Whilst there is, of course, a time and a place for an opulent, sweet dessert – a tiramisu, say, or a small mountain of profiteroles – a true gentleman knows that the final course of the evening should be a fine cheese board.
With an almost infinite combination of cheeses available, balancing the tastes and textures of a cheese board is a delicate operation, bordering on an art. So, before your next gathering, do a little research, discover which produce you should be purchasing, and your guests will be impressed beyond compare. To become the big cheese, buy these…
Paxton & Whitfield Whole Cheddar Pounder, £14.50
Between the Dorset Downs and the West Dorset Heritage Coast in the Bride Valley, Paxton & Whitfield’s Cheddar Pounders are handmade to a traditional recipe using milk from local herds to give a fruity flavour and smooth texture.
They are then taken and matured in the historic Wookey Hole Caves of Wells, Somerset, where the flavour picks up a distinctive complexity from the unique environment – strong and nutty.
Buchanans Cheesemonger, Camembert de Normandie, £6
The silky smooth and fudgy texture of Camembert denotes it’s ripeness, it should be glossy all the way through with a delicious fungal bite in the rind – and Buchanans deliver.
With a mushroomy and full-flavoured body and with wonderful savoury notes, this French classic has an English twist – it is matured at Buchanans Cheesemonger in their central London cellars.
Paxton & Whitfield Finest English Stilton, £6.25
Paxton & Whitfield’s Finest English Stilton is a truly exceptional example of one of England’s most famous cheeses. Paxton & Whitfield Stilton is made by Cropwell Bishop in Nottinghamshire.
The milk used to make this Stilton is a blend of morning and evening milk. This is a mature Stilton and therefore has a creamy flavour with a buttery and herby richness that melts in the mouth. A grey, wrinkly crust surrounds a creamy yellow inside with an even spread of blue-green veins.
Buchanans Gouda Vintage, £7
Named after the Dutch city of Gouda, Buchanans Gouda is among the most mature – at 42 months old. Very firm and brittle, almost like toffee with a beautifully deep orange colour and a nice crunch of calcium crystals, this cheese has a nutty and sweet taste with notes of butterscotch.
Latteria Perenzin Caciottona di Capra al Fieno, £9.20
Covered in natural hay, this is a semi-hard, compact, crumbly goat’s cheese. The taste is milky, buttery, round, and smooth with hints of grass and flowers. The aftertaste is round, mild with earthy notes and continued grassy flavours resulting from the hay.
Paxton & Whitfield Comte Androuet, £8.20
Paxton & Whitfield’s Comte is made in the Jura Mountains on the French side of the Swiss / French border. It is from the Gruyere family and is fairly similar to Gruyere itself, although lighter in character with more complexity and finesse.
It is artisan made and uses the raw milk from Montbeliarde and French Simmentale cows which are fed exclusively on grass and hay, with fermented fodder being banned. Expect a fruity and nutty flavour.
And remember, don’t forget your pairings. A selection of seasonal fruits and nuts will never go amiss, and wine or port to drink will add to your cheese board if you get the balance right. Regarding crackers, go for interest – something with rosemary, seeds, olive oil or sea salt involved.
But remember, your crackers are essentially a vehicle for your cheese, so don’t go too flashy – you don’t want to overpower the taste of your cheeses. Although, if you follow our flavourful recommendations, that would be nigh on impossible.