Basic supplies for a cheese board include a large board or slate, cheese knives, plates, napkins, and a few small utensils for serving. Each cheese should have its own knife to prevent the flavors from mixing, and remember to have a small fork or some toothpicks handy for spearing pieces of cheese once they’re cut. If you’re planning on having a large number of guests, consider doubling down and making two boards rather than cramming everything onto one. Overcrowding means your guests will have to be reaching around things to get to what they want, which means a much higher chance of a cheesy disaster occurring.
Before or After Dinner?
When you decide to serve your cheese course will really come down to how you want your meal orchestrated, but there are a few things consider depending on when you’re planning to serve. If you are using your cheese board as an appetizer, you will want to focus on savory flavors – pick cheese with bolder, more assertive flavors and include more protein options, like nuts and meats. You can also use sauces like mustard or garlic aioli as savory dipping options to liven up your board. If your cheese board is going to be a dessert course, skip the meats entirely and instead load up your board with dried and fresh fruits; you will also want to select cheeses with more delicate flavor profiles, and make sure to include some complimentary jams or fruit preserves.
Anatomy of a Board
- Cheese – You’ll need between 4 and 5 different cheeses for a large group or at least 3 for a smaller group. Go for a variety of different milks, textures, and hardnesses to keep your board interesting and to make sure there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. Remember to let your cheeses come up to room temperature before you serve them to bring out the full flavor profile!
- Fresh & Dried Fruit – You’ll need something sweet to cut through the rich cheeses and salty meats, and fruit is a perfect compliment. Try dried apricots for a tart and chewy bite or fresh grapes for some juicy sweetness.
- Nuts – Nuts add saltiness and crunch to contrast the creaminess of the cheese, helping to balance out your board. Try plain walnuts or Marcona almonds roasted with olive oil for a crunch that isn’t overwhelming in flavor.
- Meats – Cured meats of all kinds are a classic part of a good cheese board! Choose meats that compliment your cheeses without being too overpowering in flavor; prosciutto is an easy favorite, or try sopressatta for a spicy kick.
- Bread & Crackers – Choose breads and crackers without too much of their own flavor to prevent washing out the delicate flavors of the cheese. Try a crusty baguette or water crackers to start, and definitely include some gluten-free options!
- Extras – Depending on the size of your party and when you’re actually serving, it’s nice to include some light, snacky fair as well. Try pitted olives for some additional brininess or slice up some fresh vegetables for added color and texture. Also, don’t be afraid to sauce it up! Try a good brown mustard for more savory flavors or fig preserves for sweetness
It’s important to note that cheese can become quite expensive when you start looking at gourmet varieties, so definitely make a budget for yourself. If you’re tight on funds, splurge on one high quality cheese to show off to your friends and few less-expensive cheeses to round out your board. You may want to pre-slice your cheeses too, that way you don’t have to worry about everyone getting a taste! Also, check your cupboards before you go and spend a fortune on snacks – things like almonds, banana chips, and even pickles are items that go beautifully on a cheese board without having to break the bank.
So, add a little flair to your holiday season, and stop by Oliver’s – with our huge selection and expert cheese-mongers, you’re sure to find something that will truly make your holiday cheese board the centerpiece of your party!