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The Gentleman’s Guide to Cheese: What Every Guy Should Know About Entertaining with Fancy Cheese

All guys want to seem like gentlemen when they entertain, but that’s difficult and who has that kind of prep time? While everyone seems to be a wine expert, good cheese is a mystery to most men. Here’s a starter’s guide on how to look like a maître fromager (that’s a cheese expert to me and you)  without all that pretentious jibber jabber.

Where Do I Buy Cheese? I’m Talking Really Great Cheese.
If you want something other than bricks of cheddar or artificially-flavored bacon Cheez Whiz in a can, your local grocer just won’t do. Find a legit cheese shop. It may be stuffy atmosphere at first, but asking thoughtful questions will give you the respect of the guy behind the counter. Be honest with them–if you say you want to learn about their product, they’ll spend time educating you.

I Found My Local Cheese Shop, Now What?
Now that you’re at your local cheese shop, start sampling–it’s encouraged. If you wanna have fun, use phrases like “Oh, that’s subtle” or “Hmm, this particular cheese really biting.” If you can pull off calling a cheese “haunting” you could be the best/worst person ever. Sample for textures, flavors, and aromas–go with what you like (save the experimenting when you’re comfortable). Most importantly, have fun with this process.

Whoa, These Cheeses Seem Expensive–What’s Up With That?
A boutique cheese shop will be pricey, no doubt, but the biggest difference between high-end cheese and grocery store cheese is you’ll fill up faster on the good stuff. Hence, you won’t eat as much, so order small. Plus, these fancy cheeses are much more rich and dense than those bland string cheese sticks you begrudgingly eat at the office. High-end cheese is surprisingly complex, much like wine tasting.

Should I Buy Crackers With My Cheese?
Some pundits think pairing cheese with crackers takes away from the pure essence of a good cheese. My take? If you like crackers with your cheese, go with crackers, but… with most hard cheeses, eat your cheese sans cracker. With your softs, crackers are required. That said, go with a neutral-flavored cracker–and no honey–you’ll convolute the tastes.

I’m Going to a Casual Party–What Cheese Should I Bring?
When going to a friend’s dinner party and you want to crush it with fromage, don’t scare off folks with something overly pungent, like a Stinking Bishop (stinky) or limburger (even stinker). Those stenches will clear a party out fast. You want something that won’t get gooey, yet light and friendly to the nose. Stick to a hard cheese and try one of these party-friendly picks: Etude or Caved Aged Marissa (both American) or Switzerland’s Maxx 365.

I’m Bringing a Lady Back to My Place After Our Date–What Cheese Should I Have in the Fridge?
Great question. If you’re trying to impress a gal, first, you put on Lionel Richie’s Definitive Collection, then follow that up with two slightly cheesier items… A Mahón Reserva: this Spanish cheese has a nice cheddar bite, but its flavors are a little more dense and concentrated (compared to cheddar, Mahón Reserva is drier and saltier). Then finish with a Brin D’Amour: covered in rosemary, this sheep’s cheese is soft, milky, and easy on the taste buds. She’s guaranteed to like at least one of those and if she doesn’t, she (and her plain palate) was not meant to be. (By the way, all kidding aside–no Lionel Richie music. Throw on John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme instead.)

There’ll Be Some Cheese Snobs at the Party I’m Going to. What Cheese do I Bring to Impress Them?
Get nods of respect from your high falootin’ friends with a hunk of Langres. This may be a stinky French cheese, but get past all that action and enjoy it for all its complexity and taste-nodes. Langres will give you a few different distinct flavors: ham and egg at first, but finishing off cream, butter, and salt. (Advanced suggestion: For an  added Langres experience, smear some on the roof of your mouth–the tastes will magically unfold, one after another.)  You can go fancy and pair it with champagne, but I’ve found it goes well with Tecaté beer. The ladies will light up at your sophisticated, yet accessible pairing.

Last Minute Tips…

It’s all About the Presentation
You just bought fancy cheese and it was expensive–don’t just slap it on a paper plate with a plastic knife–that’s like encasing the Mona Lisa with a cheap metal frame. A gent will go the extra mile and present his cheeses on a nice wooden cutting board, proper cheese knifes, and accoutrements that’ll compliment said cheeses: olives, nuts, dried cranberries, maybe a nice salami–get creative, man.

Also, your cheese will come wrapped up in paper with a cool looking label from the shop on it–they all do. When you unwrap your cheeses, have a pair of scissors with you–then cut out those labels and place them adjacent to its accompanying cheese. This will identify your selections and make it a little easier for you to explain when your guests are sampling, which leads me to…

Educate Your Cheese-Illiterate Friends
If you paid attention to the experts behind the counter at the shop, you learned a little something about the cheeses you purchased. Explain your newly-acquired knowledge to the newbie cheese eaters. Also, serve them your cheeses mildest to strongest–it’s friendlier on the taste buds.

To Eat or Not to Eat the Rind?
Ah, the eternal question. My general rule is that on hard cheeses, you avoid the rind, and on soft cheeses, you eat the rind.

Photo credits: Getty Images

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