A couple years ago, I worked a part-time job at my local Whole Foods. I started as a cashier, and when that got incredibly mind-numbing and boring, I moved over to the Specialty Dept. Now, the Specialty Dept. is pretty much the best department in the entire store if you ask me. I worked with and learned all about cheese, beer & wine, chocolate, and coffee during my time there. But, to be honest, my favorite part of working there was getting to sample all of the amazing cheeses. It was all in the service of the customer, of course, because I needed to be able to explain to them what a certain cheese tasted like. And how better to do that then try every single one imaginable multiple times? I was heaven, basically.
Then, last year, I worked another part-time job at a cheese shop in Peddler’s Village, a quaint little tourist town near us, where I really honed in my cheese skills and taught myself to make even more delicious parings. (Plus I learned to make some amazing crepes there, but we’ll get to that another time!) But I think it’s safe to say I both know and love cheese.
So, when building a summer cheese board, there a couple things to keep in mind:
Will this be the only food you eat at this meal? If yes, then you want to make sure you have a wide variety of things offered. But if this won’t be the only food available, what else will be served? I would suggest a simple green salad or another type of appetizer, like my Tomato Bruschetta, to round out your meal.
How hot is it today? If you can turn the oven on for a couple minutes without feeling like your hot is going to burst into flames, I would add in a nice crusty baguette, from the grocery store or your local bakery, sliced up and toasted in the oven for a couple minutes. Or, you could even just toast the whole loaf in the oven and rip off pieces as you go. Up to you. If it’s too hot to turn the oven on, just get your favorite cracker or crunchy vegetable. I often add sliced cucumbers, peppers, or carrots. It ends up like a beautiful crudité plate and a cheese plate marriage.
What kinds of cheese do you prefer? I think it’s so important to eat what you like, while also pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, little by little. When I met Joe, he was a little picky when it came to certain foods. But over the years, he’s started to try and like more, and so have I! So I suggest doing the same with yourself, or your family members. Try to introduce at least one new thing on your cheeseboard that is new to you and/or them, and just try it out. No one is going to be upset if you don’t like it.
Also, cheese doesn’t have to be expensive to be delicious either. Joe and I tend to shop at Aldi each week and we have found that they have some really amazing cheeses. Even Walmart has some nicer cheeses available occasionally. Take some time to look around your normal grocery store and see what they have available, or find a local cheese shop and try a couple new things. I bet the people behind the counter would be more than happy to help you find something you’ll love.
Once you’ve answered those few questions, you’re ready to build your board!
Here is everything that’s on the board above (starting with the white cubes of cheese at the bottom left and moving counter-clockwise):
- Grassfed sharp cheddar
- Salt & pepper crackers
- Roasted garlic sun-dried tomato cheese
- Sliced nectarines
- Salami coins
- Kosher dill pickles
- Fresh Bing cherries
- Assorted olives
- Nut mix with dried cranberries
Many of the items above are from Aldi, which made this cheese plate pretty inexpensive to put together. Plus, we were able to make 2 meals out of everything above since we also had Tomato Bruschetta on the side.
I hope you enjoyed today’s mini cheese board tutorial. Be on the lookout soon for some Cheese School posts where I’ll help you pick out the perfect cheese!