Nationally renowned cheese expert Nat Caputo of Caputo Cheese Market has been in the family business for 35 years. This year, his 150 employees will sell nearly 30 million pounds of cheese retail and wholesale. The man knows his fromage — and so do his well-trained cheesemongers, who wrangle more than 1,000 different cheeses from around the world. Here, Nat shares exactly what he puts on his perfect cheese board.
Make Nat Caputo’s Favorite Cheese Board
Caputo recommends that a third- to a half-pound of each cheese is enough “to make a statement.” Here, his fail-proof picks.
- Beemster’s Vlaskass, a Dutch semisoft Gouda-type made from cow’s milk. “Very unique, sweet buttery finish with a sharp finish. Pairs great with fig jam, ales, and zinfandel.”
- Crotonese, a Calabrian sheep-milk cheese. “The Italian cheesemaker’s answer to manchego, piquant and sharp in flavor with a nice salty finish. Pair with a good baguette and Chianti.”
- Fromager d’Affinois, a double-cream, French cow’s milk cheese. “A young d’Affinois can be smooth, creamy, and clean in flavor. I love a bubbly or still rosé with it, but any white [wine] will do.”
- Applewood smoked cheddar, an English cow’s milk cheese. “Let me tell you, I was not a smoked cheese guy until I tried the applewood.”
- Sartori BellaVitano with Balsamic, a Wisconsin cow’s milk cheese. “It’s a cross between Parmesan and Asiago. After aging, the rind is soaked and/or rubbed with a balsamic glaze that is edible like candy. Sweet and savory in the same bite.”
As a finishing touch, “fill out your cheese board with some fresh strawberries, marcona almonds, and maybe dried candied apple slices,” suggests Caputo. “Or consider charcuterie to add a different dimension to the board. Some of my favorites include speck, hot coppa, and mild soppressata. Each one has a different look, flavor, and function.”
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Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.