Disclosure: This cheese board tutorial and holiday entertaining post was sponsored by JORD wood watches. All opinions expressed are my own.
With the holiday season upon us, we’ve headed into one of the busiest months of the year. It’s a wonderful season to celebrate with family and friends, but with non-stop schedules, it can also be a stressful time to be a host. Everyday life doesn’t stop for the holidays, so when I find myself with guests on the way, laundry in the dryer to be folded, and, perhaps, an angelic little puppy chewing everything he shouldn’t, I need ways not only to entertain effortlessly, but to look stylish doing so. A great watch has always been my favorite way to accessorize an outfit, and cheese boards are my “go-to” choice whether I’m serving a crowd, or an intimate gathering of friends. Today, I’m going to show you how to create the perfect cheese board, and will be featuring JORD’s designer wood watches for unique and sophisticated holiday style.
As I’ve mentioned several times before on the blog, I love pieces crafted from wood grains. Whether it’s a beautiful serving bowl, furniture, or jewelry, wood provides some of nature’s most interesting art. When I was contacted by JORD to feature one of their watches on Striped Spatula, I was delighted. I chose the Cora series watch in Koa (a wood endemic to Hawaii), with a rose gold face, and I’ve already gotten so many compliments wearing it. Most watches on the market aren’t made of wood, so it’s a standout piece that really garners attention on the wrist. I love that it’s casual enough to wear with a pair of jeans and a sweater, but at the same time, elegant with a dress for a holiday party. As a part of this post, JORD has generously offered Striped Spatula readers a $25 e-gift code toward the purchase of one of their watches. Visit the giveaway page before December 18th, 2016 to receive your voucher.
When assembling a cheese board, I usually choose 3-5 different varieties, depending on how many guests I’m serving. Selections can vary by cheese style, milk (cow, goat, sheep, etc.), and country of origin. If you have a gourmet cheese case at your local market, or even better, a specialty shop with a cheesemonger, this is a great time to explore those resources! Visiting a cheesemonger is a great experience, and you’ll likely be introduced to interesting cheeses you haven’t sampled before. (I very much enjoyed selecting cheeses for this post with Martine of Bon Appetit Fine Foods in Princeton, New Jersey.) I like to anchor the board with at least one familiar flavor that will appeal to most, if not all guests, such as Cheddar. From there, I work down my list of cheese styles, including a range of pungent and milder cheeses in my selections.
Guide: Holiday Cheese Board Assembly
Cheeses By Style (choose 3-5)*
- Hard/aged cheese. Cheddar, Gouda, Parmiggiano Reggiano
Photographed: Ticklers 18-month aged Cheddar (cow’s milk, UK)
- Semi-soft cheese. Gruyère, Fontina, Havarti
Photographed: Abbaye de Belloc (sheep’s milk, France) and Bethmale (said to be a favorite of King Louis VI, goat’s milk, France)
- Blue cheese. Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Meytag Blue, Stilton
Photographed: Point Reyes Farmstead Company Original Blue (cow’s milk, USA)
- Soft-ripened cheese. Brie, Camembert, Humboldt Fog
Photographed: Le Rustique Camembert (cow’s milk, France)
- Fresh cheese. Chèvre, Fromage Blanc, Mozzarella
*examples of widely available cheese varieties listed; to discover more, this Styles of Cheese guide from James Beard Award-winning author, Laura Werlin, is a fantastic resource.
Crackers and Breads
- I prefer neutral crackers, flatbreads, and bread sticks (such as olive oil and sea salt) to complement a range of cheeses. A sliced baguette is also a wonderful choice, especially when serving fresh or spreadable cheese, such as chèvre. Whole grain and fruit and nut varieties of crackers and breads are also a nice touch.
Accompaniments (choose 3-5)
- Cured meats or sausages: saucisson sec, soppressatta, salami, proscuitto
- Nuts: I prefer to choose roasted and lightly salted varieties, as opposed to heavily spiced nuts so the flavors don’t compete with the aromas of the cheeses.
- Seasonal fruits: sliced apples, pears, grapes, figs
Quick tip! Want to “sugar frost” grapes? Brush clusters with pasteurized liquid egg whites (or just lightly dampen with water for a more rustic appearance), and sprinkle grapes with superfine sugar. Shake off excess and let dry at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- Dried fruits: apricots, cherries, dates
- Condiments: honey, honeycomb, sweet-savory jam (such as my Bacon Jam or Caramelized Onion and Pear Jam), mustard (if serving cured sausages)
- Savory: cornichons, olives
- I plan on about 1-1/2 ounces of cheese per guest.
- When plating, separate out any very aromatic cheeses to a second plate so they don’t overpower more delicate selections.
- Cheeses should be removed from the refrigerator one hour prior to serving for the best textures and flavors.
- If not slicing cheeses for display, provide a separate knife for each variety on the board.
- For a busy gathering, small chalkboard tags (pictured above) are a great way to label your cheeses so guests will know their choices without your attention.
- Have fun and be creative! Try themed boards to fit your gathering, such as French or Mediterranean.
*Striped Spatula is not responsible for the terms or fulfillment of gift card giveaway.