One could survive off cheese boards. Crackers/bread (grains, check), meats/nuts (protein, check), veggies & fruit (check), dairy (cheese and more cheese, double check). Plus they are served on a super chic slab of wood or marble. And they go really well with wine and beer. Bonus! And there is minimal prep and minimal clean-up.
So, if you think you have to spend hours in the kitchen making little cute finger foods one by one you are totally overthinking this. Get on over to TJ Maxx or Marshall’s if you don’t want to spend a lot on a board and pick up a few (I know their selection can vary, but more times than not you will find a pile stacked up). I also love the offerings at Crate & Barrel. They have large and small ones that are also reasonably priced if you prefer that style.
I have at least five cheese boards – some are larger and others are quite small. Some are marble with glass covers. Some are technically “cutting boards”, but I like the wider rectangle shape if they are being placed on numerous tables. Easier to walk around with. But, it all depends on what you have planned. If you have a long table or island, then the long skinny cheese board would be great so lots of people can have access. We know how people love to hang out in the kitchen. It must be a survival mechanism programmed into our DNA from cavemen. Think about it. It’s smart – close to food and booze. You leave, you might lose.
Cheese boards are also perfect for a quick afternoon snack at the lake, cabin, oceanfront Airbnb, backyard patio, watching a fall football game on TV….wherever your happy place is. This is all you have to do…
- Grab a board and a few little ramekins or bowls
- Dig through refrigerator for cheese, meats (think salumi) jams, olives, fruit, and veggies
- Dig through pantry for crackers, nuts, and craisins
- Check your freezer for a forgotten baguette
- Arrange your cheese on the board – usually 3 chunks are good. Spreadable cheese like a brie works or even cream cheese if you are short on supplies. Nobody’s judging! I like cream cheese!
- Snuggle a bunch of grapes in the middle. Slice up some pears or apples, too.
- Put smaller things that roll around like olives and nuts in small ramekins
- If you found a good jam or fruit spread put that in a ramekin, too.
- Tuck different crackers here and there or slice up that baguette. You can either leave it soft or quickly toast the slices in the oven with olive oil for some crunch.
- Remember cheese knives, spreaders and napkins. Offer a small plate, but many people stand around, eat right off the board and socialize. Either way works!
- Crack open a bottle of wine or two and set out some beer. It doesn’t matter what kind.
- Side note – If you have no idea on the wine then I would suggest something on the lighter side like an Italian Pinot Grigio such as Conte Fini Valdadige or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for a white. Even an unoaked Sonoma Chardonnay would be fun. Like it sweeter? Go for a Riesling.
- In the land of reds, look for a Pinot Noir from Oregon or Washington State. Or even a Dolcetto. It’s a grape grown in Italy and means “little sweet one”. I would say heavier than a Pinot Noir, but not as bold as a Cab. And, no it is not “sweet”. It is on the dry side with some tannins. Want a sweeter red with a hint of bubbly? Then go for a chilled Lambrusco. I also love a good cold Prosecco on a hot day – Italian sparkling wine. Look for Villa Sandi or Adami Bosca. Whew. That should get you started.
The cheese board presentation is classy and sophisticated even though you spent a total of 15 minutes putting it all together. The other bonus is if you have a big turkey on the grill or a lasagna in the oven your guests won’t stuff themselves silly on heavy appetizers.
*Tip – in some higher end grocery stores check around the cheese counter. They might have a little basket of “odds & ends”. Grab a handful of those – it’s a fun way to taste test different cheeses without a big commitment.