a peek inside the fishbowl

01 Jun, 2016

Cheese = easy entertaining (plus a giveaway!)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Giveaways and product reviews|Recipes and Food

This post is sponsored by Loblaws but my opinions about cheese remain my own. Thanks Loblaws!

For the past couple of years, I’ve been a bit crazy about setting out cheese boards when company is coming over. Our kitchen island becomes Ground Zero for snacks, along with little plates, napkins, glasses, and wine for the adults and something bubbly for the kids.

Cheese boards provide a fun and interactive kind of nibbling. It keeps people moving and mingling as they nosh. I also like that cheese boards look nice. In fact, dare I say they look FANCY, even though they are almost effortless to pull together. It’s almost as easy as pouring a bowl of pretzels… and a lot better tasting methinks. :)

As it pertains to entertaining, my cheese board plan has always been:

(1) Buy my favourite cheese
(2) Serve.

Ok, not really. I do have a bit of an approach, and yes, it always includes a few of my favourite cheeses.

First, I like to choose one hard cheese, one soft cheese, and one other softer spreadable cheese. I have served “stinkier” cheeses but I’m inevitably the only one who eats it. Sigh. Note to self: It’s good to keep guests in mind when shopping for cheese. This means that I usually end up with an aged cheddar, brie, and a goat cheese.

Second, I slice or cube up the cheeses and set them out in little groups. Between these, I place little piles of nuts, fruit, and sometimes meat, like a really nice sliced ham or mild salami. Sometimes I’ll add a small dish of red pepper jelly or preserves to the mix too. Warning! If you use coloured toothpicks they’ll dye your food. (I learned this the hard way.)

I think some people get hung up on pairings – what cheese goes with what – although there are combinations that will make your mouth explode. For example, Loblaws suggests serving aged cheddar with baguette slices, apples, grapes or pears, with English mustard and gherkins. YUM. That being said, it is totally ok to serve what you have on hand. As long as you have some great cheese it isn’t worth stressing about whether you should serve it with apples or pears or dried figs.

Pro tip: Use a larger board so you can spread things around more comfortably. When the pile starts to shrink it’s easy to refill. I use my cutting board! It’s a gorgeous slab of salvaged wood made by Nacoille Studio here in Ottawa.

Here’s the thing about the cheese board, although it is the perfect food to pull out when company drops by unexpectedly (most people have a brick of cheese in the fridge, some fruit and some crackers, right?), it doesn’t have to be reserved for special occasions. A cheese plate can make a very lovely dinner or lunch, whether I’m eating alone on the back porch on a weekday or with Mark on a warm summer evening.

In fact, this post inspired today’s lunch:

June 1 #dailylunches - Cheese = heaven

We call it a “ploughman’s lunch” around here, which doesn’t actually sound very romantic, but it certainly can be. And as an added bonus there’s no need to turn on the stove. Yay! I ate it in the shade, overlooking the backyard.

I ate it in the shade, overlooking the backyard. It was honestly a slice (or six) of heaven.

This is the cheese I tried today:


… and these are the crisps:


The candied nuts are a party favourite and you can find the recipe here. (I omitted the cumin in this small batch.) The rest of the items on my cheese board are self-explanatory. :)

Loblaws is a great place to pick up some great Canadian cheese, including more than 15 of the Canadian Cheese Awards finalists. It’s not as intimidating as a cheese counter and they carry over 300 varieties of cheese (!), including the best of Canadian and international cheddar, brie, feta and more.

Sidebar: Did you know that the Canadian Cheese Awards is the only cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheese making? YES. That includes cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo. The cheesy champion was Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, which Loblaws carries as well.

SO. How would you like to win a delivery of cheese and some other goodies? Here’s what we’re talkin’ about… (it’s a $50 value):

  • Selection of Canadian Champion + International Cheeses
  • PC Black Label Artisan Crisps
  • PC Black Label Fruit Spreads, Jellies, and Preserves
  • Selection of nuts and dried fruit

Interested? Please read the nitty gritty:

  • This giveaway is for a package of the goods listed above and it will be awarded to one winner.
  • In order for your entry to qualify, tell me, what is your favourite cheese? Your answer can be as simple as “cheddar” but since I’m sneakily looking for cheese recommendations I’d prefer if you mentioned a brand. Thank you !
  • One entry per email address please!
  • If you can’t post your comment for whatever reason you can email it to me for posting at andrea at quietfish dot com. Please note, I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • This giveaway is ONTARIO-wide and void where prohibited by law.
  • I will draw one name using Random.org at noon EST on June 8, 2016. I’ll contact the winner via email and post the name here as well. So please check back!
  • Loblaws is responsible for cheese delivery etc etc. :)

That’s it! Over to you. Good luck!

55 Responses to "Cheese = easy entertaining (plus a giveaway!)"

1 | Steph P

June 1st, 2016 at 1:57 pm


I recently fell in love with Balsamic Bellavitano by Santori Cheeses.

2 | Steph P

June 1st, 2016 at 1:59 pm


Eek! My email was wrong on my previous comment! Balsamic Bellavitano by Santori Cheese

3 | Nikki

June 1st, 2016 at 2:02 pm


My favourite is manchego!

4 | Sarah

June 1st, 2016 at 2:20 pm


Beemster XO is my absolute fave, especially with a nice chutney or fruity cracker.

5 | Tara O

June 1st, 2016 at 2:48 pm


I love Jarlsberg Norwegian Swiss. I get it at Costco but it might be everywhere. Yum.

6 | Jane

June 1st, 2016 at 3:12 pm


My favourite cheese to snack on is goat cheese, but not just plain goat cheese – one with cranberries or blueberries on the surface. Yum!

7 | Jen_nifer

June 1st, 2016 at 3:55 pm


When did you get a mobile version of your site?

I like all kinds of cheeses. Right now I would say Beemster, as I can only find it once or twice a year.

8 | Shannon

June 1st, 2016 at 4:04 pm


I love cheese curds and feta.

9 | Geneviève

June 1st, 2016 at 5:12 pm


My favourite “special occasion” cheese is Balderson Smokey-Aged Cheddar… Yum!! Tons of flavour!

10 | Molly

June 1st, 2016 at 5:17 pm


Maple Goat Cheese!!!

11 | Tammy

June 1st, 2016 at 5:39 pm


My fav is Presidents Choice Brie with apricot ginger chutney (also sold at Loblaws). So so good.

12 | Tuesday DeJong

June 1st, 2016 at 6:13 pm


I am a sucker for smoked Gouda… It’s just so good-ah!

13 | Jane Corbett

June 1st, 2016 at 6:21 pm


I am currently loving a cheese from Red Apron. It is cheddar with mustard seeds. Delicious. I can’t remember the brand, but it is locally made.

14 | amydodman@hotmail.com

June 1st, 2016 at 7:31 pm


I recently tried the Celtic Blue Reserve from Glengarry Fine Cheese. Best cheese of my life. Seriously!

15 | Susan M

June 1st, 2016 at 7:41 pm


Mmmm… I love cheese!
One of my favourite combinations is smoked gouda with apple slices. Soooo good!

16 | maryatparenthood

June 1st, 2016 at 8:07 pm


I’m pretty partial to the cranberry edged goat cheeses at Loblaws (not sure what the brand is though).

Or a good Swiss raclette cheese.

Or Kefalotyri dipped in water and flour, pan fried and set on fire.

Now I’m hungry!

17 | Brenda A

June 1st, 2016 at 8:08 pm


The gooiest, runniest, creamiest brie I can find, preferably being eaten in a cafe in Paris.

18 | Vanessa

June 1st, 2016 at 8:30 pm


My favourite is the Avonlea Cloth Bound Cheddar – any cheese with an Anne of Green Gables connection is a cheese worth eating.

19 | Roz

June 1st, 2016 at 8:34 pm


You’ll always find a cheese board at my house when we’re hosting – I’m looking forward to putting one on our *new* kitchen island in a few weeks! It’s hard for me to pick just one favourite cheese, but I love the Guinness Cheddar (not sure of the brand name though).

20 | joy

June 1st, 2016 at 8:36 pm


St Albert’s cheese curds are the very best!! :D

21 | Tara Azulay

June 1st, 2016 at 9:32 pm


The Bonnechere made by Back Forty Artisan Cheese is wonderful! http://www.artisancheese.ca/Bonnechere.htm

22 | Heather Thom

June 1st, 2016 at 10:11 pm


Ooo love this giveaway. We have started to have people over to swim and putting munchies in a bowl and cut up fruit is good but i love the idea of a cheese platter !

I love st albert cheese curds for a guilty pleasure, bourisin spreadable cheese and balderson cheese.

23 | Kimberly

June 1st, 2016 at 10:17 pm


There is the most amazing toffee cheese that I’ve found at The House of Cheese in the Market.

24 | Cath

June 2nd, 2016 at 4:37 am


We love Applewood cheddar. really any cheddar!

25 | Krista

June 2nd, 2016 at 5:53 am


I’m a fan of smoked gouda and nut-crusted goat’s cheese..no particular brand.

26 | Elizabeth

June 2nd, 2016 at 9:22 am


I love to eat Friulano, the older the better. Yum!

27 | Gem

June 2nd, 2016 at 9:45 am


I had a wonderful truffled Brie over the weekend and now I’m on the hunt to find out who made it and where I can get my hands on some.

28 | Tiana

June 2nd, 2016 at 9:52 am


Well OKA is one of my favorite cheeses but I also LOVE fontina for anything saucy!

29 | andrea tomkins

June 2nd, 2016 at 10:31 am


This comment is being posted on behalf of Meagan, who writes: “My favorite cheese (if I must pick one) is Celebrity International cranberry with cinnamon goat cheese, yum!!
Thanks for the contest”

30 | ceebee

June 2nd, 2016 at 11:39 am


Nothing beats St. Albert’s curds!

31 | Sandy Irvin

June 2nd, 2016 at 12:10 pm


You want me to pick just one? Impossible!

Cambozola – with cold roast beef and boston lettuce on brown. Winning at lunch.

Balderson 2 year old cheddar, on every cheese board I’ve ever served (ours is a vintage roof slate!), with dried apricots and pistachios

St Paulin for a nice mild semi-soft; Agropur makes it in Canada now.

Le Baluchon from Quebec is a cheese for grownups. Rich, fullbodied.

And the Camembert de Portneuf from Alexis de Portneuf in Quebec is equal to any imported cheese, and fresher, too.

Ok, I have to go eat my lunch now. This is making me huuuunngry!

32 | Cindy

June 2nd, 2016 at 1:24 pm


My current favourite is Comté Hard Ripened cheese. It is delicious… Its sweet nutty flavour is yummy.

33 | Carolyn

June 2nd, 2016 at 3:58 pm


We love a good Brie (double cream), a nice Camembert and my kids LOVE Boursin cheeses – any flavour.

34 | Kelly D

June 2nd, 2016 at 7:08 pm


We love a wine infused cheddar or the original OKA is a big favourite at our house! Bon appitete!

35 | TD

June 3rd, 2016 at 8:52 am


any of the flavoured cheeses from MapleDale cheeses

36 | Kimberley

June 3rd, 2016 at 9:30 am


Applewood smoked cheddar is my all-time favourite cheese, so yummy! Good luck everyone and thanks for the chance to win :)

37 | Catherine R

June 3rd, 2016 at 9:39 am


Applewood Smoked Cheddar and Saint Paulin – both are soooo good!

38 | Sarah at Journeys of The Zoo

June 3rd, 2016 at 10:03 am


So many great cheeses to choose from. When in Quebec, I love heading to the cheese shop and trying a little bit of (at least 5) different cheeses. A mix between soft, hard and unpasteurized. When I’m all out, I usually buy Cambazola because the whole family likes it and it’s readily available. Thanks for hosting.

Besos, Sarah
Journeys of The Zoo

39 | Stacey

June 3rd, 2016 at 11:19 am


Niagara Gold!

40 | Kristine

June 3rd, 2016 at 3:33 pm


St. Augur when we want it stinky, Black Truffle Pecorino, Beemster XO, and my all time favorite cheese gorganzola.

41 | Bailey Dexter

June 3rd, 2016 at 9:42 pm


We are huge cheese fans here! Our favourite is PC Marble cheese but in close second is PC Feta. There are so many we’ve tried and keep in our fridge but these two seem to go with just about everything and the flavour is amazing!

42 | Suzi

June 4th, 2016 at 10:06 pm


For me it is definitely Havarti!

43 | laurbolduc@yahoo.ca

June 5th, 2016 at 12:38 am


I love St Albert’s Marble or cheddar cheese as well as their cheese curds. *Mmm Poutine with cheese curds* I find that their cheese is always fresh and has great taste to it.

44 | rebecca

June 5th, 2016 at 8:22 am


Old cheddar – I know I know, it’s the easy answer and I don’t have a specific kind, but mmmmmm cheese

45 | John

June 5th, 2016 at 8:32 am


My favorite is Balderson Octoberfest.

46 | Marisa E

June 5th, 2016 at 9:11 am


Brie! (Especially with homemade raspberry jam.)

47 | summer plewes

June 5th, 2016 at 10:32 am


I am a big fan of Du Village 1860 – La Raclette cheese. So wonderful. Although I could live on cheese alone and find all cheeses to be awesome!!

48 | sarah

June 5th, 2016 at 1:55 pm


My favorite is goat cheese, it compliments so many foods. my favorite way is baked on top of porobella mushrooms. I usually buy whichever brands on sale, they all taste great so far!

49 | Beverley

June 6th, 2016 at 9:17 am


Love mosy cheeses, except blue. Current favourite is any brand with jalapenos plus Glengarry cheeses.

50 | Elnaz S

June 7th, 2016 at 7:47 am


My favourite cheese is aged asiago – no particular brand. It’s divine!!

51 | Fern D

June 7th, 2016 at 2:09 pm


Fifth Town Lighthall Tomme which sadly is no longer being produced. Long story but there are other companies (French) making Tomme (or Tome) style cheese. All I can say is that I do not consume a huge amount of dairy products but when cheese is made well (like goat cheese, brie, cheddars like Prince Edward County’s Black River Maple Cheddar). Of special mention is Le Rustique, a very pungent camembert which I double bag to keep as much as the smell in as possible.

52 | Beth D.

June 7th, 2016 at 7:43 pm


Cheese…yum! Having gone dairy-free twice in the past several years (for a year each time!), I’m so relieved to be eating it again. I really love bleu cheese, but an aged cheddar is also lovely. Have you tried Boursin? It’s a nice spreadable cheese.

53 | michelle

June 7th, 2016 at 10:13 pm


Goat cheese, walnuts & honey

54 | andrea tomkins

June 8th, 2016 at 12:43 pm


This giveaway is now closed to new entries. Thanks everyone!

55 | andrea tomkins

June 8th, 2016 at 12:45 pm


We have a winner! It’s commenter #13, Jane Corbett, who wrote:

“I am currently loving a cheese from Red Apron. It is cheddar with mustard seeds. Delicious. I can’t remember the brand, but it is locally made.”

Congratulations Jane! Check your email!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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