As a guest in someone’s home, there are few things I appreciate more than a well-articulated cheeseboard. After years of practice, research and feedback, I finally feel confident while putting one together. Here are a few simple pointers I have gathered to help you wow your guests with a cheeseboard you are proud of.
- Start with a good “board”
I absolutely love this slate slab from Crate & Barrel. It’s a great size, you can label everything with chalk if you wish and the dark grey contrasts so nicely with almost anything you serve on it. If you haven’t already invested in a good cheese board, an attractive cutting board can do the trick!
- The magic of three
Cheeses are like flowers in that they always look their best in odd numbers. Since five is often too much for my events and one just won’t do, three is my magic number. Of course you want some variety in your cheese offerings. The two schools of thought are to separate them by type of milk – goat, sheep and cow or by texture– soft, hard and aged. I almost always separate by texture. For this cheese plate I went with my fail safe three. For my soft: a triple cream brie, for my hard: a nice rosemary olive oil asiago and for my aged: a classic gouda. The options, of course, are endless and you can be exceptionally creative. I always try to have something classic like gouda that even the least adventurous cheese lover is sure to be excited about.
I like to mirror my three cheeses with three charcuterie options (unless I am entertaining vegetarians). As with cheese, I find Trader Joe’s to be an impressively simple one stop shop for my charcuterie needs. To make things extraordinarily simple for you, TJ’s carries both a Gourmet Italian Combo Pack and a Gourmet Spanish Combo Pack. I have purchased both options in the past and have enjoyed them equally.
- Compliment your cheese
I try to go with two or three jarred options, including at least one sweet option, like a honey or berry jam, and one savory option, like course ground mustard or a bacon jam. For this cheese board I went with a delicious sweet/savory pepper jam that complimented the brie very nicely. I served local honey with this adorable honey dipper as my sweet option.
I love serving a nut on my cheeseboard. I typically go for Trader Joe’s truffle marcona almonds which are always a big hit. Having a small ramekin of an olive medley is also something our guests seem to always appreciate.
For your final complimentary component, I always recommend a fruit option, of course grapes are the go-to. If you do decide to serve grapes, make sure you get seedless as your guests will typically be mingling and talking while they eat. A nice berry is always well received. Especially if you can offer something that is in season and local like blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. In my opinion, fresh figs are one of the most beautiful thing you can serve on a cheeseboard. Unfortunately, they are impossible to get out of season and hard to find when they are in season! If you do get your hands on them (call me and share your source immediately) they look lovely both cut into quarters and served in a pile or sprinkled between the cheeses and the charcuterie.
- Serve ware
Take into account what type of event you are having and how much mingling your guests are likely to do when deciding between cocktail plates or cocktail napkins.
Proper etiquette suggests there should be one knife per type of cheese. I absolutely love the set we have, but am considering investing in this lovely gold set to have as backup. Having a more uniform knife selection is more straight forward for guests. If you are serving a salami that needs to be cut make sure you slice it ahead of time or provide your guests with the appropriate cutting tool.
If you are serving olives try and offer your guests some tooth picks to serve themselves with. Recently I have been using our gorgeous cocktail skewer set for olives. It gives some height to your board and is so much more attractive than any wooden toothpick option.
- Garnish and flare
The final touches on your cheeseboard are what really give it that wow factor. I love garnishing with rosemary, sage or mint from our herb garden. Labeling your cheeses is not only an attractive addition; it will save you from “re-introducing” them all evening as new guests arrive. We often use these charming chalk board cheese markers, but if you have time, DIYing some adorable cheese pennant flags is a fun and simple project.
Of course, you could disregard all of this and still create an incredible cheeseboard. So whether you are simply sitting on the stairs with some truffle Italian cheese and a mess of crackers (as my BF and I were last night) or carefully arranging slices of fresh figs between your prosciutto and your asiago, cheers to you!