With the holidays right around the corner ’tis the season for Christmas gatherings, New Year’s parties, and coming together to see friends and loved ones. But, perhaps even more importantly, creating attention-grabbing and delectable cheeseboards and charcuteries that provide a feast for the eyes and wow your guests’ tastebuds.
Here we’ve got a of an assortment of perfect pairings and combinations that allow cheeses to take centre stage and provide a dynamic supporting cast that help them shine bright. These combos create a balanced and irresistible flavour experience and are sure to please everyone from cheese initiates to even the most discerning palate.
This cheese is a classic and immediately recognizable to almost anyone. The best recommendation for a little more flavour profile is to grab a caramelized onion cheddar or something sharp and aged.
This one will pair well with a Stout. An exceedingly popular beer style for the winter season, and one you are sure to find at any of your local craft breweries, it typically has plenty of maltiness and notes of caramel, coffee, and slight hints of chocolate. However, for a particularly aged cheddar, the hops from a crisp Pale Ale will also help balance out the extra sharpness.
Some, dark chocolate with sea salt can be a welcome addition to round this one out.
Soft-ripened cheese, like a creamy Camembert or Brie
This kind of cheese is always a crowd-pleaser with its approachably subtle, nutty and buttery flavours. It can be served as-is, or it can be taken to the next level and baked for a warm and gooey cheeseboard centrepiece. Be sure to have plenty of toasted baguette crostini on hand for this preparation, and be warned, your guests will have it gone fast!
Its delicate profile also opens it up to be paired with walnuts and a hot-pepper jelly or even a more decadent pear and onion jam.
Finally, a Sparkling Wine or Prosecco will be sure to compliment this cheese’s lighter flavour profile and bring real balance to the presentation.
Note: As an alternative for camembert options (among others) you can also support The Frauxmagerie, a local plant-based artisan using simple ingredients found right here in Ontario!
A Spanish staple coming from the La Mancha region, this firmer cheese is made from sheep’s milk giving it its notably characteristic flavour. Manchego also comes in a variety of ages so you can choose just how pronounced and developed you want its flavours to be.
This cheese lends itself to many complimentary pairings. Some quintessential classics that stay true to the Spanish spirit are cured black olives, unsalted almonds, and, of course, jamón, Spain’s famous dry-cured ham.
To tie it together and stay on theme, a Spanish red wine, like a Rioja Reserva, makes an exceptional companion to this dazzling and varied flavour profile.
This Italian cheese is known for its fresh mozzarella exterior and exceptionally creamy yet surprisingly delicate filling. Burrata is an all-time favourite for me, its fresh and luxuriant nature serving as a perfect vehicle to get creative with pairings. This one can be a showstopper and command an entire board of its very own.
A go-to union of accompaniments that are sure to garner praise are fig jam, fresh rosemary leaves, and some thinly sliced prosciutto, served with pieces of rustic Italian bread. A combination that has received much acclaim in my own household. Being so versatile however, there are many pairings that will serve this cheese well so feel free to improvise!
A classic Italian red wine, like a Valpolicella Ripasso will serve the suggested pairing exceptionally well.
Tip: While Burrata can sometimes be pricey, I usually make sure to make a stop at International Cheese, where all Santa Lucia products are made by hand right here in Toronto! With some of the best deals on many kinds of cheese in the city you can stock up and not worry about breaking the bank.
This is a normally well-aged cheese, typically anywhere from 18 to 24 months, giving it a very robust depth of character. Its exterior is almost reminiscent of a rock or cantaloupe melon, but the cheese itself is world-renowned for its unique complex flavour and bright orange colour.
Being such a complex cheese, many different pairings can highlight certain parts of its profile. Nuts like cashews and almonds allow the nuttiness to be more pronounced, while some fresh green grapes will highlight the sweetness and also help cleanse and reset the palate after your tastebuds are cranked to 11.
Again, many beverages will compliment this cheese. Stouts will emphasize its creamy character, while a good full-bodied and earthy wine like a Malbec or Cabernet will counterbalance its intensity.
This Italian cheese is a bit more pungent than the others but offers a relatively mild and slightly fruity profile. A great addition to step up your cheese game.
This cheese can be a good one to have simply represent itself. However, some Speck (think smoked prosciutto) or fresh pear slices can complement it well.
Finally, a good malty Nut Brown Ale or a Pinot Noir will do this cheese justice and surely help solidify it as one of your favourites.
All these cheeses are of course a modest selection that just scratch the surface of the thousands of types out there, and the pairing suggestions will work with many cheeses of similar varieties. Sometimes the best thing to do is get out and explore Toronto’s many cheese shops where local merchants are extremely passionate about what they do and will be more than happy to help you find something that suits your exact tastes and needs.
Be sure to comment below if you have any other go-to pairings you want to share!