There’s an art to curating and arranging a gorgeous cheese board as the centerpiece to your party.
What kind of cheese should I get? Should I get crackers? Bread? Both? What kind of fruits and veggies? Are there spreads that pair with certain cheeses? Sweet or salty or both?
We’re going to answer some of those questions for you. Because if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s partying with cheese.
Find the right Labels
If you don’t want to be interrupted by the question, “Oooooh, what kind of cheese is that?” all night long, then we recommend using some adorable cheese labels to let your guests know what goodness awaits them. We recommend something like these porcelain cheese labels that come with a dry erase pen for reuse!
Have a Really Good Variety of Cheeses
One cardinal rule of mastering the cheese board is having at least 4-6 different kinds of cheese available. When in doubt, go with the tried and true 6:
1. Soft Cheese
2. Hard Cheese
3. Marinated/Flavored Cheese
5. Non-cow Cheese
6. Stinky Cheese
Soft Cheese: Brie
You can go with a nice triple cream French Brie. It’s a classic and one of the most well known soft cheeses out there (the French really know cheese, you guys). If you want to get a little adventurous, you can opt for something like an aged Camembert, which will have a more pungent note to it.
Hard Cheese: Gruyere
Marinated Cheese: Oil & Herb Mozzarella
Cheddar: Sharp Cheddar
Gruyere is a delightful hard cheese that has a mildly sweet taste. Normally hard cheeses are best when they are grated and added to something, like a pasta dish or salad. But you know what? We love gruyere so much we’re just gonna add it to our pile. It pairs well with meats and mustards.
The Oil & Herb Mozzarella is a great addition when you need a mild flavor break from an especially pungent cheese. It’s light and really works well just on its own. It’s also superb when combined with anything pickled, such as olives or even cornichons.
Cheddar is as unoffensive as you can get when it comes to cheeses. We went with a sharp cheddar, but for those with a more sensitive palette, a mild or medium cheddar will still be just enough flavor!
Non-Cow Milk Cheese: Chevre (Goat Cheese)
A good goat or sheep’s milk cheese can be a life saver for someone who has lactose sensitivities but still wants to party. There’s a lower amount of lactose in goat and sheep’s milk than there is in cow’s milk, and some of the fermentation process removes even more of that lactose. Chevre (or goat cheese) also pairs very nicely with both peppers and savory accoutrements, and sweet fruits and honey.
Stinky Cheese: Gorgonzola
Most people know Blue Cheese as the most common type of “stinky” cheese. But it’s gorgeous cousin Gorgonzola deserves a little hint of spotlight now.
What makes a good stinky cheese? You’ll see the marbling of the mold in some versions of aged cheese, which is a tell tale sign of its sharpness. These molds are safe to eat, as the don’t produce the harmful toxins that most molds do. Stinky cheeses pair incredibly well with sweets, like fruits, figs, and honey. Oh boy, drizzle some honey onto a blue cheese and cracker and you’re in heaven.
Don’t forget the sauces and dips
A nice side of red pepper spread or whole grain mustard can really carry your cheese board over the top (especially when said cheese is accompanied by cured meats). Whole grain mustard especially brings a great added flavor boost to cured meats and terrines.
You also want to make sure that you have something sweet in there as well, such as honey or a jam. We think these little Honey dippers add a bright whimsical touch. Plus they’re just so easy to use.
Have the Right Serving Tools
Nothing is more frustrating for a guest than trying to serve up food with a tool that won’t get the job done. This is especially true for cheeses.
You want to make sure you have tools that can cut through hard cheeses, but also not damage a soft cheese by smooshing it everything. Cheese knives and spreaders are a necessity when it comes to dishing up appetizers. It’s important that each cheese have its own serving tool so that the flavors aren’t intermingled by accident.
Having a few cute little mini-tongs scattered about on your spread will also make it easier for people to serve themselves up smaller accouterments like olives and pickles.
Get the Layout Just Right
When it comes to the layout, there are just a few things to consider. Placement of the items according to complementary taste, greenery, and arrangement. Roll your meats for a more refined look (we tried our hand at Prosciutto roses, but we’ll just call them tulips or something). Separate each cheese type with either meats, veggies, or fruits and give then plenty of room to serve/slice. Make sure sauces are in serving bowls so they don’t bleed into the other foods. Keep sweet, savory, or spicy sides grouped together.
Don’t Forget the Bread!
Or as we like to call it, the “Cheese Receptacles”. Mix it up with a variety of offerings! Crackers are the expected when it comes to a cheese board, so throw in some sliced baguette and a few Italian breadsticks to stir things up a bit.
Pair with Fruits and Vegetables
When looking for what kinds of fruits and vegetables to bring to a charcuterie platter, look for ones that complement your cheeses.
Have a nice selection of pickled veggies and olives to accompany your cheese plate. Kalamata, Chalkidiki, or any kind of marinated olive can really round out some of those richer flavors in the cheese. Cornichons (those little tiny pickles) are tart and zippy and pair extremely well with both cheeses and cured meats. Bites of cornichon between tastes of different cheeses works as a great palette cleanser.
Sugar snap peas are easy to share and pair extremely well with chevre. Fruits like pear or berries pair exceptionally well with more aromatic cheeses and cut through a lot of the richness by bringing in a sweet element. Set your fruits next to these stinkier cheeses and your veggies next to the softer cheeses. And as always, figs are a must with a cheese board! Figs are light, mildly sweet, and juicy. Opt for fresh figs to really bring a stunning visual touch to your board.
And Then Garnish Your Cheese Board to Perfection!
Pick out some herbs from the garden or grab some rosemary from the store. Add it to your cheese board to create the perfect cheesy ambiance. It creates a great mixture of texture, colors, and scents.
And voila! With those easy steps, you can create a visually stunning centerpiece for your next gathering. And as a life pro tip, if you want to create a spread like this for under $100, check out Trader Joe’s for some decent cured meats and cheese for about half the price of most specialty stores. Being fancy doesn’t have to be expensive.
Cheers and don’t forget the wine!