Say Cheese!

The holiday season is officially upon us and that means lots of entertaining. I am a busy working mom with two kids under two and a husband whose job requires lots of entertaining. He is a wine distributor who is always “surprising” me with winery and restaurant-types at the last minute. That said, I am always looking for an effortless yet elegant way to feed a crowd.
Let me set the scene for you…your toddler is coloring on the walls and you’re counting down to bedtime so you can throw on your yoga pants and binge watch The Crown? Then you get a text from your husband saying, “hey, do you mind if so-and-so pops by for some wine?” A momentary panic rushes over you (and probably a little bit of that “I want to kill my husband” vibe) but you want to maintain your effortlessly cool, collected, Domestic Goddess status. So what can you pull together at the last minute that looks totally gourmet but won’t leave you looking like Melanie Griffith in the dumpling cart scene in Working Girl? An effortless spread of bountiful cheese boards is a fast and impressive way to feed a crowd.

Here are a few tips for putting together a beautiful, delicious and easy spread:
Buy Everything! This should be easy…nothing more than a little artful arranging. I always like to keep a stash of gourmet goodies on-hand, should someone drop by unexpectedly. Gather a selection of your favorite artisan cheeses (I like to use 2 – 3 and recommend a variety of flavors and textures, maybe a cow’s milk, a sheep’s milk and a goat’s milk cheese), cured meats, some fresh and dried fruit, crackers and some nuts.

Start Building. Garnish your board with a few large, flat leaves (I used hydrangea leaves, fig leaves are beautiful too, but just about any large, flat, clean leaf will do.) Start from the center and work your way out. Place a couple of the larger pieces of cheese toward the center. You want to create a little height; it provides visual impact and nice symmetry.

Keep Adding. Cozy your cheeses up to a large bunch of grapes, thinly sliced apples or halved fresh figs. Arrange your cured meats (a couple varieties are nice) around your cheeses, along with two types of crackers. You eat with your eyes first and abundance is what makes an attractive and appealing board. Fill the gaps between your cheeses, meats, and crackers with a cascade of dried fruit (apricots or dates always work…if you’re not using fresh figs, use dried figs here) and nuts.

Final Touches. Any final spaces can be filled with a ramekin of olives or a spread like hummus or tapenade. Add a canape knife for any spreads and a sharp knife to slice the cheese (I like to slice a few pieces of each cheese while I’m assembling so that my guests don’t feel like they’re “the first ones in.”

You’re done! Except for a little refreshing during the course of the evening, you can relax, enjoy your guests (and wine) and your beautiful spread.

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