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Anatomy of a Cheese Board

by Jessica Clark | Photography by Dave Barfield

Meat and cheese have been featured together on everything from Wonder Bread to silver platters, but one thing is for sure: the pairing has been around a long time.

It hasn’t been until recently, however, that artisanal choices have become as easy to find as a block of yellow cheddar. In today’s markets, imported cheeses and meats from around the world are readily available. These little morsels can entice shoppers to buy the entire cold case, but questions about which ones and how much, coupled with the perceived cost, can make it easier to say, “I’ll take a bag of the orange cubes.”

Next time you want to wow your friends with ease and elegance, use this cheat sheet to assemble the perfect board.

  • Variety is important, but not so much that guests are overwhelmed. Try picking four meats and four cheeses for your board.
  • When planning how much to buy, plan for two ounces of meat and two ounces of cheese per person.
  • Cheeses lose their flavor if they’re too cold. Serve them at room temperature by taking them out of the fridge well before guests arrive.
  • A good board is as much about texture as it is taste. Try mixing meats and cheeses that are spreadable, crumbly, creamy and chewy.
  • A tightly packed board may look abundant, but remember that people need to actually get to everything. Make sure to leave space in between and place cheese knives and small spoons nearby.
  • We “eat with more than our eyes” isn’t just a fancy saying. We enjoy food with all of our senses, so consider taste, texture and color when choosing board staples.
  • Include other foods that enhance the cheese’s flavor, like fresh or dried fruit, nuts, honey, jams/jellies, olives, mustard seeds, or cornichon pickles.
  • Be sure to give guests a vehicle for the meats and cheeses by providing crackers, crostini, or a sliced baguette.
  • Always have at least one cheese that looks familiar (aka “The Crowd Pleaser”), such as a sharp cheddar.
  • For the educated foodie crowd, excite their taste buds with at least one cheese from each milk type: goat, sheep and cow.
  • A special note: Try not to use flavored cheeses… it masks the true nature of a beautifully-crafted fromage!

Hover over the items on the board to see what they are.

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Whole Foods meats and cheeses included on the image: Ovalie Cendree (France; Goat), Tomme De Savoie (France; Cow), Humboldt Fog (California; Goat), Valdeón (Spain; Cow/Sheep/Goat), Goat “Buttons” (Portugal; Goat), Vacherousse d’Argental (France; Cow)


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