Cheeseboard Building Basics
I think we all know by now that cheese and charcuterie boards are trending. We’ve all seen the intricate and lavish platters posted on social media and, while it’s true that anyone can do that, it can certainly be bewildering if you don’t know where to start. For those who are new to building beautiful cheese boards, here are some tips to help get you started. Then, let your creativity take the (cheese) wheel!
The first rule of cheeseboard-building is that there actually are no rules. There are definitely guidelines that we find helpful to stick to, but remember that if you’re making a board for yourself or for your own gathering, it's most important that you make something you’ll actually enjoy! There is no exact recipe for building a beautiful board, so you can take inspiration from the season, the occasion, the people you’ll be eating with, a specific cheese or accompaniment, and build the board around that. And remember that, above all, if it tastes good and brings joy to those who eat it -- it’s a success!
Some might start by choosing a particularly eye-catching platter or board to build their spread around, but if you don't have many options, use whatever is available -- the cheese is most important. The number of different cheeses you serve will depend on group size and taste. If you have an adventurous group, go wild. If your group is new to cheese or reluctant to go too far outside of their comfort zone, get some cheeses that you already know they’ll like and then add one or two new ones to try.
Choose a variety of 3-5 cheeses with different textures, ages, and milk types. A fresh goat cheese is a nice place to start because it’s light and bright, perfect to pair with a glass of bubbly or a crisp white wine. We recommend Laura Chenel’s Original Goat Cheese Log or one of the dynamic Marinated Goat Cheese flavors.
A soft-ripened bloomy rind cheese is always a crowd pleaser. Marin French Cheese Co.'s line of 4oz Petite brie and camembert style cow’s milk cheeses are the perfect size for a cheese board! One Petite is great for a small spread or you can group many together for a nice variety on larger platters.
Firmer aged cheeses like Cheddar, Gouda, or Manchego will add textural variety and also hold up well on a board even if it’s left out for longer periods of time.
For those not scared of a little funk, try adding a blue cheese or a washed rind cheese like Marin French Cheese Co.’s Golden Gate.
What you add to your board to complement the cheese can be an elaborate work of art or it can be lovely simplicity. Just remember that some cheeses are extremely receptive to a variety of pairings while others require a little more careful consideration .
A crunchy baguette makes for a classic cheese vessel, but the cracker market offers ample alternative (and even gluten free) options. Find something you like, but don’t get too bold with flavored crackers, as this could take away from the nuanced flavors of the artisan cheeses you so carefully selected.
Charcuterie and cheese are a match made in heaven. Do think of your group when selecting meats and be considerate of any dietary restrictions. Charcuterie can always be on its own board if sharing with a mixed crowd or you might consider alternative meats like duck salami.
When choosing produce, consider the season and what you can find locally. Something fresh is always nice, but dried fruits, olives, and nuts make for classic accompaniments year-round.
Add a drizzle. Honey, jam, or savory jelly is always a fun addition to a board and allows people to mix and match and create pairings of their own.
How much per person?
Plan to serve approximately 4 ounces of cheese per person. Before (or in place of) dinner, people tend to eat more cheese so err on the side of more, not less. If you’re serving a cheese board after dinner, you can scale back a bit.
Let your cheese come to room temperature before serving. Your fresh cheeses can be pulled out last minute, but most other cheeses will need at least 30 minutes outside the fridge for the flavor and texture to be at its best.
It’s okay to eat the rind! Especially on bloomy rinded cheeses, like Marin French Cheese Co.’s Camembert. In fact, the rind has its own special taste, it’s slightly peppery and definitely meant to be eaten. Do pay attention to the kind of rind on the cheese, wax or bandaged wrapped cheeses can be served with the rind on, but should not be consumed.
You can present your cheeses whole with a cheese knife so that guests may serve themselves. This is especially recommended for soft cheeses, because wedges may stick together once cut. Do consider the practical aspects of your arrangement and where things are placed. Do you want salami oil on your dark chocolate?
Please do not put inedible flowers or garnishes directly on your cheese board. Not sure if something is edible? Do your research. Try using flowering herbs instead or just keep your flowers in a bouquet on the table next to your board.
Do ask your local cheese professional for help! Cheesemongers pay close attention to what they are selling and can offer crucial explanations of flavor, storing tips, pairing and serving suggestions.
Continue trying new cheeses and pairings, the world of cheese is endless fun!
If you start with quality cheese, don’t worry too much about all the rest, because it’s going to be a good time regardless. Now go out and build those beautiful boards!