Jeanne Carpenter, the Madison-based author of the blog Cheese Underground, divides a cheese board into seven broad categories and suggests tasting them in this order for the best experience. If you can’t find the specific varieties, no worries. Substitute similar ones. It’s for fun!
1. Bloomy Rind Cheese Start with a mild Brie. Jeanne’s pick: Caprine Supreme’s La-Von Farmhouse Goat Brie, with a barely there tang.
2. Goat’s Milk Not all goat cheese is creamy. Jeanne’s pick: LaClare Family Farms’ snow-white, semihard Evalon.
3. Semisoft This broad category spans mozzarella to Limburger. Jeanne’s pick: Holland’s Family Cheese’s Marieke Black Pepper Gouda. It was our staff’s favorite and pairs well with apple.
4. Sheep’s Milk Many classic European cheeses, such as Greek feta, use sheep’s milk. Jeanne’s pick: Hidden Springs Creamery’s Timber Coulee, a subtly buttery cave-aged variety.
5. Cheddar You don’t really know this common cheese until you’ve tried an aged, artisanal version. Jeanne’s pick: Roelli Cheese’s crumbly Kingsley Bandaged Cheddar.
6. Parmesan Fancy Parms are for nibbling blissfully, not sprinkling mindlessly. Jeanne’s pick: Sartori’s SarVecchio for its hints of pineapple and caramel.
7. Blue Save this, the strongest, for the end, and pair it with a sweet wine or honey. Jeanne’s pick: Carr Valley Cheese’s creamy Glacier Gorgonzola.