Enter the ultimate crowd pleasing appetizer, the cheeseboard.

Cheese and wine is probably one of the greatest combinations ever, right? I don’t think any dinner party or gathering is complete without an amazing cheeseboard. The best part is it takes the pressure off putting together a menu and finding recipes. It’s a constant go-to that never lets me down.

My ‘recipe’ for a great cheeseboard typically consists of 3 to 4 different cheeses, nuts, fruit and meat of some kind. I like to add a variety of cheeses not only to please the different pallets of my guests but also to pair the right flavorings with wine and assortments.

Mix and match with contrasting cheeses. A great sharp or crumbly cheese would be parmesan, beemster XO or gorgonzola which all pair so well with a full-bodied red wine.

Couple this with something soft and spreadable like goat cheese. Last but certainly not least I love a good melted brie. Its almost buttery consistency absorbs other flavors so well.

I’ve topped my brie off with a very simple blackberry compote that will take your cheeseboard and taste buds to the next level.

I’ve gone a little off the beaten path with my meat choice here and made a maple bacon onion jam vs. the traditional prosciutto or salami. This thing is bursting with a smoky, oaky flavor with a caramelized sweetness to finish and couples so well with the brie and goat cheese. I used a thick, double smoked bacon from my local meat vendor (the Butcher’s Son) to really give it a kick. This can be made beforehand and stays well in the fridge for about a week.

A lot of people choose to go with crackers for their carb but personally I find freshly toasted French bread slices offer a much fuller bite and texture. This is particularly important if you are only serving a few appetizers at your dinner party. Fresh toasted bread will fill your guests up.

Add fruits and nuts to pair with the cheeses and top each bite off with a crunch. My personal fav here is a heaping spread of goat cheese with a layer of maple bacon onion jam and some almond shavings on top. Add a small bowl of honey to drizzle on top which contrasts the saltiness of the cheese. That, plus a sip of hearty red wine = heaven!


Maple Bacon Onion Jam

Yields: 1.5 cups Total time: 1.5 hours

Ingredients:
  • 5 strips double smoked bacon
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease (saved after cooking the bacon)
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon on medium heat until browned. Remove bacon and chop into small pieces. Reserve 2 tbsp of bacon grease.
  2. Keeping 1 tbsp of bacon grease in the skillet, add chopped onions to the pan and cook on medium-low until just caramelized. Turn up to medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and stir. Cook until just fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add cinnamon, remaining bacon grease and the bacon back to the skillet and stir.
  4.  Pour in apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste and maple syrup and stir, making sure everything is incorporated. Reduce heat to low and let the ingredients simmer for about an hour.
  5. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Process the jam in a food processor until smooth. Serve!

Blackberry Merlot Compote 

Yields: 1.5 cups Total time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1 containers (6 oz.) fresh blackberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp merlot
  • fresh thyme (optional)
Directions:
  1. Slice the rind off of the top of your brie and place on parchment paper, on top of a baking sheet. Cook on 350°F for about 12 minutes.
  2. Soak the blackberries in the merlot for about 10 minutes (or leave overnight).
  3. Add water, brown sugar and lemon juice to a small pot over medium heat. Boil until the sugar dissolves, then add merlot soaked blackberries to the pot. Turn heat down so it is no longer boiling. Allow to cook for 6-7 minutes then remove.
  4. Place all ingredients from the pot, excluding a few of the cooked blackberries to a food processor. Process until mostly smooth.
  5. Take brie out of the oven and spoon compote on top. Top this off with remaining cooked blackberries and thyme.