Picture this: You’re at a party, rubbing shoulders with old friends and enjoying a glass of wine. Then, you see it: The cheese board in all it’s ooey, gooey glory. Your eyes light up and you spend the foreseeable future perched over all the brie, gouda, and asiago your stomach can handle.
There’s a reason most (if not, all) of us are obsessed with cheese boards.
“When one appears at a party, there's a sense of excitement in the room,” explains Marissa Mullen, founder and creative director of That Cheese Plate. “From their aesthetic beauty to the delicious pairings, everyone always gravitates towards the cheese plate. It's the ultimate conversation starter.”
Meet the Expert
Marissa Mullen is the founder of That Cheese Plate, the internet's go-to source for cheese plate inspiration, and the creator of the Cheese by Numbers method.
Plus, as Mullen argues, you don’t need to be a cheese aficionado to appreciate the art of a beautiful board.
“There's also something for everyone on a cheese plate,” she adds.”Love cheese and meats? The cheese plate has got you covered. Vegetarian? The plate has delicious produce and crunchy snacks to choose from.”
Want to wow the crowd with a cheeseboard of your very own? Mullen breaks down six easy steps to the dreamy, delicious spread of your dreams.
Step One: Choose Your Cheese
“It's always nice to have a combination of flavors and textures on your cheese board,” Mullen says. “I like to use a combination of something soft, something hard, and something stinky.”
She adds brie, gruyere, and blue can be a great combination. Once you find the cheese that whets your appetite, it’s important to slice your cheese accordingly and spread your slices out so they can breathe.
“Always pre-slice your hard cheese so its easy for the guests to graze,” Mullen adds “I've been to countless parties where there's a massive hunk of cheddar on the plate and no proper knife to cut into it. Sometimes if you pre-cut soft cheese it will start to ooze too early, so I like to keep those in tact.”
Want to take your cheese plate to the next level? Mullen recommends letting your cheese warm up to room temperature for about 45 minutes for maximum flavor.
Step Two: Make Way for Meat
Who doesn’t love to pair a slice of brie with a thin-cut salami? Anyone can plop some prosciutto on a cheese board but if you want to make your board pop, give your meats an artful twist.
“I coined the term ‘salami river’ to highlight the meat down the center of the plate,” Mullen says, adding sopressata and prosciutto are great alternatives. “To create a salami river, fold a slice in half, and in half again. Repeat until salami goes from one end of the board to the other, then curve in a ‘river’ shape.”
Go ahead, let the compliments come rolling in...
Step Three: Place Some Produce
Sure, cheese boards aren’t necessarily referred to as “healthy,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t add some fruits and vegetables to the mix.
“Make your produce ‘ponds’ on the plate—continuing with this landscape theme,” she says. “Create small piles of similar produce around the board, leaving some space for your crunchy items.”
Mullen recommends using dried berries, fresh vegetables, and olives for your cheesy masterpiece.
Step Four: Create Some Crunch
When it comes to building a beautiful cheese board, texture is key. You already have the smooth creaminess of the cheese and juicy fruits, so why not add some crunch?
“Fill in the gaps with mixed nuts, seeds, and crackers,” she says. “I always put a cracker plate on the side as well for easy refiling.”
For the perfect crunch, Mullen favors marcona almonds and flatbread crackers.
Step Five: Decide on Your Dip
With so many types of cheese, meats, and accoutrements to devour, adding some dips feels like a no-brainer.
“Fill your empty ramekins with a compote or honey,” Mullen says. “You can also go with a savory vibe and use mustard or pepper jam!”
Psst...she also has a hankering for fig jam.
Step Six: Top it Off
Before you present your cheese board for your guests to see, top off your board with some fresh, fragrant herbs.
“Garnish your plate with fresh thyme, rosemary, and cranberries,” she says. “Fresh herbs add a pop of color and smell amazing. I also like to use edible flowers from the farmer's market in the summertime to add that cherry on top.”
And voilà! A dreamy cheeseboard that appeals to all the senses.
Want to share your decadent cheese board with the world? Mullen encourages you to snap a picture and tag @ThatCheesePlate on Instagram.