When it comes to entertaining, I’m all about making it easy and fun. Long gone are the days of fussy dishes and multiple courses. Instead, simple, local and in-season ingredients, and an approachable presentation can be a win win for you and your guests. And, when in doubt, put it all on a board! Who doesn’t love a platter piled high with a variety of vegetables, fruits, cheeses and crackers? Recently I've been using The Cheeseboard Deck, a card deck with creative ideas for styling and presenting food, and it's been a great source of inspiration to help me get started. Here are a few tips I've picked up for creating a custom cheeseboard at home…
I'm a big fan of serving a cheeseboard, whether I'm hosting a gathering or enjoying a quiet night at home with Jeffrey. But, I often get stumped when it comes to pairing different cheeses and choosing the right accoutrements. This is where The Cheese Board Deck from Meg Quinn comes in. It includes a card deck with 50 creative ideas for styling and presenting food platters. Each card has a theme, list of ingredients, tips for creating the cheeseboard and recipes too, plus a photo on the front to reference when arranging. I recently put the "Summer Nights" cheese board together, and not only was it super easy, but so pretty and delicious too. (If you're vegan, all of these ideas can be swapped with vegan cheeses and spreads).
When it comes to choosing cheeses, Quinn recommends a mix of soft and hard, familiar and more adventurous. I went with the Toma, a semi-hard table cheese, Humboldt Fog, a semi-soft goats milk cheese, and Miyokos Double Cream Garlic and Herb cashew cheese. When you start arranging your cheeseboard (I used this Round Marble Board), start with the larger items like blocks of cheese and bowls first, and distribute evenly to maintain balance. To smooth out the more pungent cheeses, I included a sweet fig spread as well.
Next up, I added in an assortment of fresh, seasonal fruit, like raspberries, blackberries, and grapes. Not only are they delicious paired with cheese, but the colors really make the board pop, giving it a more dynamic look. The black grapes only ripen at the end of summer, so they are especially decadent to add to a cheeseboard this time of year.
Every great cheeseboard has an assortment of crackers. But to keep the platter colorful with a focus on cheese and fruit, I only included a small stack of the Raincoast Oat Cranberry Crisps. I will put out an additional bowl or plate of crackers on the side too. And to make this board ahead of time, prepare it without the crackers, then add them in just before serving.
I try to eat local and in season as much as possible, so fresh figs were a must to include and balance out flavors. I cut a few in halves and quarters and tucked them by the grapes and raspberries. Fresh figs and cheese are a heavenly combination, especially when paired with more pungent cheeses, plus they add a unique texture to your cheeseboard too.
Lastly, I snipped some fresh sprigs of rosemary from the garden as a garnish. This adds a natural element to the cheeseboard to help round it out. And not only does it smell amazing, but it's super easy to grow at home too. Alternatively, you could use mint, thyme, or even fresh flowers – bonus points if they're edible.
What's better than sundown with a beautiful cheese board al fresco paired with a glass of rose or a cocktail on a warm summer evening? I've always enjoyed putting together cheese plates, but The Cheese Board Deck takes it to the next level, and really helps you understand pairings with added styling tricks. And it's fun too!
This is just one of many ideas from The Cheese Board Deck, which includes everything from an Italian antipasti platter to a vegan board and dessert boards too. You can even make a meal out of it and feature a breakfast, lunch or dinner platter. I look forward to utilizing many more of these creative ideas for larger gatherings and upcoming holidays. I hope you find it useful too!