3 Simple Tips to Build a Cheese Board

Cheese charcuterie boards have been sweeping the party scene. This holiday season is the perfect opportunity to showcase your charcuterie skills. We interviewed Nancy McDonnell, founder of charcuterie company Mad Platter Sun Valley, to discover her top three tips and tricks to make simple yet beautiful platters.

Tip 1: Something for Everyone

Try to pair foods that will please every guest. “You want something for everyone.” Along with your meats and cheese, try pairing berries and apples, not just crackers. Different dips and spreads are also always a nice addition.

“This is where Sun Valley Mustard comes in.” Including spreads adds a depth of texture and taste to the charcuterie experience for guests. Mustards, jams or quince pastes all offer more options for guests, as well as create a more nuanced flavor profile.

Tip 2: Cheesin’

Here’s an easy tip for deciding what cheeses to include on your board. Use equal amounts of soft and hard cheeses so there’s something for everyone. Soft and hard cheeses complement accouterments on the board differently, offering unique taste profiles for each person and allowing them to create their own perfect bite. You can also try a variety of milk types, such as cow, sheep, and goat.

Which elements will catch a person’s eye and how they will choose to create each bite is different for each guest. “I love the way this is a conversation starter because…the idea is to bring people together. The boards are very communal.”

Tip 3: My Best Tip!

Each guest’s satisfaction while enjoying a board is important. It’s best to regulate your board so all guests can have the same, creatively crafted experience. One simple way to do this: cut all your cheeses while still cold.

Pre-cutting your cheese will ensure each guest gets a good cream to rind ratio. If presented with a cheese log, some may cut out the cream, leaving only the rind for others. Some guests are deterred from trying a cheese altogether if it’s uncut – whether they don’t have free hands to pick up a knife or would rather not take the time.

It can take a few extra minutes, but pre-cutting can encourage guests to enjoy every element, help you craft the board to give everyone the same experience, and improve the overall quality of your board. Trust me, it’s worth it. Don’t forget to take your cheese from the fridge 30 minutes before serving to let it come to room temperature.

Most importantly, have fun crafting your board! View your charcuterie through the eye of an artist – place the cheese first with space in-between, design your meat arrangements, paint with fruit and use it for color. Let the food do its work.


We also asked Nancy how she uses Sun Valley Mustard in her creations. Here’s her advice for incorporating mustard into a board: 

“Spicy Sweet and Chardonnay are my favorites. They’re good complementary flavors to what I put on platters. In general, pungent gorgonzola works well with mustard. I’ll make a bite…Spicy Sweet and a berry, with creamy brie or earthy goat cheese. Or Chardonnay paired with brie, honey, and your favorite meat.”

Check out Nancy’s favorite Sun Valley Mustard flavors!


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Nancy McDonnell, the founder of Mad Platter Sun Valley, has a beautiful collection of artfully curated and mouth-watering charcuterie platters and grazing tables on her Instagram (@madplattersunvalley).  

Click here to check out more of her work!

All images are sourced from Mad Platter Sun Valley.