Now that braised meats and slow-cooked stews are replacing quick summer BBQs, you'll want a cheeseboard with staying power for cold-weather dinner parties. Nibble away as you sip an aperitif, keep it on the table for pre-dessert grazing, then strategically place it within arm's reach of the couch while enjoying after-dinner digestifs (or second helpings of pie).
It needs no preparation other than a serving board, and makes a beautiful centrepiece around which guests can gather.
I've chosen the following cheeses not only for their mouth-watering qualities, but also because they will stay in top form when left out over the course of an evening. Mainly semi-firm cheeses whose flavours will bloom at room temperature, they are also no muss, no fuss. Just cut off a slice and carry it around with your wine or beer. Crackers optional.
Keep accompaniments simple - all four cheeses have lots of character so let them shine. Crisp slices of fall apples would make a nice textural contrast and a pile of thinly sliced prosciutto or salami would complete the picture.
Thunder Oak Gouda with Jalapeno
This classic from the Schep family in Thunder Bay may be the first wedge that disappears. Hits of fiery jalapeño awaken the palate and cut through the Gouda's supple, smooth paste.
St. Albert Cheese Curd
To veer slightly off the cheddar path (and steer clear of the "cheese cube" impulse), try serving these springy-textured curds. Salty, squeaky and addictive. They're the perfect portable nosh. To get the "squeak" back if serving straight from the fridge, put the bag in a bowl of warm water for a couple of minutes. (If outside of Ontario, just purchase the freshest curd you can find.)
This naturally smoked cheese will evoke fall around the table with its warm, smoky aroma and tangy, smooth flavour. A slice in your turkey sandwich will make you love leftovers.
Hercule de Charlevoix (24-month)
The texture of this cheese is as satisfying as its nutty, complex flavours and long finish. Made in Quebec from the rich milk of the Jersey cow, you can never put out too big a wedge of this guy.