A carefully balanced, well displayed cheeseboard, with a selection of appetizing accompaniments, makes a perfect Pause before dessert at a dinner party besides being guaranteed to revive the appetite of most diners.
It's worth taking time to arrange the cheeseboard attractively, although there's no need to overdo the decoration. There ate two key facts to remember: the first is that cheeses are attractive in their own right (or should be if you've chosen correctly); and the second is that they are living, breathing organisms which require oxygen.
Despite the fashion for wooden or marble boards, you can present cheese on almost any material, provided it has a large enough surface area to allow air to circulate between the cheeses and prevent them from impregnating each other with smells. For this reason the very best way to serve cheese is on a wicker tray, which may he lined with leaves or straw ripening mats to protect it. Because blue and cendre cheeses are by their very nature dominant, it is best always to isolate these on a separate surface if possible. Likewise, provide a separate knife for each type of cheese. It the same one is used for all, the cheeses will not retain their individuality.The overwhelming temptation to treat a cheeseboard like a still-life arrangement is to he discouraged. A few grapes between the cheeses are acceptable, but no more. Arrange the cheeseboard an hour or so before the meal and stand it, covered with a lid or piece of muslin, in a cool, but not cold, place.
What to eat with cheese is another thorny subject. Bread or biscuits? Buttered or unbuttered?
Washed-rind and blue cheeses ate probably best eaten just as they are, with a knife and fork, but many people prefer an accompaniment of some sort with other types.A good solution is to offer a choice of bread or crackers. Fresh, crispy bread in the style of pain de campagne is the ideal, preferably flashed in the oven to refresh its crust just before serving. Rye and black breads or brown and Granary breads ate other possibilities. Creamy cheeses can also be good with a light fruit or nut bread.
A selection of plain crackers, Bath Olivers, Scottish oatcakes or semi-sweet wheatmeal biscuits should provide something to suit most tastes. Butter is purely a matter of personal preference, but remember that it does have a tendency to dilute the flavour of the cheese. Always go for unsalted butter; salted is more assertive and interferes with the individual characters of the cheeses.If a hard English cheese is included in your selection you could also offer a jug of celery. A bunch of grapes, or bowl of apples ate other refreshing additions to the table.