There is no denying that a good grazing board is an entertaining essential. Perfect for so many different styles of event, simply scale up or down depending on the size (and tastes) of the crowd.
We have put together a little "how to" for you so that your next event will be that little bit easier knowing you have a knock-out grazing platter at the helm.
1. Choose a board
This seems like a no brainer right? You will need to choose a board that not only fits the aesthetic of your event, but also is suited to the table where it will be served. The board must be appropriate to the size of your gathering, it needs to look abundantly laden with delicious morsels. Too large a board, and the elements will be too spread out and make the board appear less appealing. Too small a board, and you will not be able to functionally load it, and the moment a guest tries to slice a wedge of brie, there will be broken crackers and random dried fruits rolling all over the place.
For a larger gathering that might feature a central buffet style table, you may want to choose a long plank style board, like this stunning 1m long footed mango wood board, or if that is too gargantuan for you, you could check out our 45cm walnut serving paddle.
For more intimate gatherings, where a handful of guests may be seated and gathered around table, you may want to choose a round board. We especially love these round rubberwood lazy Susan serving boards by Stanley Rogers, available in 35cm and 50cm. This ensures everyone easy access to the snacks they desire without all the awkward reaching.
At Habitare HQ we love a rustic vibe and definitely favour a wooden board, but slate and marble are also excellent choices.
The fundamental component of a good grazing board. At Habitare HQ we tend to choose 3 cheeses, each with different flavour profiles and characteristics ensuring there is something for every palate. We love to place little chalkboard labels into our cheeses so that each guest knows what each cheese is.
Aged/Firm: Cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Gouda, Manchego
We love a tried and true smoked Gouda from Woolies, but we have also been known to hit up our fave specialty cheese shop to buy traditional raw sheep's milk Manchego. Sometimes we like to kick it up a notch with black truffle infused Manchego.
Soft: Cheeses like Brie, Camembert, Chèvre
Is there anything more delightful than a triple cream brie? We think not. Local supermarkets stock a great selection such as the King Island Dairy Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie, and now Fromager D'Affinois, but if you're feeling fancy, we suggest shelling out for a piece of Brillat Savarin, neither you nor your guests will be disappointed.
Blue: Cheeses like Stilton, Gorgonzola
Read the crowd wisely, as blue cheese can be very divisive
To play it safe, you could serve something mild and approachable such as the Tarago River Shadows of Blue or a creamy Danish blue. If you are after something more classic and predictable you won't go wrong with a Gorgonzola (dolce or piccante depending on your taste). If you want something different that will get your guests talking, you could try a Rogue River Smoky Blue.
Interesting: There are some cheeses that cannot be clearly defined by the above denominations, and we love to throw in a cheese that people have never tried before.
One of our favourites is the Holy Goat La Luna, a goats cheese, but different. A soft cheese with a wrinkled rind and a creamy texture with an underlying sweetness. An unique cheese with an unique flavour, even winning over those that deign to detest goat's cheese.
Further to the whole goat's cheese debate, we have yet been unable to find a living soul who can turn down the combination of fresh goat's curd drizzled with black truffle infused honey, smeared onto warm sourdough. This particular combo is a Habitare HQ firm favourite.
We can also suggest you consider a washed rind cheese, bearing in mind that these cheeses can be pungent and not for the faint of heart! The Bruny Island Cheese company makes a great one (1792), in addition to another interesting semi-firm cheese enrobed in an herby rind (Nanna's Undies).
Eat the cheese you love but don't be afraid to try new things
We urge you to get out to your local fromagerie and give different cheeses a go on your next platter. You might find a new favourite!
Next, select the meats. You might want to splurge or scrimp on your charcuterie selection depending on the scale or your event, but we can suggest some of our favourites: Wagyu bresaola, Capocollo, Prosciutto di Parma or if you are up for a splurge Jamón Ibérico is well worth it. We also love to go down to our local deli and buy a Melbourne-cured French style salami that has been infused with black truffle. Let's be honest, in Australia, you really can't go wrong with some tried and true Hungarian Salami, twiggy sticks and cabana! We are also huge fans of Maggie Beer's Pheasant Farm Pâté.
Next, you need to think of olives (we love Sicilian green olives), pickles (we love cornichons and Frankie's Fine Brine Crunchy Cauliflower), sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, pesto/tapenade and assorted roasted nuts.
Add some sweetness to your board. Quince paste is a non-negotiable, you could always go traditional, but we implore you to try this amazing Tasmanian-made quince paste infused with Tasmanian pepperberry, it is absolutely divine and such a great complement to the sharper cheeses on the board. You could also add honey, and if you known anyone with a feijoa tree, ask them to whip you up some feijoa jam, the perfect cheeseboard companion. Add green apple or pear (a match made in heaven for brie), grapes, dates, dried muscatels, dried apricots, figs, fresh strawberries/blackberries/raspberries/blueberries, mango, cantaloupe and kiwi. At Habitare HQ we have a massive sweet tooth and we cannot go past the scattering of a few squares of quality semi-sweet chocolate and nougat on the board.
6. Bread and Crackers
Add an assortment of crackers. From basic crackers, to grissini with parmesan and sea salt, to artisanal crackers infused with fruits, nuts and herbs, even banana chips: whatever tickles your fancy. We cannot go past fresh sourdough on our boards. You want a mixture of shapes, colours and texture.
Garnish your board with flowers, sprigs of fresh herbs, and if you have a steady hand and an artistic eye, you can slice your fruits into beautiful shapes to create edible garnishes.
AND THERE YOU HAVE IT
That is our secret to the perfect grazing platter. Happy entertaining! x