For me at least, few things elicit more joy than a well-stocked cheese board. Everyone loves cheese, but these days, pre-cut slices and crackers tossed on a dinner plate will impress exactly no one.
Luckily for me, my mother—entertainer extraordinaire—taught me a few important things in life, not the least of which is how to build a stunning, crowd-pleasing cheese board. And luckily for you, I’m here to pass on this crucial lesson just in time for National Cheese Lover’s Day. A beautiful cheese platter always nets ooh's and ahh's, but it's shockingly simple to throw one together, and it takes almost no prep work—as long as you have the right components on hand.
Start with your best wooden cutting board or slate platter, and make sure it’s a big one. This is your canvas, after all.
If you plan on regularly serving cheese plates (and you should), nix the toothpicks and haphazard dishware. Invest in a few saucers, nice appetizer plates, and small cutlery. It’s all in the details, and having the right serving utensils and dishes makes any last-minute entertaining occasion feel put-together. Make sure each component of the spread has its own serving utensil, and stack plates and napkins nearby for when guests want to dig in.
Duh. A good cheese board should start with at least two different cheeses and two different textures, one hard (Gouda’s my favorite), and one soft, like a triple-creme Brie. No need to slice them: Just plop them on the board and plunge a slicer or knife directly into the blocks so guests don’t feel intimidated or awkward taking the first cut out of your glorious arrangement.
Fancy speak for "salty meats." If your dietary restrictions allow, don’t skip this step! Drop prosciutto by the slice into thin piles, or neatly layer stacks of salami. Meat-free but still craving a salty bite? Put gherkins or Kalamata olives into a ramekin and place on or alongside your board. Or be like me and include all of the above.
The perfect complement to rich cheese is bright, crunchy fruit. Fan out thinly sliced Granny Smith apples or pears like a hand of playing cards, or cascade snappy red grapes onto the board. Tip: Fruit also tricks you into thinking this is a healthy snack.
No cheese platter is complete without them. Put your favorite crackers in a bowl or mason jar and serve alongside the board. Pretzel twists, sliced baguette, or plain pita chips all work wonderfully.
Fill a few saucers with both sweet and savory options to smear between your cracker and cheese. Consider whole grain mustard, fig spread, or another fruit jam or compote—even honey works well.
If you still feel your display is missing something, it may be as simple as arrangement. First and foremost, try grouping things closer together or using additional fruit to fill empty space. If that fails, try adding some trimmed flowers, a sprinkling of whole nuts, or fresh herb sprigs to flesh out the board and introduce more aroma. But with a robust spread and good variety, it's truly difficult to go wrong here—just add your own decorative flair and your guests will reap the cheesy, salty, sweet benefits.