It all starts with a board. Wooden, metal, or stainless steel, maybe sporting ornate handles or fitted with grooves, dips, and valleys, crafted for holding sweet jellies and savory jams. Then comes the cheese: gouda, manchego, or brie, whatever you fancy. Meats fill in the open space, swirled into roses and rivers trailing around piles of nuts, grapes, and dried fruit. And, there you have it — the perfect, crowd-pleasing, present-at-every-event appetizer. A cheeseboard.
As a Greatest article once said, to make a fantastic cheese board is to know adulthood. But designing the perfect, paired board is not as easy as it sounds; there are textures and flavors to pair, along with the challenge of choosing cheese and meats to please even the pickiest eaters.
If you’re planning on crafting a charcuterie board this holiday season, keep reading. We chatted with a few of Pittsburgh’s cheese experts to get the lowdown on cheeseboard do’s and don’ts.
Colleen Peddycord and Tierra Thorne, the friends behind Blanket & Board, Pittsburgh’s premiere picnic service, follow a simple formula when crafting a cheeseboard. “We always include a baguette or crackers, at least three cheeses, grapes, berries, jam, pickles, and salami. We think it’s important to include one of each taste: sweet, savory, and salty,” explains Colleen.
The Blanket & Board team emphasizes it’s important to have options for everyone. Bring in a few different kinds of cheeses onto each board, thinking about texture and taste. Cover the basics with something approachable, and grab something adventurous to cater to your exploratory eaters. Mix a soft brie, a firm cheddar, a semi-soft fontina, and a crumbly bleu.
Texture comes into play with pairings, too. Stone-ground mustard, fresh and dried fruits, pretzels, jams, and jellies add a bit of depth to every board while adding flavor elements to the cheeses.
Tierra stresses the importance of cutting. It’s unappealing visually, she says, but it also makes it difficult to eat if guests have to get through a block of cheese to fill their plate. Slice every cheese, pull apart your meats, and make everything accessible.
But that’s it. Cheeseboards are for experimentation, Colleen and Tierra say. You can’t do much wrong with some good cheese and fresh fruits, so don’t overthink it.
Looking for local goods for your board? Check out these Pittsburgh purveyors:
STORY BY MAGGIE WEAVER / PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE BRYCE / STYLING BY KEITH RECKER