A "HOW TO" TO THE CHEESE BOARD

 What's so great about cheese & charcuterie boards you may ask?! WELL, let me tell you... THE CHEESE! Am I right or am I right?

Cheese & Charcuterie [coming to you next week] boards are beautiful platters that all your guests will love. The variety of cheeses, fruits, crackers, meats and nuts leaves something on the board for everyone! These boards are really fun to make, you can take them to an extreme and pack all the good stuff on for larger parties or keep it simple for a wine night. I love love love to layer boards as well. Below is a simple marble slab I used. However, most of the time I would of stacked two other wooden cutting boards on either side, securely hanging over to another board to expand my space. Also, placing a cake platter in the middle or the top right or left corner can show case an item, maybe like wild honey - always beautiful and adds dimension. They are also conversation starters, great to pair with for a wine night and most of the time you can always "throw" one together with what you have in your fridge. 

Yes, you can totally use a regular knife, it will get the job done! However, once you become a wizard with these boards, every artisan needs the right tools for the job! All of the tools above I purchased from Crate & Barrel. The Hayes marble cheese knives come in a set and I think they are a great place to start. The knife with a smaller blade is for soft cheeses, pointed blade for hard cheeses and the wedge blade is for everything in between. To the left is the Beckham wire cheese cutter (also sold at Crate & Barrel). When I tell you it has worked on every cheese I have ever used,  I aint lying! 

HOW TO PICK YOUR CHEESES:

Cheese vary in size, shape, texture and color. A good rule of thumb is to pick 3-6 types of cheeses to serve. You want to make sure they all range from hard to soft. There are hard cheeses, semifirm cheeses, blue cheeses, semisoft cheeses, soft-ripened cheeses, double & triple crème cheese, chèvres and who knows maybe I'm missing a few but those are the main ones. Below I'll break down what type of cheese would be in each category. 

HARD CHEESES:

  • Asiago - This cheese is made from part-skim cow's milk and has a rich nutty flavor. I like to pair this with olives and bread.  *** WHAT I USED ON MY BOARD ***

  • Dry Jack - This is a monterey jack cheese that is aged 6 months to 2 years. It is very good with apples, plums and figs.

  • Parmigiano-Reggiano - Ugh I love the King of Italian grating cheeses, known to be shaved but it also very good sliced with pears, honey & walnuts!

Side note: I read that hard cheeses pair well with wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

SEMIFIRM CHEESES:

  • Aged Sheep's-milk cheeses (there is a variety of these cheeses)

    • Feta can be an example

    • Manchego *** WHAT I USED ON MY BOARD ***

    • Etorki
  • Cheddar - Best when aged at least 6 months and paired with apples and grapes
  • Emmenthaler - This is the original Swiss cheese and great with plums
  • Gruyère - This is heartier swiss cheese and great with flavored sausages (next week when I do a charcuterie (meats) board I will add this cheese!

Side note: I read that Semifirm cheeses pair well with wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrabs. 

BLUE CHEESES:

Blue cheeses range from soft, creamy, and mild to intense and firm, here are some varieties...

  • Blue de Bresse - Creamy, mild blue - great with figs
  • Gorgonzola - Rich & pungent - great in salads
  • May tag Blue - Tangy blue - great with poached pears and roasted figs
  • Roquefort - A pungent, aged sheep's-milk blue - great with figs & nuts
  • Stilton - Very rich in flavor and leaves and aftertaste - great with grapes
  • Hervé Mons Bleu des Causses - Only made with cows milk and has a sweet and spicy flavor thats creamy and light in texture. *** WHAT I USED ON MY BOARD ***

Side note: I read that blue cheeses pair well with wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. 

 I always start with my hard cheeses at the left and make my way over the board to my softer cheeses. The top left is an herbed asiago and right below that is the Manchego (semihard).

I always start with my hard cheeses at the left and make my way over the board to my softer cheeses. The top left is an herbed asiago and right below that is the Manchego (semihard).

SEMISOFT CHEESES:

  • Fontina - Creamy cow's milk cheese with a mild, nutty flavor ***WHAT I USED ON MY BOARD***
  • Gouda & Edam - all purpose cheeses - great with apples & pears
  • Morbier - Aromatic cow's-milk cheese with vegetable ash and has a nutty taste
  • Muenster - Ranges form mild to assertive in flavor
  • Port Salut - Mild, creamy and very smooth texture

Side note: I read that semisoft cheeses pair well with wines like Riesling & Pinot Gris. 

SOFT-RIPENED CHEESES

These cheeses are big crown pleasers! When looking for these cheeses, look for one with a clean white rind. If the rind has line, dark spots, or a brownish tinge, the cheese may be overripe.

  • Brie -You know what Brie is don't ya ;) It is probably one of the most popular french cheeses in the US. Great when served with baguettes and juicy ripe peaches, pears and grapes.
  • Camembert - Rich, buttery & creamy cheese. Make sure not to cut it before it is fully ripened or you won't achieve its full potential. *** WHAT I USED ON MY BOARD ****

Side note: I read that soft-ripened cheeses pair well with wines like Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir.

DOUBLE & TRIPLE CREME CHEESES:

These are rich & luscious cow's-milk cheeses enriched with cream. I didn't use any of these on my board but are also some delicious options!

  • L'Explorateur -Smooth flavor, rich and buttery texture
  • Saint André - Creamy and buttery triple crème has a mildly sweet finish.

Side note: I read that semisoft cheeses pair well with wines like Chardonnay & Merlot.

CHÈVRES

  • Goat cheese - also know at "chèvre" it has a distinctive tart and tangy flavor. Some absolutely love it, some hate it. I love it and prefer it with melted blackberry or cranberries on top. Great with olives, capers, fruity olive oil, figs and grapes.
  • Boucheron - Smooth buttery texture with a medium-tart flavor.
  • Crottin - Button shaped goat cheeses are great served with drizzled olive oil, fresh herbs and ground pepper.
  • Montrachet - Soft, creamy texture great with figs & nuts.

Side note: I read that semisoft cheeses pair well with wines like Rosé, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

So I used a hard (Herbed Asiago) , semifirm (Manchego), blue (Hervé Mons Bleu des Causses) , semisoft (Fontina) and soft-ripened (Camembert) cheese for my board. I like to start at the top left with the hardest and make my way across to the softest. This is easy for you to remember when explaining to your guests. NOW the fun begins!!! Filling in with all the goodies...

I like to place specific fruits, crackers or nuts next to the cheeses that they pair well with. You want this to be as easy as possible for your guests and to naturally lead them in the direction of deliciousness is the best way! I love olives with Asiago so I placed a mixture that I got from whole foods next to the Asiago and so on. Grapes go with pretty much everything so place them in a area that is more towards the middle. If you have a larger board double or triple up on the amount of grapes.

I also make sure the baguettes as well as honey are always next to the soft ripened cheese, in this case - Camembert. Honey on top of cheese & a baguette is heavenly! 

Serving wild honey in a honey comb is always a "wow factor"! Guests love it and find it different and so beautiful, I got mine from whole foods which was expensive. If you have a local honey vendor nearby that is the best bet! 

I also LOVE adding different kinds of dips & spreads. My favorite is kalamata olive spread but I didn't have any at the moment so I used a roasted red peppers dip. Having mini plates are prime so you can add a spread here and there around your board.

 SPREADS I CANT LIVE WITHOUT!

SPREADS I CANT LIVE WITHOUT!

Give a variety of baguettes and crackers for your guest to pair with different items. Below I added my favorite fig & olive crackers, great pair with cheese and sweetest items. Then the baguettes are more on the salty savory side.

 THESE ARE ALWAYS ON MY CHEESE/CHARCUTERIE BOARDS. BOTH PUBLIX & WHOLE FOODS SELL THEM!

THESE ARE ALWAYS ON MY CHEESE/CHARCUTERIE BOARDS. BOTH PUBLIX & WHOLE FOODS SELL THEM!

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I always try to make my board, seasonal. Using fruits & vegetables that are in season. Currents (red fruit on the bottom left) are rare to find and whole foods had them the other day so I had to add them. They added in so much color! 

Overall, let the cheeses tell the story and guide your guests. Placing them first helps you figure out where you are going to "fill in" with all the goodies. Right to left - hard to soft, place items that pair well next to one another, add variety of color with your fruits & vegetables (seasonal), I like to leave my cheese knives for guests to use, add spreads & dips from added taste and lastly remember to never leave anything behind! ;) 

I hope you enjoy and I would love to see your cheese boards if you happen to recreate your own! Tag us @nia_biaa on Instagram for a story repost!!!

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Marble slab is from Crate & Barrel! One of my best buys! Bar cart is from target!