one bite and create a mini flavor explosion in your mouth. Again, no rules. Some of my favorite cheese night fruits include: pear, grapes, dried apricots, olives, strawberries, raisins/craisins. Aim for 1-2 servings of fruit per person.
Nuts can be a great touch, but they are not required. For certain cheeses they will take it to another level. For example, a nice goat cheese with walnuts and a touch of honey will blow your mind. The nuts can also help slow down the pace of cheese consumption, as they require a bit of chewing. If you do decide to include nuts, aim for 1 ounce per person. Between the cheese, meat and chocolate your stomach will be processing enough fat, so keep the nuts light.
If cheese is Batman, then wine is Robin. Now I could dive into endless details about how to pair certain cheeses with certain wines, but ill save you the snobbery. As long as your friend, family or date isn’t a complete food snob, then your wine selection will be just fine. Opt for a red and a white if you want to give your guests some choice. Regarding the amount, I will not provide any suggestion on how much wine to buy. You know your friends, family and lovers better than I do.
No food party is complete without dessert. But after housing cheese and bread all night, your guests will not be craving a heavy cheesecake. You want to provide something sweet and light. Just a little something-something to put on the tongue and satisfy that sugar craving. Dark chocolate (70% cocoa) with sea salt is my personal favorite. You don’t want to overdo it with the dessert, so shoot for 50 grams of chocolate per person.
Bonus: Portability and Mobility
An added benefit of a cheese spread is you can bring it anywhere. Cheese night is completely mobile! It involves little to no cooking equipment. You can easily prepare the ingredients beforehand and pack them in a cooler bag. This means you can bring cheese night to the beach, park, rooftop or wherever else your heart desires.