Our entertaining mantra? Most any party is made better with the addition of a cheese board.
But let’s be real: a gorgeous cheese board isn't just about winning at Instagram though. A well-planned board will have a perfect match of flavors, will be appealing visually, and will make a statement that says, "I'm an entertaining boss!"
From our live events to charity dinners and years of hosting friends and family (and the fact we’re a team of cheese lovers!), we’ve learned a few key tips and it’s high time we share them with you.
So, here they are: our eight essential tips for building a perfect cheese board that's just as gorgeous as it is delicious.
Have A Loose Theme
Let’s establish some ground rules, shall we? First things first, you do not have to be super literal about your theme. As in, if you want to have some Spanish cheeses, it doesn’t have to be only Spanish.
Of course, if that's what you want to do, go for it. If you were running with the Spanish theme, we'd suggest some Manchego and Mahon cheeses, a few Marcona almonds, some quince paste, and olives, by the way. But don’t feel obligated to have some hard and fast “theme.”
Instead opt for a loose theme that serves as an organizing principle. This will make it easier to hone in on flavors for your cheese board and it will also help you make sure flavors are so all over the place that it becomes a free for all.
A few classic ways to organize the cheese board would be by the type of cheese (say, all goat's milk cheeses), the geographic spot (all California cheeses), or the time of year (summer). Let it naturally evolve so if you see something that's delicious but doesn't quite fit you can still add it to the cheeseboard.
Choose A Mix Of Flavors
Now that you know where to start with your cheese board ideas, let’s talk about flavor combinations. The easiest way to think about it is to consider that you can have complementary or contrasting flavors. But that’s over simplifying it. Because once you consider that those flavors could be sweet, salty, spicy, sour, or have umami, well, the combinations become numerous.
Our take is that you should only do contrasting flavors when you have a cheese plate that has one cheese. That way you can make sure all those flavors contrast (in a good way) with the cheese.
In other words, if you’re going to make a cheese platter that has a variety of cheeses (like we have here) it’s best to do complementary flavors. That way no matter which flavors your guests pair, they should be pleasing to their taste buds!
Also Choose A Mix Of Cheeses
One old-school cheese board tip that we totally stand by? That your cheese board should have a mix of cheese types. Sure, we could tell you all the rules out there but that'd be a lot to memorize.
Our advice is to have an odd number of cheeses and to mix in different ages of cheese (an in something fresh like burrata, something semi-aged like brie, and something super aged like Gouda), and, if you like it, blue cheese.
Finally, not to shirk responsibility, but we highly recommend you go to your local cheese store and ask their advice. Tell them the type of event you're planning, if the cheese is part of a bigger meal or its the main course, and the sort of cheeses you like. Then they’ll be able to recommend which cheese they sell that will work together because the bottom line is they'll know best.
Match The Sips To The Bites
This probably goes without saying but you don't want to put all that effort into a cheese board and then serve a drink that a) doesn't pair well or b) is just crappy quality. At the end of the day cheese board pairing (be it pairing foods with cheese or wines) are all about quality.
If you want an all-around wine that will work, we suggest a great-quality sparkling wine, a French-style Chardonnay, a classic Sauvignon Blanc, a bolder rosé, or a dessert wine if you have sweet flavors involved.
FYI, we get into way more cheese and wine pairing specifics in this article on fall cheese board ideas. This wine and cheese pairing graphic by the crew over at VinePair is also a great resource!
Add A Mix Of Dried And Fresh Fruit
To us, a cheese board isn't really a cheese board until some fruit gets involved. When we have time, we go to our local farmers market and by a mix of fresh and dried fruit.
If we don't have time, Trader Joe's is our go-to for dried fruit because they have a huge variety from the expected (dates, figs, and apricots) to the unexpected (dried orange slices).
Just as critical as fruit are some great nuts, of which, again, Trader Joes has a good assortment. Go with at least three different types including a simple roasted, salted nut, one that's flavored (say rosemary or truffle or chile), and one that's in-shell. We know that last one is not a need-to-have but there's something about guests having something to do with their food that makes a party even more fun.
Go For A Variety Of Textures
While you're at it, make sure your cheeseboard has a mix of textures. Tbh, this will probably just naturally happen as you buy the elements of the cheeseboard, but, just gut check yourself before you start building the board.
Let's be real -- so long as they're something crunchy to pair with all that cheese, most people will be happy!
Add In A Conversation Starter
Maybe it's a fruit salsa you found at your local gourmet store, a chocolate bar you brought back from you last trip, or a homemade cracker, but adding something unexpected to the cheeseboard acts as a sort of icebreaker and gets people talking. (Something especially helpful when you're throwing an event where not all the guests have met before.)
Make It Gorgeous (But Still Functional)
As you noticed from our photo, we like arranging the cheeses, placing complementary flavors nearby, and then filling in all the empty space with the fresh fruit and nuts.
You definitely want to put some thought into it (and maybe even take some inspiration from these cheeseboard tips from Saveur), but make sure it's still a cheese board that's easy to eat and, most importantly, delicious!
Okay, there you have it -- our essential cheese board tips for your next gathering. Any other tips we forgot? Let us know in the comments below!
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