Everyone loves a big, beautiful cheese board full of charcuterie, figs, and marcona almonds – I bet you pinned a few on, right? There’s no denying that they’re gorgeous, but anyone who’s got a cheese board put together for a party can tell you this stuff gets expensive! As someone who’s done their fair share of cheese boards (started when I worked in the hospitality industry and now for frequent wine and cheese evenings with friends), I’m here to tell you it’s easier than you think a delicious to create a budget. Click through the slides for a few pro tips that will make it seem like you’ve gotten into high-end products without breaking the bank. And leave a comment and let me know if you have any cheap secrets to add to my list!
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Include only one expensive type of cheese.
I always choose one cheese as my boon and make sure everyone has the opportunity to try it – everyone will be so delighted with this one unforgettable cheese that they won’t notice if the others are a little less outstanding.
Pro tip: ask the person who works at the cheese counter about their favorite cheese to serve for a party. You will likely choose something that is really special, but doesn’t break the bank.
* Image: Beauty in Bloom Garden Party
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Be sneaky with crowds.
Ask the cheese man (or cheese girl) to cut smaller portions out of the more expensive selection, then fill up larger portions of the cheaper cheeses so your board looks full and plentiful. The key is to have a little knowledge of what strains to spend and indulge in. I usually find cheaper types of brie that are really nice and tasty nonetheless, so I buy a whole bike. Then I might take a more expensive goat or blue and just put a very small piece of it on my board for guests to try can.
* Image from our cheese and wine tasting class
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Focus on variety and texture.
For a $ 25 budget, I choose 3 or 4 different types of cheese: a hard, hotter cheese (Cheddar, Parmesan, or Gruyere), a smelly soft cheese (has to be blue), and a creamy cheese (like brie or goat.) It’s fun too Using at least a few different types of milk – cow, goat, sheep – to keep things interesting and make you look like a pro.
* Picture from a rosé and cheese tasting party
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Create a slicing strategy.
Depending on its texture, the way you present a particular cheese can make it feel fancier and more substantial. Serve parmesan in a long, thin wedge that takes up a lot of space on the plate. Cut a cheaper cheddar into long, thin slices that can be stacked or fanned (and prevent it from looking like a block of cheese from a grocery store). And as already mentioned, I like to serve brie in a whole wheel and wrap it with pear, slice it and drizzle the top with honey.
* Picture from a family party at the end of summer
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Go crazy with side dishes.
This is the real secret to style a knockout cheese board without breaking the bank. Slice a baguette, sprinkle some toasted walnuts, fan out some apple slices, put on a small bowl of olives, and nestle a few pieces of affordable salami in empty spaces on the board. These additions cost just a few dollars and go a long way in enhancing the final look.
* Image: How to Throw a Bon Voyage Party
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Add a “wow” factor.
This is the piece of resistor, and it doesn’t have to be expensive – just use a little creativity! It could be a beautiful platter or an unexpected way of serving. For example, why not cut a brie wheel in half horizontally, slice it with delicious jam and replace the top of the cheese to create an enhanced “sandwich effect” that diners want to immerse themselves in?
* Image: conversation with gathering and celebration
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Put it up early.
This really is more of a generalized tip for serving cheese at all prices: place your board with the cheese on it about 45 minutes before guests arrive. When you take the chill off, it really brings out the flavor of every single cheese. Then you can get ready and have a glass of wine before the party. Above all, remember that both cheese boards and parties in general are all about fun and enjoyment and DO NOT impress your guests. So don’t worry about how much your cheese is costing, just focus on filling people’s wine glasses and creating the right mood by relaxing and having a good time (and enjoying the fact that you Saved some money on the shoes you saw spending all on cheese instead.)
* Image: Laura Alexandra