If there's one thing my dad's taught me, it's that you should always save room for the cheese course. I, however, took that and ran with it, and frequently make it the only course. And why not, right? I mean, who doesn't love cheeses, meats, and carbs. Pepper in some fresh seasonal fruits, sweet spreads, pickles, nuts, and dried fruits, and I feel like you've got a complete meal... if not a meal then at least a really awesome party platter. Which brings me to the art of cheese (+ meat) platter building. Everyone's got their own idea of what makes a good platter great and 100% support that. And while there aren't any real rules, there are a few standards people usually adhere to. When I asked my dad if he's got any standards, he said, I do what I like. And I'm with him; just do you!
However, if you want some tips, here's how I build my ultimate board, aka Cheese (+Meat) Platter 101.
For the cheese, try to stick with three to five. Any more than that, and it starts to get overwhelming, and confusing. Here are the categories I typically try to fill:
- Funky: Think blue or something stinky. My dad's a huge Époisses fan and I feel like that could fit here or in the super creamy, soft category.
- Aged: I usually go for a somewhat firm cheese like aged cheddar or gouda, but you could totally go the aged goat route too.
- Soft: Think double or triple creams. I've been adding Vermont Creamery's Bijou or Cremont to pretty much every platter for as long as I can recall.
- Hard: My dad says look for crystals here like a good aged Parmigiano-Reggiano, however Manchego (one of my faves) works well too.
- Fresh: Ricotta, fresh goat cheese, farmer's, fresh mozzarella, etc. or in my case, Vermont Creamery's Coupole, which is technically aged but has a fresh tasting interior.
Side note, I always look for local or artisan made cheeses. Some of my favorites come from the farmers market or artisan markets.
Next, you'll need all the accoutrements, or flair if you will. Think of these as all the supporting cast. Usually not the stars, but just as important. I tend to go all out on these because I like options, but by no means feel like you've got to cover all these bases. This is just a guide.
- Meats: Variety is key here. I usually go with salame/salami and prosciutto/jamon serrano, but if you've got other favorites, def go with those.
- Fresh fruits: Seasonal!! I'm a firm believer in eating what's in season now, so head out to your local farmers market and check out what they've got. If you've got any doubts, ask them what they'd recommend!
- Sweet spreads: Preserves or honey are musts in my book. I am always looking for something to balance the salty goodness that is cheese and meat and a good honey or a fig spread or poha aka gooseberry jam from Maui is my jam. <-- (get it, jam?! hehe)
- Carbs: I'm all about the perfect meat to cheese to carby vehicle to sweet spread ratio, and usually give myself options. My current faves are sourdough baguette slices, Raincoast crisps (those yummy fruit+nut crackers), and La Panzanella black pepper mini croccantini.
- Nuts, dried fruits, and pickles: It's all about texture. Crunchy nuts, chewy, leathery dried fruits, and crisp pickles really round out a good platter.
And now, to put it all together. I generally try to make things as easy as possible. Break up the blue and the cheddar, to make them easy to grab. Slice the hard cheeses. Put the cheeses that are difficult to slice on the edges, so that you/your guests aren't fumbling around bumping all the other good stuff while trying to slice. Arrange the accoutrements around the cheeses. Basically, think about how you'd build your perfect bite then place all that stuff in the same area. Don't be afraid to pull out multiple boards/platters if the first one fills up. You don't need a giant board, you can have lots of little boards instead. Most important tip I've got is to have fun with it. Half the fun is building the thing, so get creative, and def snack as you go (shhh, I won't tell if you don't!).
And in case none of that made sense, Moses helped me map out my ultimate platter below! :D :D
A huge shoutout to all the dads today. Thanks for telling us kids to do what makes us happy, for fueling our creativity, and for checking us with the good ole "KISS: keep it simple stupid" when we start to overthink things. Happy Father's Day!