During the party season, let the cheese board take center stage. Cheese and charcuterie are a perfect accompaniment to cocktails, and with a little thought provide a stunning centerpiece. I never tire of arranging cheese platters and baskets, using the season and holidays as inspiration. For this wintry cheese basket I picked seasonal greens such as frizzy winter greens, red cabbage leaves and woody garnishes for the border. The cheese selections was equally hearty: ash-rubbed goat cheese, crumbly blue, strong washed rind cheese, and fluffy white creamy cheese. The crisps and crackers were dark, rough and seeded, weaving through the cheese like wood in the forest.
A cheese board can be lavish or simple. No matter the size or level of fanciness, try to balance your selection in strength, texture, flavor and color. As a simple rule of thumb, serve a blue, a soft white molded cheese such as camembert, a goat cheese and a hard alpine cow or sheep milk cheese. Then take it from there!
Use edible garnishes and decorations with a variety of colors and textures that emphasize the season. Snipped rosemary sprigs, mustard greens, chicories, purple kale, frisée, miniature red pears, black radishes, burdock root, gourds, black olives, pumpkins seeds, dried currants and cranberries are all great cold weather decorations. Scatter crisps and snacks throughout the board, piled in small bowls or nestled in cabbage heads or radicchio leaves. Nuts and seeds, black sesame rice crackers, dried fruit and nut crisps, crisp flatbread, and chunks of dense fig and almond cake are perfect for December. Arrange the cheese on a background of black slate or weathered cutting boards, or place a cutting board in a wide basket. Arrange smaller wooden plates or decorative bowls on the boards to fill with olives, nuts or to place runny cheese. Enjoy and don’t hold back!