Make it colorful and fun: alternatives for cheese boards, knives, serving bowls.
I have a friend who grew up in England. One afternoon last spring, we sat out on her patio overlooking the valley with a light breeze blowing over our shoulders. We were having tea served in exquisitely painted china that her father collected decades ago, some light crackers, and slices of cheese served on matching silver plates. So elegant and light – so her.
Later this summer, I visited another friend. We sat in her living room as her kids chased each other around in the backyard with a water hose. As they squealed, we chatted over tumblers of wine coolers, crackers and cheese served on dinner plates.
We all have different ways to entertain, all different styles. Even for the friend who’s coming by for just a moment, we offer a little liquid refreshment and/or something to nibble. And, if you come to my place, there will be cheese. The unexpected visit can be just as much fun as the party you’ve planned. All it takes is a little imagination.
First, cheese boards come in all sizes, shapes, and materials – you can really use almost anything flat including a china platter. If you took a survey, most people don’t even bring out a cheese board either because they cut the cheese before guests arrive or they think they don’t have something that will be ‘right’ to use. But let’s say you want to use a board – you can find them truly almost anywhere. Sometimes I use a beautiful flat, squarish piece of black slate as a “board” of sorts: the cheese and fruit look so beautiful against the dark color of the tile. My point is, your “board” can be made of almost any material.
Cheese knives also come in all shapes, sizes, and materials as well. Maybe you want to slice the cheese ahead of time, but it’s not a rule. Many times, I will cut a few slices or pieces and leave the rest of the piece of cheese ‘whole’ for my guests to cut. My video shows some of the knives I’ve collected on my travels. I even have one with a handle that is shaped like a mouse that I picked up a few years ago in a small shop in Paris. It’s a great story to tell my guests, and it looks fun on the plate.
Along with the cheese and crackers, you may want to add olives, gherkins (small pickles), nuts, or perhaps truffle honey, and so on. Place these ‘extras’ in individual small bowls or containers – the more colorful and fun the better – place them either directly on the board if there’s room or next to it on the table for easy access. Pick ones that add visual interest to your cheese board. You’ll need small spoons or small spreaders as well for the honey or preserves – remember sweet, whether it’s dried fruit or something else, pairs perfectly with cheese.
The trick is to pick up the boards, small bowls, containers, cheese knives and spoons/spreaders as you see them and not to wait until you actually NEED them. I’ve always found that if I’m searching madly for something the day before a party, I rarely see what I’m looking for. Take your time and have fun planning. If you’ve found things you love to use you will already have the right tools for that unexpected guest!