(BPT) - Whether it's a small gathering of close friends or a large family affair, hosting a holiday party makes the season extra magical. Looking for ideas that are guaranteed to impress? This year, a new food trend is elevating events and tantalizing taste buds: cheese boards.
"A simple cheese board featuring quality ingredients will have guests thinking you are a culinary mastermind," says Chef Michael Symon, co-host of ABC’s “The Chew,” author of four best-selling cookbooks and restaurateur. "The best part? Creating one is quick and easy. It's a gourmet option without the fuss."
To make a decadent holiday cheese board that will satisfy every palate, follow these tips:
Uncover easy inspiration
Expert inspiration is just a click away with the Castello(R) Cheese Board Builder, located at www.CastelloCheeseUSA.com. Answer a handful of simple questions on your taste and dietary preferences, and in less than a minute, you’ll receive a cheese board made specifically for you. Each board features creatively crafted ingredients and suggestions for how to cut your cheeses for a gourmet presentation.
Select the perfect cheese varieties
For smaller gatherings, three cheeses on your board will provide a nice variety and offer a visually appealing presentation. For parties with more than 10 people, consider five or seven offerings. Strive to select flavors that will appeal to different palates, yet complement one another. For example, a mild and buttery Castello Creamy Havarti pairs beautifully with the salty, tangy Castello Traditional Danish Blue. Complete your trio with the slightly crunchy Aged Havarti, and you have the perfect combination of cheese varieties.
Determine the right quantity of cheese
Getting the right amount of cheese is simple if you follow these guidelines:
* As an hors d’oeuvre: 1 to 1.5 ounces of each cheese type per person
* As a light meal: 2 to 3 ounces of each cheese type per person
Cheese serving guidelines: Set out cheese 30 minutes before serving so the flavors can fully develop before guests arrive.
Find festive pairings
Cheese should be the hero of the board, but including foods that enhance their flavors brings your board to another level. A good rule of thumb is to include four types of pairings: bread, charcuterie (prepared meats), something sweet and something savory or salty. Because it's the holidays, feel free to incorporate the essence of the season into your platter. Here are some ideas:
* Crusty baguettes, rich rye toast or cinnamon raisin bread crisps
* Sweet figs, vanilla bean infused honey and cranberry or lingonberry preserves
* Serrano ham, hot chorizo sausage or smoked wild-caught salmon
* Candied almonds, glazed pistachios or roasted chestnuts
* Salty Kalamata olives or spicy hot pickles
Add holiday touches
Virtually any platter can be used for your cheese board. Metallic plates add holiday glam. For rustic charm, try a wide wooden cutting board. And a white marble stone is a stunning reflection of the snowy season. After you select a platter, arrange cheese across or in a clockwise pattern on the board from mildest to strongest.
Finally, add the pairings in small groups throughout the board and label so guests recognize each item. For a festive appearance, add décor like pine cones or mistletoe and holiday-inspired cheese knives for serving. Not only will your cheese board satisfy hunger pangs, but it's sure to be a popular gathering spot at the party where guests can mingle and discuss your selections. Bon appétit!