June 4th is National Cheese Day and, though we don’t need any extra motivation to fill a wood cutting board with a pile of our favorite cheeses, a nationally recognized day does give us a good excuse to get cheesy.

A well-crafted cheese board is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Not only are cheese boards full of delicious cheese (and other treats), they can also be beautiful. A pretty cutting board topped with a thoughtfully selected trio of cheeses, plus a few accoutrements, that’s heaven.

For cheese novices, creating one of those boards can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

Over the years, we’ve learned a thing or two about how to construct a show-stopping cheese board. Here are a few tips we’ve picked up along the way:

First, Experiment

The Wine Source in Baltimore is one of our favorite spots to buy cheese and wine, and its cheesemonger, Adam Engle, is one of the best in the business.

When it comes to selecting cheeses, he suggests keeping an open mind. If you try a wide variety of cheeses, you’re bound to discover new things, he told us.

"If you try different types of cheese and taste different milks and cheese from different regions, your curiosity will be piqued,” he promised us.

Next, Mix It Up

Once you know what you like, there are a bunch of ways to approach cheese board organization. Here are a few things to consider when you’re choosing which cheeses to include:

  • Region: Where a cheese is made influences how it tastes (just like where a wine is made does). Stick with one region for the entire board, or deliberately go global. Either approach works.
  • Milk: Sheep, goat, cow – they’re all good. As with region, you can feature the cheeses of just one animal or mix it up, as long as you know what you’re serving.
  • Pungency: When you’re serving, it makes sense to organize and eat the cheeses in terms of pungency. Eat milder cheeses first and save the strong stuff for the end. Otherwise, the stronger cheese will overpower your taste buds.
  • Texture: Flavor should drive cheese selection – pick cheeses that taste good to you! – but texture matters, too. The most interesting cheese boards include a variety of textures, from creamy to crumbly to hard.
  • Color: Blue cheese is delicious (if you’re into that sort of thing) – but it also has an extra added benefit: It’s pretty. A cutting board that’s filled with white and yellow cheeses is nice, but one that includes a few pops of color is even better.

Finally, Think Beyond Cheese

Yes, it’s called a “cheese” board. But that doesn’t mean the cutting board should be filled with cheese and only cheese. Cured meats are a fabulous addition to a board and pair well with most cheeses.

Here’s something else to consider: Cheese is, by its nature, rich and fatty. That’s why we love it. But tastes and textures are elevated when you add their opposites. So in addition to fatty cheeses and meats, add something a little lighter to your cheese board.

Grapes, fruit purees, apple slices, olives – these all act as great foils for cheese. As an extra bonus, they might add a little splash of color to the board, too.

Take the cutting board in the photo above, for example. A handful of grapes, a few meats and a selection of three cheeses that are diverse in every way.

 Who could resist that? I know we can’t.

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