A surefire way to make your party a hit? Cheese–lots and lots of cheese. Although it’s a seemingly simple appetizer, the assembly and presentation of a cheese board can be daunting, especially given all of the cheeses and accompaniments from which to choose. So we talked to Megan Patterson, head of U.S. marketing for the global dairy company Fonterra, to glean some expert tips for creating a cheese board that’s sure to impress your guests.
Tip #1 — Be Thoughtful About Presentation
Patterson says she loves to use her family’s marble “P” initial board, which she layers on top of a larger wood board “for depth and height and a natural look.”
If you’re serving three cheeses, set one in each third of the board. For four, use quarters–and so on. Be sure to set the cheese out first, so it can come to the ideal temperature before serving; if it’s too cold, the flavors will be muted. For that party-perfect temperature, take the cheeses out of the fridge about a half-hour before serving them. Harder cheeses take longer to warm up because they’re more dense, so give them about an hour to do so.
Patterson also suggests “pulling out a few fun, small plates” for cheese-loving guests to use.
Tip #2 — Offer Variety
“My trick to preparing a cheese board is truly about variety, color and utilizing both sweet and savory elements along with fresh products,” says Patterson. “I love to pair domestics and imports, soft and hard cheeses together.”
To mix and match your cheeses, refer to this texture guide:
Gruyère, Comté, Cheddar, Manchego, aged Gouda
Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano, aged Manchego
Brie, Camembert, Cambazola
Young Gouda, Havarti, Fontina
Fresh, creamy cheeses
Goat cheese (chèvre), ricotta, fromage blanc
Limburger, Taleggio, Epoisses de Bourgogne
Tip #3 — Select the right accompaniments
Patterson reveals she loves to “scour the aisles of Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme to pick up great, fresh, crusty bread, ground mustard, a variety of crackers, and Rutherford and Meyer fruit pastes which are a fan favorite and a New Zealand company.”
She also suggests “using the freshest of breads, black and green cured olives from the Whole Foods olive bar and pepito peppers for pops of color and a tasty kick.” And keep in mind that “Marcona almonds, candied walnuts, Volpi prosciutto and salamis, marinated artichokes, and Bon Mamann raspberry (or fig) spread in brightly-colored bowls all lend to a great board.”
Tip #4 — Don’t forget utensils
Nothing worse than salivating over cheese with no way to eat it! Make sure each element has its own serving utensil where needed. Add small spoons or spreaders to bowls of jam, offer toothpicks for grabbing fruit and olives–and, of course, don’t neglect the cheese knives. We suggest serving each cheese with its own knife to keep flavors separate from one another.
Tip #5 — Pair with wine
“Chill the perfect rosé wine–one sparkling, one still–and a pitcher of water,” recommends patterson. “It’s an instant party or the perfect warm summer dinner.”
And remember: there’s really no “wrong” way to make a cheese and charcuterie board, as long as you are using premium ingredients and cheeses. Also, don’t be afraid to use fruit and veggies to add color and depth–and be sure to choose bold flavors and sweeter elements to please even the pickiest of palates.
“I love to finish with chocolates and sea salt caramels,” says Patterson. “It truly elevates the experience.”