18 September 2019, 15:12 PM
  • Providing a carefully curated selection of cheeses at the counter with artisan accompaniments is a sure-fire way to make your store a one-stop-shop
The art of the Christmas cheeseboard

When it comes to Christmas, the cheeseboard is more than just a gathering of different cheeses on a platter. It can be an event all on its own and a reason to gather family and friends together. A foodie’s dream, it’s an opportunity to purchase special cheeses that don’t come out at any other time of year and also to sample some new and exciting produce. For retailers, in the lead up to the festivities it’s important to ensure that you have a strong and varied offering that will appeal to a wide range of people. The quality is key, as people visit speciality food and drink retailers in order to not only pick up premium produce, but also to be advised on what is good and why. It’s worth presenting a curated range of international cheeses, as French produce in particular such as Brie, Camembert and Roquefort will always be popular. It is also however an ideal opportunity to incorporate some great local cheeses to support suppliers in the area.

While there are no hard and fast rules about what the ‘perfect’ cheeseboard should include, it is wise to cover the main bases, so recommending a great Cheddar, blue and soft makes for a solid starting point. Creating a balance between strong and mild flavours, as well as different textures, allows a cheeseboard to cater to people with a range of palates and preferences. This rings true for Vickie Rogerson, co-founder of Homage2Fromage, a cheese events company which runs fun, informal and informative cheese nights around the country. She says, “The wonderful thing about cheese is that it’s entirely personal, so if you love Blues or can’t get enough of Cheddars, don’t be afraid to have more than one on your cheeseboard. The diversity and uniqueness of cheese from different regions and countries mean that each cheese will have its own personality.”

Christmas is also the time of year when you will get customers come into your shop that will be selecting specialist cheeses for the first time, and this is where education and communication is key. Ensure that staff on the cheese counter are up-to-date on all of the cheeses you will be offering during the festive season and are confident giving recommendations on how to pair them with each other, for a complementary cheeseboard, as well as with other accompaniments. Vickie says that there are certain festive cheeses that she recommends make their way onto a Christmas cheeseboard, “We all remember the garish green sage Derby cheese from Christmasses gone by, but hunt down an Original Sage Derby made by Fowlers. It’s made the traditional way, so no garish green, and is a joy on any cheeseboard. I love the theatre of a Gorgonzola Dolce which is a goey, buttery, Italian blue that oozes over your cheeseboard. My current favourite Cheddar (it changes by the day) is Godminster Organic Cheddar, which is matured for 12 months, producing a soft and creamy cheese with a lovely bite. If you want to create a talking point then try the Yorkshire Charcoal Cheddar which is the first and original all black Cheddar (there are lots of imitations). It’s a creamy mature Cheddar which tastes surprisingly good for something the colour of the night!”

Don’t forget the accompaniments
An array of beautiful, high quality cheeses is boosted to another level by premium accompaniments, so be sure to advise shoppers on what accompaniments work with different types of cheeses. Things like nuts, grapes and figs not only go with a range of cheeses due to their mild flavours, they’re also useful when it comes to a pleasing presentation. Chutneys, pickles, relishes and piccallilis are classic pairings, so take the opportunity to recommend your favourites. Hawkshead Relish, for example, offers a dedicated fruity Cheeseboard Chutney which contains figs, cranberries and apples and is finished with Pinot Noir, for a flavour that aims to complement a variety of cheeseboards. Honey is also a versatile match, and its sticky sweetness works well with sharper and stronger cheeses – try with a punchy goats cheese or a blue. The accompaniments are there to do just that and should not overpower the cheeses in terms of flavour or quantity. Vickie also advises to, “Go steady on the chilli jam! It’s delicious but can overpower some milder cheeses. I have a soft spot for Shaw’s of Huddersfield Caramelised Onion Chutney. Also, drizzle a spot of honey on Blue cheese, it’s delicious.”

Last but not least, providing an interesting array of artisan crackers and breads is essential, ensuring that customers can purchase the full cheeseboard from you. Peter’s Yard is a brand that offers sourdough flatbreads in a range of combinations, including Smoked Chilli. Stag Bakeries provides quality cheese straws, water biscuits and oatcakes, all of which are ideal cheeseboard companions. Provide quality produce and expert service to ensure that your customers have everything they need to create their perfect cheeseboard this Christmas.

Full the full article download the September issue here.

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