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‘Tis the season for holiday parties and open houses.  To be the host or hostess with the most or mostest, all you need is a spectacular cheese board. And we’re here to tell you how to do it.

How to Build a Cheese Board

First of all you need cheese. Four or five different varieties is ideal for any size gathering. You need an ounce of each cheese for every guest. For eight people, that’s 2½ pounds. Store the cheese in the refrigerator, wrapped in wax paper, then covered in plastic wrap, to lock in moisture.

  1. Fresh, moist, creamy, and mild. This is where chevre or goat cheese comes in. Try any of your favorite offerings from Caprini Creamery or Risin’ Creek.
  2. Bloomy-rind, buttery, and earthy. Trillium, Foxglove, Tiger Lily, Snap Dragon, or Dutchman’s Breeches fall into this category – from Tulip Tree.
  3. Semisoft, pliable, and mellow. Think Tulip Tree’s Haymaids or Beer Cheese.
  4. Hard, dry, and savory. Ask the vendors about their aged cheeses and try some samples.
  5. Blue, dense, and pungent. Tulip Tree’s Larkspur Blue would be an excellent choice.

Then you need the accompaniments.
Select add-ons with contrasting flavors and textures. Consider cured meats from Turchetti Salumeria or smoked salmon from Wild Alaska Salmon & Seafood. Try some preserves and pickles from Home Ec, and some unique mustard from Batch No. 2. And don’t forget honey from Eagle Creek Apiary. Apples from Wild’s Apple Farm would go well with cheese too*.

Bread and/or crackers are next.
Pick something that doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor and isn’t flimsy. Check out selections from Amelia’s Bread, Native Bread, Rene’s Bakery, or gluten-free offerings from Simple Taste.

Time to plate it.

  1. Take the cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour before guests arrive to let it reach room temperature.
  2. Just before serving, unwrap the cheeses and place them on a slate board or a wooden cutting board clockwise from mildest to strongest. Encourage guests to sample the cheeses in this order so they don’t overwhelm their palates from the get-go.
  3. Leave about an inch of space between the cheeses and include a knife for each. You can supplement with butter knives. Big blocks look better than slices, but you can carve a few pieces of each.
  4. Finally, write the names of the cheeses in chalk on the board or create toothpick signs to identify them.

*Cook’s Note: To prevent apple (and pear) slices from browning, prepare a solution of 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to 2 cups of water. Soak the apple slices for ten minutes and then rinse them under cold water. They will have no salty flavor after rinsing but the salt solution will keep them looking fresh for a couple of hours. For a party lasting longer, you may want to keep a supply of sliced, soaked and rinsed apples in the refrigerator covered with a damp paper towel to replenish your platter.

Don’t forget to get something pretty to decorate your table from Harvest Moon Flower Farm. Make a vegetable platter too with fresh cut veggies from the market and a little Fromage Frais. You’ll have a party buffet to be proud of.