By Melissa Worthington

As a Wisconsin native, I believe that cheese boards are a mandatory part of every holiday celebration. Not only are they beautiful and delicious but they’re also incredibly fun and easy to put together. And best of all, a good cheese board has something for everyone. From different types of cheese to sweet and savory snacks to crackers and cured meats, the best cheese boards leave no one behind; even your vegan friends!

To begin, having access to quality ingredients is key. The components of a great cheese board need to standalone, unaltered, so, starting with quality products is important. That said, I personally like to double down on a couple of my favorites, like Sartori BellaVitano or Carr Valley Glacier Wildfire Blue and then use more mainstream options to fill out the rest of the board while not breaking the bank.

Perfect Cheese Board

Here are the three main components you need to rock your cheeseboard:

THE BOARD:

You will need a platform of some type. You can get any size – wood, marble or slate. I love using a very large wood cutting board for a rustic feel. I would also suggest using some cute cheese knives so you can serve each cheese with its own knife. Flavor-mingling via a shared knife can be a taste crusher. Truth be told, I use paring knives in a pinch if I don’t have enough of the fancy cheese knives available. 😉

THE CHEESES:

You want a variety of textures and colors here. With so many brands of cheeses out there, try to pick some that are locally produced and from a variety of milk types (cow, goat, sheep…). Here are some guidelines for you to consider:

  • Soft: burrata, mozzarella, brie, chevre
     
  • Semi-Soft: blue, muenster, fontina, havarti, taleggio
     
  • Semi-Hard: manchego, swiss, provolone, gouda, edam
     
  • Hard: cheddar, parmesan, pecorino, asiago, romano
     
  • Dairy free: nut, soy, vegetable oils, tapioca

SUPPORTING ROLE:

The accompaniments are what take a cheese platter from meh to A-MEH-ZING! They go with the cheese and add a pop of color to your board to create Instagram worthy appeal. I like to try and balance sweet and savory without going too over the top. Supporting role ingredients include:

  • Bread/Crackers: baguette, crostini, multigrain crackers, water crackers, nut thins
     
  • Fresh fruits: raspberries, tangerines, grapes
     
  • Pickled items: olives, cornichon pickles, onions, mushrooms
     
  • Dried fruits: apricots, figs
     
  • Nuts: almonds, marcona almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts
     
  • Spreads: jams and jellies (pepper jelly is a HUGE hit in our house), chutney, honey, hummus
     
  • Garnish: rosemary, thyme, micro-greens

A word on nutrition: While it is generally understood that cheese can be high in calories, sodium and saturated fat, it is also a smart nutrition choice in moderation. Milk based cheese is a great source of calcium, fat, and protein and it also contains high amounts of vitamins A and B-12, along with zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Cheese made from the milk of 100 percent grass-fed animals is the highest in nutrients and also contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin K-2.

Once you have all the pieces, have fun assembling. Let your creativity shine and be prepared for lots of compliments! And, remember to share photos of your marvelous creations with us at marketing@ymcahouston.org.