Channel your inner Michelangelo and sculpt an edible work of art with the world’s best cheeses—from The State of Cheese. Display these works as an intimate snack for one or as an elegant tablescape to woo guests. When creating a cheese board
with masterpiece status, there are no hard and fast rules except to have fun. Not sure where to start? Let these tips inspire you to carve out your own colorful, artfully arranged eating experience that will go down in history.
Wisconsin Cheese: The Clay
An excellent cheese tasting starts with great cheeses. And like a great sculptor, consider surface and space, whether a platter, wood board or dining table, when planning your cheeses. Engage your guests by serving a flurry of fromage—a hard parmesan, a softer butterkäse or fresh burrata, and for adventurous foodies, a blue like Salemville® Amish Blue, Roth Buttermilk Blue® or Hook’s EWE CALF to be KIDding!™, or conversation starters like Wood River Creamery™ Cheddar Gruyere Black Truffle, Kindred Creamery Ghost Pepper Colby Jack or Cello® Mayan Cocoa & Coffee Fontal.
Plan one ounce of each cheese (double it if someone from Wisconsin is there!) and at least two ounces of charcuterie per person, scaling the amounts up or down based on your menu. Serve cheeses and charcuterie at room temperature to fully appreciate their flavors.
Batons, Wedges and More: Creative Shapes
Earn style points by cutting cheeses into bite-sized wedges, triangles, batons and rectangles; creatively arrange them into pretty sunbursts, neatly stack or shingle like cards. Sensory qualities differ from cheese just beneath the rind to the center of the wheel, so cut pieces equally with the same rind-to-paste ratio. Shape sliced charcuterie into roses or rolls, or sample spicy 'nduja or decadent smoked salmon.
Gourmet Accompaniments: The Finishing Touch
Add beauty to your cheese board with accompaniments that vary in colors, tastes and textures. Don’t skimp—having a scrumptious and abundant presentation is essential. For maximum visual impact, place the cheeses first and then fill in any negative space with added items.
Seasonal fresh and dried fruits, toasted nuts, pickled vegetables, cured meats, seedy and spiced crackers, dips, and condiments like pumpkin butter and chutneys are tasty options that lend interest. Add pops of green with fresh herbs. Also, up your cheese board game by including something unexpected like candy, global ingredients or an item from the snack aisle, such as caramel corn or potato chips.
Theme presentations and use them as centerpieces for special occasions. Explore specific color palettes, create cheese and coffee bar pairings, or tailgate with a Bloody Mary board and all the fixings. Another idea? Create a dessert cheese board with lemon bars, chocolates or mini candy bars, pretzels, gourmet nuts, preserves, berries and cookies. Accompaniments are meant to complement, contrast, amplify or balance the sensory experience of the cheese. Consider pairing ingredients based on these principles:
Coordinate Similar Aromatics and Flavor Profiles
Serving a nutty cheese like Marieke® Gouda Plain Mature with a Pearson’s Salted Nut Roll will amplify and intensify the nutty-tasting experience.
Opposites do attract. Pairing sweet honey with the earthy, salty flavors of a blue like Treasure Cave® Blue moderates the cheese’s intensity while puff pastry cuts through its creaminess.
Strive for Balance
A light fresh cheese like BelGioioso Ricotta con Latte® pairs best with delicate flavor and texture like in lemon curd. Richer, assertive cheeses like a well-aged cheddar can easily drown out the tastes of lighter accoutrements.
Acidic flavors in wine, vinegar and berries enhance the tasting. But they also cut through the butterfat and richness in cheeses. Deer Creek® The Stag dolloped with cranberry sauce is a notable bite.
The Big Cheese: Marissa Mullen
Best-selling author, the creator of the Cheese By Numbers method, the founder of That Cheese Plate, including two how-to cookbooks and a global community for cheese plate inspiration and recipes, and a guest speaker at the Art of Cheese Festival, Marissa Mullen shares how to create the cheese board of your dreams.
What cheeses do you add to a cheese board?
I serve a variety of cheeses with different textures, flavors or intensities. It’s nice to offer a range of options for guests to enjoy. For example, I include a soft cheese like brie, a hard cheese like parmesan and a semisoft cheese like young gouda. Flavors can cover intensities from mild havarti to sharp aged cheddar and a robust blue.
What styling tricks elevate a cheese board?
Make it easy on guests by cutting hard cheeses ahead of time. I love making “rustic crumbles” from my aged cheddar; it’s a more interesting take on cheese cubes. Charcuterie can be difficult to handle out of the package; I fold meat slices so guests can freely graze. Or make a curvy line of salami down the center of the plate, which I coined the “salami river.” I like to serve crackers alongside a cheese plate, but to get guests started, I create a few “cracker stacks.” To do this, I stack crackers and place them on the board vertically. It creates texture and provides a vehicle for the cheese.
Photo credit: Marissa Mullen
Ideas for attention-grabbing accompaniments?
garnish with edible flowers and fresh herbs to add texture. Add funky elements to your plate during the holidays, like a mini gourd for Halloween, or use a cookie cutter to cut cheeses into hearts for Valentine’s Day!
What are some of your favorite bites?
I’m a fan of sweet and salty pairings; cheddar paired with salami and fig jam is a favorite. I also love spreading creamy brie on a baguette and adding sweet blueberry jam. Another favorite is super sharp cheddar paired with grainy mustard—for extra kick, I add half-sour pickles. It’s the perfect tangy bite.