Crafting A Beautiful Cheeseboard

I can distinctly remember the first, real cheese board I ever made. I was in college and hosting one of my first ladies wine nights. I can remember feeling simultaneously delighted and overwhelmed as I perused Pinterest for inspiration. At the time, I thought my board was pretty impressive, but in hindsight I basically just unwrapped cheeses and plopped them on a small board. 

There's a definite art to creating a cheese board and having made many of them, I've learned what works and what doesn't. I'm constantly altering my boards to fit my guests and the occasion and they're so fun to create. No two boards are ever alike, but my approach is generally the same. Here are my tips and tricks, plus all the bits and bobs I buy to achieve the perfect board:

  • Invest in a good-sized board. Nothing is worse than getting excited in the cheese aisle only to realize nearly half of the enticing options won't t fit on your board. Whether you opt for round or rectangular, make sure it suits the number of guests you'll be serving and allows room for creativity. Check stores like Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and Crate & Barrel for a plethora of options.

  • A general rule of thumb is to crowd your board and make it look plentiful. Don't be afraid to pile almonds in the nooks and crannies or cozy the crackers right up to your cheeses! Trust me, it will look more complete and appetizing to your guests. 

  • Always cut harder cheeses into squares, slices, wedges, etc. It encourages guests to dig in rather than feel apprehensive about hacking into a perfect piece of cheese. You can arrange them a variety of ways (fan them, stack them, rearrange them in their original form) depending on your board. Leave softer cheeses, like goat or brie, in their natural form. 

  • I buy the majority of my cheeses from Trader Joe's because they have a great selection and their prices are a fraction of the cost elsewhere. I typically only go to other grocers if I need a specific brand of cheese, like Cowgirl Creamery (I like 'Mt. Tam' and 'Chimney Rock'), Cypress Grove (I like 'Humboldt Fog') or Cablanca Goat Gouda.

  • My usual cheese checklist includes: Petite Basque Cheese, Manchego, some sort of brie (double cream, triple cream, etc.), goat (soft and/or hard), cheddar (English Coastal Cheddar is a good one), and gouda (TJ's makes a 1,000 Day Old one that is nutty and perfect). I occasionally will get blue cheese (Saint Agur is a go-to).

  • If you're including delicate meats like Proscuitto or Capicola on your board, fold them into little roses or pretty shapes and bunch them together so they hold their shape. This extra touch makes all the difference presentation-wise. Dry, hard salamis don't need as delicate of a hand; they can be piled or fanned out.

  • Always have a fresh and dried fruit on your board. Start with what's in season, like pomegranates, pears and figs in the fall and winter months, and stone or citrus fruit in the summer months. These can be sliced up or simply put on the board for display. Raspberries, blackberries, and grapes are also nice additions. Dried fruits, like apricots, candied orange slices, and figs, can be found year round. 

  • Though often pricier, pistachios and Marcona almonds are so tasty and make for a great filler when you're trying to bulk up your board. You can also make your own Marcona almonds. Thanks, Ina Garten!

  • Introduce cute bowls (my favorites come from Anthropologie, Target, and Home Goods) onto your board and fill them with things like olives, Cornichons, Peppadews, Persian cucumbers, or even spreads (I like Dalmatia's Fig and Sour Cherry spreads).

  • World Market has affordable honeycomb if you're looking to add some to your board. Keep in mind that this is generally a pricier item.

  • If you're looking to save money, you can easily find cheaper alternatives to expensive items. For example, I love Raincoast Crisp crackers but Trader Joe's makes a similar version that is half the cost. They're called "Fig and Olive Crisps" and they also make seasonal ones like "Pomegranate and Pistachio Crisps."

  • Add fresh herbs or flowers to your board to bring it all to together. Springs of rosemary work year-round, while Chamomile flowers are perfect for a spring or summer board. Holly-type berries work well for a holiday board. 

 

Now, you have the perfect foundation to build a show-stopping cheeseboard! If you find yourself looking for more inspiration, give Pinterest a browse. We have our own Pinterest page (Cox Family Vineyards, of course) with boards dedicated to entertaining, interior design, wine country lifestyle, DIY, and charcuterie platters from some of our favorite cheese connoisseurs. Then, head to your local market and get inspired! You'll be the hit of your next dinner party.

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