Create the perfect cheese tray with these tips, tricks, and cheese board ideas from a professional cheesemonger! From what cheeses to choose to what to pair them with.
The perfect cheese board is a thing of beauty.
No party seems complete without it. It’s the ideal appetizer—a great snack for grazing on game night or for pairing with wine during a date. It’s fun, engaging, easy. And who doesn’t love a perfectly composed cheese tray?
Last weekend, I chatted with a professional cheesemonger at the Fred Meyer in Coeur d’Alene to learn how to create the perfect board.
Fred Meyer is one of my favorite grocery stores, and I love shopping at the one in gorgeous Coeur d’Alene. The Fred Meyer there has a Murray’s cheese counter that offers nearly 200 different cheeses. I’ve been in love with Murray’s Cheese since I went to culinary school in New York City 12 years ago and frequented the Greenwich Village shop.
The fact that I can still shop at Murray’s when I live across the country is amazing. And one stop at the CDA Fred Meyer will make it evident why Forbes Magazine called Murray’s “the world’s top cheese shop.”
They not only have cheese, but all of the accompaniments, olives, pickles, and charcuterie you could want.
And, best of all, they have knowledgeable cheesemongers who can help.
If you have questions, look for someone in a red chef jacket.
These cheesemongers complete the Murray’s Red Jacket Training, where they undergo training and education regarding Murray’s extensive cheese varieties.
I chatted with Deana, the store’s cheese specialist, to get her best tips and cheese board ideas. Where do we start? What cheese families should you include? And what do we pair with them?
Deana knows cheese, and she knows cheese well. I followed her around the store as she explained all of the different varieties Fred Meyer sells, having me feel and smell different cheeses to learn about their textures and aromas.
While we were chatting, other cheese masters were doling out samples topped with local hot honey or portioning and wrapping giant wheels of cheese.
“You can’t sell something you know nothing about,” Deana tells me. Which is why the team at Fred Meyer receives so much education and training, she further explains. Continuing, daily education is also important to the company. The cheesemongers are required to taste three new cheeses every day, noting their texture, color, and aroma. Sounds like the best job ever, right?
I picked Deana’s brain for her best cheese board ideas for entertaining.
When it comes to creating the perfect cheese board, Deana advises these three things:
1. Don’t just choose cheeses you like. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and create a versatile board. “When doing a spread, I like to keep family of cheeses in mind as well as color and textures,” Deana says.
2. Pay attention to the accompaniments. The accompaniments that you choose for the cheeses can really elevate and balance them, or do the opposite.
3. Ask for help! The team at Fred Meyer are always ready to answer your questions or give you samples of cheeses. They can even create the board for you, if you prefer. Deana and her team create custom cheese boards for sale, and she notes that you could even bring in your own tray if you’d like.
Let’s explore how to create the ultimate cheese board, step-by-step.
Cheese Board Ideas: Creating the Perfect Board
Cheese board 101 in three simple steps.
You might wonder exactly what cheeses to include in your board. Deana suggests not shopping by cheeses you personally like, but including a variety of different cheese families. This way there’s something for everyone.
Also think about texture (soft and firm cheeses), color, and flavors. Include flavored cheeses like Fromager D’Affinois with herbs or a blueberry goat cheese.
Here are some families to consider:
Blue—Roquefort; Stilton; Gorgonzola; Cashel Blue.
Brie/Creamy—Humboldt Fog; Triple Cream Brie; La Tur.
Cheddar—English Cheddar; Cotswold; High Plains Cheddar; Smoked Cheddar.
Firm—Taleggio; Jarlsberg; Manchego; Gouda; Bellavitano.
Soft—Fromager D’Affinois; Burrata; Mont d’Or.
Melting—Fontina; French Raclette; Pecorino Fresco.
Goat—Chèvre; Bijou; Sainte-Maure.
Sheep—Moliterno; Manchego; Roncal.
Smoked/Flavored—Smoked Gouda; Drunken Goat; Cabra Romero; Dill Havarti; Smokey Blue.
What’s a great cheese board without some fruit and crackers, right?
But when it comes to discovering creative cheese board ideas, think outside the box.
Keep the essentials: crackers, bread, fruit, olives, and nuts.
But feel free to add some unexpected extras.
For my cheese board, I chose raw raspberry honey, spiced cherry preserves, spicy Dijon, artisan pickles, and sea salt Marcona almonds. For fruit, you don’t always have to choose apples. Fresh berries, blood oranges, and any seasonal fruit works well. I like to include some veggies for crunch, and sliced radishes make for a nice gluten-free ‘cracker’ for cheese.
The Murray’s counter actually has condiments that pair well with specific cheeses right on the top shelf above each of the cheeses. This includes salted or herb-speckled nuts, sweet and savory fruit jams, pepper jelly, quince paste, local honey, and a fantastic antipasto and olive counter.
Last but not least, the presentation.
Now that we have our cheeses, and all of the accoutrements to go along with them, we need to present it into a beautiful cheese board.
This is the fun part.
For the presentation, I really suggest that you just get creative. “People eat with their eyes first,” Deana notes, “so making an attractive board is important, too.”
Think of color, height, and shapes.
Cut cheese into different shapes: triangles, cubes, and rectangular slices. Leave some cheeses, like goat cheese logs or soft/creamy cheeses, whole.
For all of the accompaniments, fill the negative spaces in with the fruit, nuts, crackers, and vegetables. If you have flatbread or breadsticks, place them upright in small mason jars.
Place jams, olives, condiments, and honey in small containers.
When building a cheese board, I like to start at the center. I usually pick my ‘centerpiece’ as a whole piece of cheese, like a blueberry goat cheese. I then work from there.
No matter what, you can’t go wrong with these simple cheese board ideas. After all, as long as you include delicious cheeses, the most important part is done!
We hope that you enjoyed these cheese board ideas and tips. What are your favorite cheeses to include in a cheese board? Let us know in the comments below!
This post was brought to you in collaboration with Fred Meyer.