We asked Patricia Michelson, expert and founder of La Fromagerie, which cheeses should govern the board. Follow her recommendations across a wide range from soft to hard, including goat’s cheeses and blue cheeses. And for the best dining experience, she also suggests you eat them in the following order…
1. Fresh goat’s cheese
The lively acidity and bright appearance of a young goat’s cheese is perfect to refresh the palate. Look out for lighter, crumbly styles, like the truncated pyramid Sinodun Hill from Norton & Yarrow cheesemakers in Oxford with its fresh, lemony zing and fudgy texture, or the classic French log Ste Maure de Touraine with its charcoal coat speckled with white moulds and fresh walnut flavour.
2. Soft style
A bloomy white-coated brie, camembert or Hampshire Tunworth with earthy wild mushroom aromas and rich grassy flavours are truly delicious. Another British soft cheese for this time of year is the Rollright from King Stone Dairy in Oxford, with a mellow yeasty flavour and peachy hued rind from washing in brine. It’s now made in a smaller size, so it’s perfect for a family cheeseboard.
3. Hard cheeses
To give body and bite, there’s nothing to beat a Somerset cheddar like Keens, which is a real old-fashioned style, or Montgomery, which has elegant raisin and nut flavours. If you want to try something new, then Comte d’Estive from the Franche-Comté, a region that hugs the Swiss borders, has the style of a gruyère but with the bittersweet flavour of dark chocolate.
4. Blue cheese
Stilton and the raw milk Stichelton cheeses are perfect around winter – mature with big bursts of metallic sharp blue notes running through the richness. Another blue is Roquefort, made from ewe’s milk with intense powerful flavours and gritty texture. All great to relish with port or a full-bodied red wine.
5. Wild card
For something different, look at Spanish cheeses like the spicy Picos de Europa blue which is wrapped in vine leaves to add fruity flavours, or the Sao Jorge cheddar-style hard cheese from the Azores with its sharp edge and persistent finish. There’s also the Mont d’Or cheese from Haut-Doubs in the Jura, which can be baked in its box to turn it into a fondue.
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What do you normally serve for a cheese course? Leave a comment below…