Overwhelmed at the cheese counter? Don’t overthink it. Ace Cheeseboard 101 with a few simple tips: hit our must-have categories, shop your pantry for nibbles, and pair with anything bubbly (beer and cider included). Try different textures, flavours, and milk types. And, obey the golden rule: take the cheese out of the fridge (still wrapped) 30 to 60 minutes before serving, so it comes to room temperature to bring out its full flavour.
The 4 types of cheese you need
Start approachable but decadent. Melt-in-the mouth creaminess and nuanced flavours are traits of brie-style cheeses (think soft texture and a white “bloomy” rind). They pair wonderfully with prosecco or Champagne. Look for a French Brie de Meaux, a decadent triple cream like Délice de Bourgogne, or a soft goat’s milk-style like Ashley Goat (Ontario).
On our board: Albert’s Leap, Christina Camembert (Ontario), is a local version of the French classic. It has a silky smooth texture and gentle, sweet milk notes with a hint of tang.
A monastic-style cheese (traditionally made by monks, dating to the middle ages) with a rind washed with brine (or beer or spirits) as it ripens. Soft (like the one shown here) or firm (like an Oka). Expect strong “barny” aromas, along with a full, rich, savoury taste bomb that’s perfect with beer. The copper-orange rind is a dead giveaway, and if you think you taste bacon flavours, you’re not wrong! Think Reblochon, Munster, Taleggio, and, in Canada, Quebec’s Le Mont-Jacob, Baluchon, or L’Adoray.
On our board: L’Adoray (Quebec) is an unforgettable cow’s milk cheese wrapped in spruce bark. Serve as above, or, if very ripe, slice off the top, and spoon this gorgeous, oozy party animal onto baguette.
Love blue? Park it here. People expect blues to be overpowering, but some blend salt, sweet, and buttery notes with a gentle kick. Try a Gorgonzola Dolce, or Bleu d’Auvergne if you’re feeling timid.
On our board: Bleu D’Elizabeth (Quebec) Fromagerie Presbytere is creamy, sweet, punchy, and salty—heaven with a drizzle of honey.
Aged and bold
This is the cheese that draws kids and adults alike, aged to develop complex flavours and a long, delicious finish. This firmer style is hardy, travels well for a picnic, and holds up over a couple hours when entertaining. Try a tangy two-year-old cheddar, a wedge of sweet-salty Asiago, a nutty Gruyère, an earthy cloth-bound cheddar, or an aged sheep-milk style (with caramel notes and crunchy crystals) like Tania Toscana (Ontario).
On our board: Cows Creamery Appletree Smoked Cheddar (P.E.I.) is a two-year-old cheddar, which spends eight hours in applewood smoke creating a tangy, smoky, creamy bite of YUM.
Shopping cheat sheet
Shopping cheat sheet 3–4 cheeses is the ideal amount. For an appetizer board, aim for 35-50 g of each cheese per person. (About 150- 200 g per wedge for 4.) Keep your cheese habit indulgent but affordable by sharing your budget with the cheesemonger. (Three cheeses at $10 per makes a winning platter). You DO NOT need to know all about cheese, that’s what the cheesemonger is for. Just describe what you like! “I’m really into Babybels” is a fine place to start. It is totally normal to ask to taste the cheese. Do it. The more you taste, the more you’re able to describe why you love what you love. These are just guidelines, if you desire three types of triple cream and a glass of Champagne—go for it!