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Add a cheese course. The perfect ending to a family meal.

Updated on September 6, 2009

Port is perfect with cheese

Consider a cheese course

You don’t need to be dining in an extravagant restaurant to enjoy a cheese course; the cheese course is the perfect entertaining solution, and is an enjoyable ending to any casual family weekend dinner.

The cheese course is traditionally served as an alternative to a dessert, although can be served before a dessert if you are really pulling out all the stops. A couldn't be easier to prepare cheese course lets people linger at the table, enjoying the last of the dinner wine with a few select slices of contrasting cheese.

You can have as many cheeses as you'd like, but a minimum of three cheeses is usually recommended, and three is pretty much enough for a family dinner. You want to have three contrasting cheeses that differ both in terms of texture, as well as bite. Think creamy, toothsome and hard; and mild/milky, robust and for lack of a better word, stinky! These are of course just general guidelines, and you should never serve a cheese, that you or your family/guests don’t care for.

A brie or camembert, coulemiers, or other mild and creamy cheese is a popular and almost universally liked start to a cheese course. For the second cheese you might consider a full flavored and good cheddar (nothing bright orange here please) or an emmenthal, or a real parmesan. This second cheese should be moderately sharp, but not extremely so. The final cheese is traditionally a blue cheese of some sort, and a stilton or Roquefort will work very well, as will many full flavored goat cheeses.

If you're not sure where to shop, just visit the best cheese shop or deli in your area, and ask for three recommendations for a cheese course, and they will be happy to oblige with suggestions.

Common accompaniments to a cheese course are nuts, and fruits such as apple or pear slices and grapes. If you were drinking a good red wine with dinner, then you should continue to finish the bottle over the cheese course, as red wine and cheese go remarkably well together. If you prefer, you can serve a cheese course with a small glass of port, either tawny or ruby. The sweetness of port is the perfect compliment to cheese, and is the traditional accompaniment to a cheese course.

Remember that cold refrigerated cheese is bland, and that all cheeses should be taken out of the fridge at least a half an hour before serving.

You are generally advised to consume the cheese from the mildest to the strongest cheese, as if you begin with the strongest of the cheeses, it will be more difficult to appreciate the subtleties of the more delicate selections.

Add a good dry cured sausage, and some sourdough bread with lots of butter, and this is a main course of distinction.

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