Not Boring Boards 🧀
Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate and Merry Almost Christmas! The holiday season is wonderful if you are spending more time with loved ones, but it can be overwhelming since there is so much more on our plates (literally and figuratively!) I love having friends over and celebrating the holidays in a festive way, but I am neither very creative nor do I have a lot of brain power left to come up with beautiful presentations for food. My solution is to copy other people’s ideas! I print color photos of inspiring boards or lovely touches and keep them in my entertaining binder. Then I don’t have to spend precious time being creative, and I can also show the image of what I want to emulate to someone else to do (like Hubs or one of my kids.)
You do not need to buy an expensive “cheese board” or marble platter etc. I have used large wood cutting boards and just covered them with a piece of unbleached parchment. Or I have used large ceramic platters. I do love these bamboo tongs though!
How to create a cheeseboard - a general rule: if this is the only thing you are serving, figure about 6-8 ounces of cheese per person. If serving with other items, estimate about 3-4 ounces per person.
Place ramekins first. Place things that can leak into ramekins so they don’t leak all over the place (olives, dips, cornichons)
I like to take my cheese out of the fridge an hour before serving. Place cheeses around the perimeter. Odd numbers (like 3 or 5) seem to be more visually pleasing. A mix of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk is nice. And I like a mix of textures (hard and soft.) Start with something universally appealing like cheddar or manchego. If using hard cheeses, cut them in advance to make it easier for guests to grab. A cheddar block or Parmesan cheese can easily be broken down into crumbles to make it look more appetizing. I also like something soft like goat cheese or brie (Trader Joe’s has a nice honey goat cheese.) And then something a little more funky, like a blue cheese (I like Stilton or Roquefort.) Buy what you like! There are also nice soft vegan cheeses - try Treeline or Violife. Get the cheese started in some way so your guests feel comfortable diving in.
Fan out crackers or display in a short glass if the crackers are tall. Or serve crostini made from sliced baguette or grilled bread. Or do crackers and bread.
Fill areas with seasonal fruit. Different colors. Fresh and/or dried.
If using salami, you can try displaying as a flower so that it looks pretty by folding in half and then in half again. Prosciutto is nice, too.
Use salty nuts to fill in any holes.
Feeling decadent, add dark chocolate pieces.
Finish off with some herbs (rosemary sprigs are my go-to) or edible flowers to give some color.
UTENSILS! Small spoons, cheese knives or pre-cut the cheese and offer small bamboo tongs or small forks, toothpicks.
Cheeseboard can be assembled an hour before guests arrive. Cheeses can be sliced several days in advance. An alternative option to a cheeseboard is to line a table, kitchen island or countertop with kraft paper and place all of your cheeseboard components on the kraft paper. This is fun for large events.
It’s All in the Details. Here is where you can make a simple board more special. Specialty products I find a lot of fun and delicious imported nibbles in Italian markets, or little mom and pop gourmet shops. Some of my favorites are things like:
Honeycomb with drippy honey (yes, you can eat it, but put it on a plate)
Marcona almonds (Trader Joe’s has three different ones - truffle, rosemary and plain)
Interesting crackers - I like Rustic Bakery which you can find in my local Whole Foods and Spanish cracker bread, such as Ines Rosales or Mitica.)
Jarred, roasted tomatoes (Divina has delicious ones)
Flavored gourmet popcorn like truffle flavor
Candied walnuts or pecans (Trader Joe’s)
Sour cherry spread (Divina)
Defrost frozen artichoke hearts. Pat dry. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.
Tapenade (olive spread)
Olives (I love castelvetrano, but offer a small bowl for pits.)
Coarse grain mustard
Here is some inspiration for you. Check these accounts for more ideas!
Watch @berryandtheboards IG reel for how to put together.