how to: build a cheese board

This past weekend, a couple good friends came out to San Francisco. After sending them off to explore miles and miles of the city, we took them up to wine country for a picnic and wine tasting in Sonoma.

There are some picnics that call for half-smushed PBJ sandwiches and Oreos. There are other picnics that require something a little classier… like a DIY cheese and charcuterie board!

Few things make me feel more accomplished and fancy than assembling my own cheese board. You’ll feel like the classiest human to ever walk this Earth, even after you dust off the bottle of emergency Two Buck Chuck in your pantry to go with your cheese board.

Maybe. Bottom line, a DIY cheese board is always impressive and easy. Read on for how I setup my cheese boards!

Cheese

I try to get a mix of cheeses — funky, soft, firm, and aged cheeses. This generally ensures that there’s a wide selection of flavors for everyone to enjoy.  My personal favorites include…

  • The funky: Gorgonzola, Point Reyes Blue
  • The old: Aged Cheddar, Gouda
  • The soft : Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog goat cheese
  • The firm: Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano

There’s no need to go overboard with the number of varieties. Believe it or not, there is such thing as too much cheese. I’d suggest having 2-3 types for parties under 6, 3-4 for parties under 12, and 4 to 5 for bigger crowds.

Charcuterie

Adding some charcuterie (when your non-vegetarian friends are around) is a good way to add a little salt and color to the board. Since charcuterie isn’t meant to be eaten in large quantities, focus on getting enough for everyone to try. My favorites include…

  • Prosciutto
  • Coppa
  • Salami
  • Pâté (if you’re feeling extra fancy)

As for portioning, I’d recommend selecting 2 varieties for small parties, 3 varieties for mid-sized crowds, and 4 varieties for big bashes.

(Hip delis are cool… but we usually buy a 2-pack of charcuterie meats from Costco, because Costco is everything.)

Crackers & bread

Get a little bit of everything to vary the texture for the cheese board.

I like to keep crackers flavorless. The main star is the cheese and charcuterie, so avoid those rosemary olive oil crackers that you crush by the box.

My recommendations include Mary’s Gone Crackers (great for your gluten-free friends), water crackers, and whole wheat crackers. Trader Joe’s is also a great place to look — they carry all kinds of fun crackers.

In SF, we’re lucky to have access to bakeries with fantastic baguettes and other sour dough loaves. My personal favorite is the Pain Au Levain from Acme Bread in SF (of course, any good sourdough baguette will do).

Everything else

The rest is my favorite part — the extra garnishes to customize your cheese board. If I have the time, I like to sprinkle in a few extras like…

  • Roasted nuts: almonds, walnuts
  • Dried fruit: raisins, figs, apricots
  • Fresh fruit: berries, apples, or grapes
  • Other condiments: raw honey, fig jam, balsamic vinegars, whole grain mustards
  • Chocolate: A little dark chocolate really adds a nice touch, especially when there’s red wine on the menu

The extra bit really adds to the look and complements everything on your board nicely.

The final pièce de résistance is a nice wooden board (or this Indiana-shaped bamboo cutting board from my dad), a good cheese knife, a pretty view, and some good friends to share with. There you have it!

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