The Perfect Holiday Cheese Board

If you’re anything like me, you love appetizers and pickies. In fact, at my wedding I demanded to attend the cocktail hour because I love that kind of food. With all that being said, I never miss an opportunity to put together a cheese board. Is there anything better than a charcuterie platter? The answer: no.

The equipment:

It is necessary to have the proper equipment when compiling a charcuterie platter. There are certain entertaining pieces that are essential to any home. A wooden cheese board and small ceramic white bowls are a few of these essentials. It is also important to have proper cheese knives.

My cheese board is a large rectangular wooden one with a silver handle. I love round wooden boards a lot, but I honestly could not find one big enough that I liked more than the rectangular one that found. The accent bowls I’m using are small white square tapas dishes. I found both of these items at Marshall’s actually for a really good price. I like Marshall’s for quirky and unique items.

I always like to have a large variety of cheeses.

The cheese:

If you’re interested in cheese I recommend visiting an actual fromagerie. “Fromagerie” is the French word for “cheese shop.” Local grocery stores do often have pretty good selections (especially Whole Foods), but an actual fromagerie will have much more in terms of quality and uniqueness. The other benefit of visiting an actual fromagerie is that the recommendations are genuine. Cheese is like wine. There are literally cheese experts who know how to find you exactly what you’re looking for.

Our local fromagerie is the Cheese Cave in Red Bank, New Jersey. Side note: if you’re interested in trying new cheeses, jams, etc., they have $5 Friday night cheese tastings  that are BYOB! It’s a lot of fun and definitely worth checking out! We also belong to the Cheese Cave’s monthly club and receive seasonal goodies and popular items to try. This month the cheeses in the selection were a p’tit basque, a comté, and a pumpkin spice chèvre. I also picked up a camembert-roquefort bleu.

These are the cheeses I will be using on my board. P’tit basque is a sheep’s milk cheese that is semi-hard. I bought it in a semi-circle shape to texturize the board. A comté comes from cow’s milk and is completely hard. I cut the comté into sharp triangles to add additional texture to the board. A chèvre is a soft cheese made from goat’s milk. I’m super exited that it’s pumpkin spice flavored! Admittedly I am not a pumpkin spice fan, but its seasonal. And finally, the camembert-roquefort bleu is a combination of cow and sheep’s milk. I wanted to have a lot of variety included on the board so I made sure that I had a cheese from all the major animal’s milk. I will also be including a sharp cheddar for those guests who are not fans of the other cheese selections. It’s a classic and it’s always important to serve what one’s guests will enjoy.

I loved how the rind of the p’tit basque looked so I made sure it was visible.

The meats:

There are many options in terms of meats one can feature on a charcuterie platter. I am using two. The first is from Olli Salumeria and is a fennel pollen salami infused with Sangiovese wine. I picked it up at the Cheese Cave while I was there at the recommendation of the shop owner. The second meat is a Gusto black peppercorn sopressata. Both of these meats are hard and have a very punchy flavor. I cut both of the meats into very thin slices. Sometimes these kinds of meats are rather tough, and slicing them thin makes the quantity seem larger.

The fruit:

I love pairing cheese with fruit. Not only are the flavors so complimentary and bright, but the colors of the various fruit look awesome on the platter. I picked up some dried Turkish apricots, fresh pomegranate, figs, and chocolate covered cherries. Just like the variety of cheeses, it’s important to have a variety of fruits. The board will have some dried selections, fresh selections, and even chocolate selections. It’s not overly traditional to feature chocolate on a charcuterie platter, but who doesn’t love chocolate and cheese together?

I purchased the dried apricots in bulk from Whole Foods. I picked up the pomegranate and figs from Whole Foods, also. The chocolate covered cherries I ordered from Harry & David.

The pomegranate adds a unique flavor and brilliant ruby-like color, which is a plus. Anything with bursts of color is great on a board. The apricots have a rather dark color but have such a great flavor when pared with, particularly, the chèvre. Figs are beautiful on a board, and the chocolate covered cherries added a different kind of sweet flavor to the board.

The color of the pomegranate is so brilliant.

The bread:

Again: variety. Some people like water crackers, and some people do not. Some people like cheesy bread, and some people do not. Variety is important because it’s essential to have something for all of your guests.

I picked up crisps from 34 Degrees, Toast for cheese from The Fine Cheese Co., and Italian-style cheese sticks from Whole Foods. The crisps and toasts were found at the Cheese Cave. The crisps are whole grain and the toasts have cherries, almonds, and linseeds baked in them. These breads have different shapes and textures and will look great on the board.

The veggies:

I like veggies on the board for more color and texture, just like with the fruits. I picked up a seedless cucumber. It’s a fresh, water-based veggie that has a great crisp. I also picked up some cornichons. I like the vinegar flavor of the little pickles to accompany the cheese. Plus, they look adorable. I also picked up a variety of olives; all of which add different flavors to the board.

Jams & honey:

Sharp cheese flavor is often enhanced by a honey or jam. I have a regular organic honey that I picked up at a local grocery store and Toschi orange peel slices in syrup. The comté cheese is excellent dipped in honey.

The garnish:

What dish is complete without garnish? I picked up fresh sprigs of rosemary and sage for around the board, and whole walnuts and pecan halves. I think garnish adds an extra special touch to any dish. Plus, the nuts add another flavor. Be sure to include nutcrackers to your utensils if you choose to include whole walnuts or hazelnuts, etc.

The wine:

Did you really think this would be a post about cheese and not include wine? My husband and I are very interested in wine and love pairing it with yummy foods. Our favorite winery is Knob Hall in Maryland and Pennsylvania. We have family in Gettysburg, PA, so whenever we are in town we are sure to stop by the winery for a tasting and to pick up a few bottles.

I’m a red drinker, specifically a Cabernet Sauvignon fan. Although not a pure cab, Knob Hall’s “Prestige” wine is to die for. If you don’t have the ability to make it to PA or MD, “Decoy” by Duckhorn is pretty good. Duckhorn’s reserve wines are excellent, also, but if you want a good bottle that’s also economical, check out “Decoy.”

If you’re not a red wine drinker, I recommend French Blue’s rosé. It’s very refreshing and crisp, and it’s a good rosé that’s not too expensive.

The arrangement:

In terms of arrangement, have fun. Yes, everything should look good, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t have to look perfect. In fact, if it looks like a huge smorgasbord it will look even better.

I started by placing the white dishes where I though they would look best on the board. Then, I filled the board in around the dishes.

The finished product!

I hope you enjoyed my charcuterie board essentials! Let me know what you think!


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