"I go by the old saying: 'Something old, something new, something stinky, something blue,'" says Kubick. "The key here is to have a nice variety of tastes, textures, and milk types: cow, sheep, goat, and water buffalo milk cheese." Simple in theory, but also a bit daunting—there are endless varieties of each.
One option is to check out a gourmet cheese shop. Ask a cheesemonger for their suggestions for a cheese board, including how many cheeses you want to include, how many people you're feeding, and if you want to go classic, festive, or eclectic. If you've got some time, sample some different varieties of cheeses to see what you like—remember, think of what your guests will enjoy—or even sign up for a cheese of the month club to taste a slew of national and international options.
Here are some of Kubick's top suggestions:
- Something "old"/cow's milk cheese: Everton Premium Reserve from Jacobs & Brichford. "I love its toasty, toffee notes and addictive crunch," Kubick says. It's aged a minimum of 18 months and has a sharp flavor with salt crystals embedded throughout. We also love their sharp Everton.
- Something "new"/goat's milk cheese: Fresh Chevre from Capriole Goat Cheese. "I usually reach for a local, fresh goat cheese," Kubick says. This one's silky in texture and delicate in flavor, so it melds well with other cheeses.
- Something stinky/cow's milk cheese: Oma from Von Trapp Farmstead. "It's so smooth and custardy—a total crowd-pleaser," Kubick says. It's a semi-soft cheese (custard-like in the center) that tastes of roasted nuts, cured meat, and cultured butter. It’s stellar on a spread paired with figs or dried fruit.
- Something blue/sheep's milk cheese: Roquefort by Gabriel Coulet. "I like to add a peppery sheep's milk cheese from France," Kubick says. This one's fudgy and creamy in texture with a good hit of spice.
That said, these aren't hard-and-fast rules. "You can even just grab one wheel of something special, like Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin," Kubick says. "It's a soft cheese that kind of looks like brie, but it's wrapped in bark and the inside is as soft as pudding and tastes of bacon." So, yeah, no one will complain if that's the star of your board.
As for number, think about your party size. "If you're serving 8-10 people, I’d recommend having three different kinds of cheese and five for 15-20," Haubert says. Kubick agrees: "At least four cheeses and no more than six—that's the sweet spot."