When I’m having people over for dinner, my go-to for starting the night off right is a beautiful and delicious cheese board. It’s the kind of thing you can prepare ahead of time, and then just set it and forget it. Today, I’m gonna share with you some simple tips that I’ve learned on how you can create a spectacular cheese board. Let’s dive right in! First things first we need to start with our board. I personally love the look of a dark wooden surface for my cheese boards. It gives off a certain attitude, and it’s just a really pretty presentation piece that you can have laying out on your countertops for when your guests arrive And if you like to use a wooden board like I do, it’s best to use one that’s all natural, meaning that it’s one that you regularly season yourself. Pre-seasoned boards are pre-treated with unnatural mineral oils and “mystery waxes” some of which are derived from petroleum. Since your board comes into direct contact with the cheese and other food you eat, make sure that you’re eating clean by using a board that you maintain yourself. When hosting a large gathering like 12+ people, a large rectangular board may be the right one to use. For smaller affairs, I like using round boards. This one is perfect to serve 6-8 people. But if you’re only having 2-4 guests over, this small board works like a charm. Today, I’m going to use a rectangular board, and since I want a little extra surface area to work with, I’m going to use the reverse side. Start by creating a point of visual interest in the center of your board. This could be a selection of grapes, figs, fresh berries or on the vine cherry tomatoes. This visual interest will make all the difference in your final presentation. Let’s talk cheese. For reference, you’ll want 2 pounds total of assorted cheeses for every 8 people. You’ll want to pick 3-5 different cheeses to feature on your board, and we always want to think about 3 things when picking cheeses: Texture, Taste and Color When it comes to texture we start arranging the board with soft cheeses, and move clockwise with harder cheeses after that. The exception to the rule is a crumbly blue cheese, which comes at the end. People either love it or hate it, but it’s a must on any proper cheese board. On my boards, I like to have an extra gooey cheese, a semi-soft cheese, a soft cheese, a hard cheese, and then a crumbly blue cheese. First up is your soft cheese. This is a very young cheese that is not matured so it’ll be extra soft. Today, I’m going to use an Epoisse, a gooey super runny cow’s milk cheese from France that we’ll definitely need a spoon for! Next, you’ll want to semi-soft cheese. Something that has a high moisture content and is relatively mild tasting. Classic options here are a nice French Brie or Camembert, or any double or triple cream cheese. I’ll be using a Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Triple Cream Cheese today. Now for a semi-firm cheese: This is a slightly matured cheese like a French Comte or in Italian Asiago. These cheeses will hold their form and will have a subtle flavor and aroma. Today, I’ll be using a Spanish Manchego. We now want a hard cheese that’s been aged at least 6+ months. These cheeses have a harder and more crumbly texture and they carry a stronger aroma and saltier taste. You can use a well aged cheddar or an Italian Reggiano here, but one of my very favorites is a mature Dutch Gouda like this one. Finally, we have our blue cheese. Even here you have tasty choices like a nice Italian Gorgonzola or an English Stilton. Today, we’re using a French Roquefort. Of course, the beauty of a cheese board is that you can make it your own. If there’s something you don’t like, get rid of it and add more of something that you do. And if you’re feeling stumped when cheese shopping, there’s a little saying that can help guide you: Something old, something new, something goat, and something blue. When all else fails, just remember this. When plating, I try to present my cheeses and varying textures and shapes. I like to pre-cut a few slices of my semi-firm, crumble my hard cheese, tease out my semi-soft, anything to encourage people to help themselves! Another handy tip is to point your triangles outward, making it easier for your guests to dig in. All of these details give your board more visual interest and a more attractive presentation. Next, let’s get creative and jazz up your cheese board! This is where it really gets fun. There are so many delicious accompaniments that you can have, such as bread, crackers, honey and jam, nuts, fresh berries or dried fruit or pickles and olives. For breads and crackers, I like to provide a variety of textures and sizes, just like my cheeses. I prefer neutral flavored crackers, that way you can mix and match them with any cheese. Honey and jam are dream pairings with cheese. Here, I have a nice fig jam that will go beautifully with our Manchego. For some extra crunch, you could also add an assortment of nuts to your board, just be mindful of any guests with allergies. All of these little accompaniments can be displayed on a separate board or if you have room, just add them straight onto your cheese board The great thing about a cheese board is that it allows people to really get creative with what they put together. Unique pairings are always a great conversation starter. And voila! There you have it: the ultimate cheese board. Above all, remember to have fun with it. I’d love to see what you come up with, so please share a picture of your beautiful cheesy creations with us on Instagram or Facebook.