Building The Perfect Cheese + Salumi Board
Building the perfect cheese and salumi board isn't as hard as all the "instagram cheesemonger celebrities" make it look, we stick to a few simple principles and if you follow these rules your platters will be the star of your next dinner or date night!
1. Variety is king.
- More types of cheese, salumi and accoutrements will make your board look and taste more exciting, it's fine to have 1 big centerpiece cheese (a big hunk of triple creme, a harbison, or some monster wedge of gouda) but make sure to have smaller amounts of more things, the fun of a cheese board is trying out different flavor combinations. Even if you are only going to have 3 cheese and 2 meats, go crazy with the accoutrements, fruit, jams, mustards, crackers, bread, nuts, pickles the more the merrier. If you are looking to take a pretty photo, the accoutrements will make or break it, cheese and charcuterie are pretty homogenous in terms of color palette so you need some bright fruits and jams to break up the visuals.
2. Know your audience!
-If making a board for friends or a larger group, free your mind and palate from your own particular tastes, of course have somethings on the board that you love but be adventorous and step outside of your comfort zone to find new styles and flavor profiles that you might not go for, a diverse group is the best time to take a chance on a new cheese because there is bound to be someone at the party who eats every style as long as its cheese!
-for smaller groups or family where you know every little thing about the people who will be enjoying the board, be more selective, don't go off the walls (unless that is how you family is, in which case bravo). Either, 1. Pick something that you think each person will like and build a board around that or 2. Choose to be the monger, pick cheeses that are similar to what people usually buy but a little different and be the cheeseboard dictator, make sure to take lots of notes from your cheesemonger or do your own research so you can give everyone a run down and prime them to try things that don't look like what they are used to.
3. A 1/4 Lb is not very much...
Is a 1/4 Lb the right size for a cheese plate? Probably not, if you are making a cheese plate for a very small group and it's just for a snack a 1/4 lb of 3 cheeses will be ok, but if you have 10 people that 1/4 lb is going to disapear before 1/2 of them get a chance to taste it. We recommend 1oz of each cheese per person for the first 4 cheese then a 1/2 oz for any additional cheeses.
- Walk into a small cheese shop and there is a very good chance the unit of pricing will be 1/4 lbs, this is how we handle sticker shock for artisans small producer cheese (good milk is $, turn that into great cheese and it becomes $$, put it in the hands of a small shop with high overhead who takes care of their cheeses as well as they do their staff and you are looking at $$$) The goodnews is, good cheese and salumi while expensive are worth it, you are supporting small farms and good agriculture, you are supporting small business and the local economy, and you are eating something truly delicious its a WIN WIN WIN WIN!
So why do cheese shops price by the 1/4 lb? Because rarely do you need a lb of camembert or taleggio, so by pricing things in the increment you are likely to buy it you can see that the difference between Alpage (summer mountain milk) Gruyere Reserve and Regular 6 Month Gruyere is only $2 when you are looking at a smaller piece, why not check out the more interesting farmstead version?