If you’ve ever scrolled through social media, you’ve undoubtedly seen jaw-dropping photos of colorful, show-stopping cheeseboards.
Whether it’s wedges of Wisconsin Cheese nestled amongst nuts or slices and slivers of it mingling amongst stunning spreads, there’s no better way to up your hosting game and take any gathering to the next level.
But where is a cheese lover to begin? With a board, of course! For all the rest…read on.
Start with a plan
It is important to start by thinking about the main event: the variety of cheeses you want to serve. Take time to consider the scene, aesthetic, and spirit of the event.
Think about the size and scope of your cheese party and table, and be sure to jot down any details that might help you prepare. A good place to start is with the number of people you are expecting to host. This will help determine how much cheese to get.
Generally, 0.5 to 1 ounces of each cheese per person is a good ratio to keep in mind when buying cheese for a crowd.
Other things to consider will be the logistics of your gathering. How will you utilize the space? Will guests serve themselves or will they be served in a more formal manner? For example, if you are including all twelve of your coworkers, you may not have space for a seated cheese tasting. Instead, you can plan for a more casual set-up.
Is anything else happening at the party? Will you serve a full dinner or is cheese the main focus? If you are planning on serving a significant amount of other food, you may want to plan for closer to 0.5 ounces of each cheese per person.
It's also important to think about the context of your gathering. Is this a group of people you would like to impress or are these old friends with whom you can get super creative and silly? Are there any picky eaters in the group, people with allergies, or others with dietary restrictions? Answers to these questions will decide just how adventurous you can be with your guests. A super stinky cheese might be no big deal in a room full of old friends, but it may not be the way to make a great impression on a first date. (Well, if they are a fellow cheese person, it might work...)
Do a little cheese math
Now that you have something of a plan in place, you have a few more calculations to make and things to consider.
Before you head to your favorite cheese monger, you also need to consider how many different cheeses to serve. While this is mostly up to you, it's good to keep in mind any space or serving equipment constraints. Do you have a cheese spreader for cold pack cheese? Do you need to find a just-right bowl for the mascarpone? Three to five cheeses is always a good place to start, though, and if you have time and space to add more, go for it!
Make a match
Your choice of accompaniments should pair well with your cheese selections.
Pairing picks are a great way to enhance your experience, bring out different aspects of the cheeses, and create a richer cheese tasting experience.
Once you've got your cheese varieties picked, it's time to think about things to pair with them. Make sure your accompaniments meet the following criteria: crunchy, sweet, spicy, salty, pickled, and fresh. For example, an ideal assortment might include pistachios, cherry jam, hot honey, assorted olives, pickled beets, and sliced radishes.
Also, don’t forget to throw in something unexpected. Examples of non-traditional cheese pairings your guests will love might include red miso, umeboshi plums, dark chocolate, and roasted chickpeas. Challenging preconceived notions regarding what is “supposed” to go with cheese or appear on a cheese board makes for great conversation, another essential ingredient in any gathering.
Okay, you’ve got everything on your list, and you're ready to get started, but how do you make a cheese board look good? Our first piece of advice is to focus more on aesthetics than on symmetry.
Think less about the shapes or overall design you are going to make and more about your cheeses and accouterments in terms of color.
Make sure to alternate contrasting colors as you set things out on the cheese board. Don't clump all of those cheesy gold tones or rose-hued meats together. Try using nuts, dried and fresh fruit, and olives as borders and dividers to frame your cheeses and charcuterie.
Speaking of olives, go ahead and indulge in an upgrade or two if you want to take your cheese board to the next level. Olives always look better and stay glossy if they’re given a quick toss in some olive oil, and they taste even better if you warm them up a bit. Similarly, the humble raisin gains juicy confidence from a 30-minute soak in sherry vinegar, chili flakes, and a spoonful of whole-seed mustard. Dried figs, plums, apricots, and dates can be soaked in whiskey, brandy, or port and then baked at 375°F for 20-30 minutes for a decadent addition to your post-dinner cheese plate.
Create an illusion of bounty
You don’t need excessive quantities of food to create a lush cheese board landscape. Try using a space-stealing standby, such as a bunch of grapes, as a dual-purpose centerpiece and prop. An array of cheese triangles can stand up with its assistance, or a wedge of something soft and bloomy can lean casually against its grapey friends.
Fill in any gaps between your cheeses and charcuterie with tasty morsels to eliminate negative space and create the illusion of a cheese board smorgasbord.
Creating vertical vignettes, such as a stack of crackers or apple chips, also lends the platter some depth.
Still feeling stumped? We put together this handy how-to video to visually break down the board building process. It’s also the tastiest instructional video we’ve ever seen!
Now that you’ve learned the fundamentals of building the perfect cheese board, find some inspiration from one of our cheese board recipes, like this Fiesta Cheese Board, this Wisconsin Cheese and Charcuterie Board, or another spread that suits your style from our selection of over 300 handcrafted recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Looking for more tips to help you craft the perfect, photo-worthy cheese board? Check out our blogs on how to cut cheese and pairing meat and cheese.
Ready to put your skills to the test? Share your creation with us on Instagram and Facebook and become part of the largest cheese community in the world!