The Art of the French Cheese Board

Various cheeses on a cheese board with some bread on the side.

The cheese board is an essential part of a typical French meal. Usually, the cheese is enjoyed between the main course and the dessert. A specific bottle of wine may be served with each course: amuse-bouche, starter, main course, cheese, dessert.

Typically, a red wine will be served with cheese. Good cheese ALWAYS comes with good bread and usually good wine to clean the palate. The best French baguette is made by Acme Bakery - my go to is the Rustic Sweet Baguette. In France, eating cheese without bread is like a sin. Cheese is expensive and very rich. A small amount of cheese and bread is the way to go. Each region of France makes its own specialty cheeses and going to a cheese store is a real experience. The smells are really strong, and it is like travelling all over France. Cheeses will be organized by type of cheese: goat, hard, soft, etc.

A French fromagerie, or cheese shop.

When making a cheese platter, you essentially try to offer a selection of various cheeses from different regions, made from different type of milk, and offering different flavors and texture to satisfy everyone.

You can go as fancy and diverse as your budget allows.

Here is typical middle of the road platter:

Comte is easy to like (the higher the month of aging, the stronger the flavor- cow milk), St Nectaire has a softer texture (cow milk), Brie de Meaux is a baseline (cow milk- old is way better), Selles sur Cher (goat milk cheese) and Roquefort (very strong flavor made from sheep milk).

The flavor of cheese will vary depending on the type of milk you use and the type of food the animals were having. For example, goat cheese can be fresh, old and come in all kinds of texture and color. In the north of France, abundant rains make for lots of cow milk. In the mountain, the cheese will have more complex flavor since animals will feed on wild flowers. Ideally, cheese is made from unpasteurized milk and left aging in a cave. Unique flavor compounds will develop.

Recommendation for a Holiday platter:

  • 7 types of cheese for 8 people will be plenty.
  • Organize the cheese from softer to stronger flavor.
  • Out of the fridge 2 hours before serving
  • Start with a creamy cheese (savarin for example) to coat the palate.
  • Move then to the sheep cheese
  • Then you move to gruyere or comte
  • You then move to older goat or sheep cheese (drier texture, stronger flavor)
  • You finish with strong Epoisse, Roquefort or similar very flavorful cheeses.

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