Whether you live in Calistoga or the greater Napa Valley area, or simply love to visit and shop here, the beauty and culture of this wine country region provides many opportunities for get-togethers and for enjoying fine food.
And few things can be finer – or more delectable – than a well-made fresh cheese board?
Known by many names the venerable cheese board has also been called a cheese platter, a cheese and cracker platter, a meat and cheese platter, and even a charcuterie plate or a charcuterie board. However, the latter refers to a board filled primarily with smoked, cured, and cooked meats having some cheese added on to supplement them.
And for this article we are going to focus on some great cheese board ideas for making fresh cheese boards that you can enjoy for any gathering or get-together.
Gatherings of Friends and Family Means Food
Of course, every event or gathering need not require full-course meals and desserts. But even if that is the plan for the dining portion of your get-together, a thoughtfully constructed cheese board can still be a welcome complement to the main menu.
And if you want to stick with something light, tasty, and distinctly “Napa Valley” then a cheese platter is a perfect choice.
However, for starters, we need to dispense with those dreary images of slightly stale cubes of three different common cheeses that make up the vast majority of chain grocery store pre-made cheese platters. And forget about the “cheesy-looking” cheese platters your Aunt Sofie used to throw together for the boys during the televised football games.
Here are some fresh board ideas that incorporate both imported cheese and locally made cheeses, together with some unique touches and unusual combinations.
Fresh Cheese Board Ideas to Complement Any Napa Valley Gathering
Let’s start with the basics.
What types of ingredients should be found on a well-thought-out cheese board? Here’s a brief list inspired by an article from simply-delicious-food.com:
Cheese. This is, of course, a bit obvious, but you should resist the urge to crowd out your cheeses with everything else you could put on your board. And what kinds of cheese could you include on your plateau à fromage?
There’s Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, Pecorino, Asiago, Gruyere, Gouda, Comte, Camembert, Brie, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Roquefort, Havarti, Danish blue, Mozzarella, Manchego, Fontina, Boursin, Raclette, and even some Chevin, a soft goat cheese.
Crackers and breads. Your choices are quite varied, and Napa Valley offers plenty of local products like fresh baguettes, crostini, breadsticks, and all types of crackers and crisps.
Meats. While a charcuterie-style board may be tempting, a proper cheese board will display more cheese than meat, should you choose to include any. But if you do you can’t go wrong with salamis, Prosciutto or Parma ham, salami, Mortadella, Sopressata, or even chorizo.
Jams, Preserves and… Pickles! The very gastronomical nature of cheese makes it a great pairing with preserved or pickled foods. Great additions include olives, capers, pickled onions, and pickled radishes. And to counter your meat and cheese flavors, adding some needed sweetness can be done with jams, jellies, honey, and chutney on the board.
Fresh fruit and nuts. No cheese board is really complete without some fresh, seasonal fruit. And the Napa Valley region is rich in all varieties of produce including stone fruits such as peaches, nectarines, and plums, as well as pome fruits like apples, pears, and quince.
Of course, there are strawberries and others such as boysenberries, marionberries, and olallieberries, all of which are varieties of blackberries and well suited to our Napa Valley climate.
A Cheese Board Made by Hand Means Putting It Altogether
Let’s say you’ve selected your cheeses, you’ve picked out some meats, and you’ve got your assorted extras. So, how do you actually put together and “arrange” your unique cheese board?
For that we turn to a recipe courtesy of Katya at LittleBroken.com and her list of essential ingredients:
- 3–5 varieties of cheese, soft, semi firm, hard/aged
- 1–2 varieties of cured meats, salami, prosciutto
- 2–3 varieties of crackers (or crusty bread, baguette, crisps)
- Seasonal fruit or dried fruit
- Nuts, such as Spicy Candied Walnuts
- Pickled or marinated items, such as mini pickles (cornichons) or olives
- Optional: something sweet, such as jam or honey
Katya then says,
“Arrange everything in piles, mixing different shapes, sizes, and color on a large cheese platter or board. Get creative and have fun!”
Like Snowflakes, Each Cheese Board is (Or Should Be) Unique
Face it – life is too short for boring food and uninspiring presentations. Especially for gatherings in Napa Valley.
Variety, creativity, and innovation are at the heart of the cheese board creation process. So don’t be afraid to be different when it comes to building the “perfect” cheese board. There really aren’t any fixed rules, but plenty of great ideas and possibilities.
When it comes to the presentation of your unique cheese board, here are some tips from the website at The Modern Proper,
“Pick out a board. This could be a cutting board (never plastic though, please!), a cheese platter, or even a few plates that you put next to each other on the table. Don’t be tied down to having everything on one surface.
If you don’t have special cheese knives, it’s fine to cut thin pieces of cheese ahead of time, so your guests can just grab and go and then of course leave a butter knife around for the soft cheeses.”
Temperature is also key to the enjoyment and the optimal flavor experience of cheese. It’s usually recommended that you set them out for 30 minutes before serving your cheese board to your guests.
It’s All About the Cheese: Finding Great Cheese Selections for Your Cheese Board Ideas
Of course, many of the best known and loved cheeses in the world come from several countries around the world.
It may be quite tempting to include as many cheese types and varieties as you can on your cheese board, however, the ruling notion when it comes to the number of different cheeses is to have just three, four or, at most, five varieties “on board.”
Fortunately, a quick trip to Cal Mart in lovely Calistoga will provide you with all the choices you need with selections from around the world and across Napa Valley. These include specialty cheese like buffalo milk cheeses as well as many local Co-op, Farmstead, and Artisan selections.
The Napa Valley Gourmet Cheese Source for Your Simple Cheese Platter Ideas
You can find us in the heart of Calistoga, a picturesque town conveniently located between Hwy 128 and the famed Silverado Trail. Over the last 50 years, Cal Mart has become a popular destination for both locals and visitors.
At Cal Mart, we are quite proud of our legacy including our large variety and selection of gourmet imported cheese from across the globe and, of course, from our own Napa Valley cheesemakers.
Our great selection of cheeses are made from cow’s milk in addition to goat and sheep milk, as well as mixtures. So, when it comes to hard cheeses, soft cheeses, mild, dry, and sharp, raw cheeses, or fancy cheeses such as blue mold or white mold cheeses, we have something that will fit perfectly on your next cheese board!
A family-owned and independent grocery store, Cal Mart continues to provide an enjoyable, unique, and memorable shopping experience for our customers for over half a century now.
All of which is a big part of why we are known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery.”
In addition to our gourmet cheese department featuring dozens of premium imported cheeses, we also offer a wide variety of quality wines and craft beers, along with specialty foods items that are unique and hard to find, and beautiful gift baskets.
We invite you to stop in soon and take some time to explore all that we have to offer.
And while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our knowledgeable staff and then treat yourself to a cup of coffee or tea from our Coffee Bar.
And remember that at Cal Mart, you will always find something that is unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!