The Perfect Pairing

How to Craft the Perfect Cheeseboard

Snag the right meats, fruits, veggies, bread, and more to go with your cheeses.

By Timothy Malcolm Published in the March 2019 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Image: Amy Scott

So, you’ve invited a few close friends over. You’re thinking wine and cheese, but where to start? Let Adele Corrigan—Certified Specialist of Wine and GM at pioneering Midtown wine bar 13 Celsius—guide you. Here is her perfect cheeseboard, along with three can’t-miss wines to go with it. And if you prefer that someone else put yours together, why, simply order it at 13.

1. Bread

A baguette sliced thin from Weights + Measures, down the street from 13, adds just the right rustic quality.

2. Quince Paste

“Quince paste from Spain is always an awesome cheese accompaniment,” says Corrigan. Try El Quijote’s dulce de membrillo, which is often served with Manchego but works with any sheep’s-milk cheese.

3. Chenin Blanc: Domaine Guiberteau Saumur Blanc Loire, France 2017

You’ll need acidity to cut through the saltiness and creaminess of the chèvre, making a light, assertive Chenin Blanc a perfect choice. “This also falls on the flavor spectrum of apples, quince, and honey,” says Corrigan, “which are all commonly found on a cheeseboard. Win-win!”

4. Duck Rillettes

Shredded, spiced duck legs, mixed with duck fat, add both decadence and textural variety. The rillettes from Rougié, a gourmet specialist out of Canada, work well with bold-flavored cheeses like gouda or sharp cheddar.

5. Gouda

Every good cheeseboard needs a semi-firm option. Gouda can stand up to bold reds like Napa Valley cabs. But it need not be smoked. “A proper two- to three-year gouda has these crystals,” Corrigan explains, which give it magnificent texture. Old Groendal (or O.G.) Kristal is an 18-month aged version with crystals and a butterscotch finish.

6. Fruit

Instead of bread, top apple slices and neutral-tasting Asian pears with cheese. “Tart berries are good with creamy cheeses, too,” says Corrigan. Grapes are a good palate cleanser, while dried fruits such as figs and apricots not only bring sweetness but “change the flavor of the cheeses.”

7. Knives

Pay a little extra for a nice set of pronged cheese knives, Corrigan advises. “Laguiole makes a really nice set.”

8. Rosé: Clos Lentiscus Rosé Brut Nature Samsó Penedès, Spain 2016

“Pink bubbles!” enthuses Corrigan. “Sparkling rosé is always in season.” This frothier rosé has strawberry notes and pairs well with spicy chorizo and harder, saltier cheeses. “Bubbles work just like the acid in Chenin Blanc, refreshing the palate between bites.”

9. Ossau-Iraty

This semi-firm sheep’s-milk cheese from France has rich, grassy, nutty notes—a fine pairing for red wines. It’s also one of the first cheeses ever produced, allowing you the opportunity to flaunt your historical knowledge. Agour, in French Basque Country, is a top producer.

10. Vegetables

The best veggies are market-fresh and work as palate cleansers; strong flavors are unnecessary. “Think cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes,” says Corrigan. “Celery is a bit strong. Neutral sweet peppers are good.”

11. Nebbiolo: Luigi Giordano Barbaresco Cavanna, Italy 2014

“Nebbiolo is one of my go-tos for a big charcuterie-and-cheese board,” says Corrigan. This highly tannic wine pleases all the big red drinkers, but also carries light, fruity notes. Try it with prosciutto, which will “tame the tannins to allow for the beautiful cherry and rose notes to come through.”

12. Nuts

Nuts add texture, and these fried, salted Marcona almonds from online purveyors Mitica, says Corrigan, “are a great palate cleanser between bites of cheese.”

13. Chèvre

You can’t go wrong with a good goat cheese, and Westfield Farm in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, makes an excellent one called Capri. “It’s young and clean with a vibrant, tangy character,” says Corrigan. “You should spread it on a piece of bread and enjoy it with a drizzle of honey.” And it’s perfection with an acidic white like Sauvignon Blanc or Chenin Blanc.

14. Spanish-Style Chorizo

Opt for dry-cured chorizo from Italian charcuterie makers Citterio. This vibrant, smoked-paprika-flavored delicacy makes a good complement to soft chèvre.

15. Prosciutto

“If you have spicier meats, you should have the milder ones, too,” explains Corrigan. San Daniele Prosciutto De-Boned Bellavista from East Coast importers Fratelli Beretta, with its salty and nutty notes, works well with funkier cheeses like brie.

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