A good cheese board serves every purpose, fits every occasion. Impromptu celebration? Nothing in the fridge? Excuse to gather with friends? The cheese board can do it all. Now that we are downshifting from summer to early fall, the nights are cooler and the days more hectic. Don’t waste a minute of this brief, golden season with cooking; instead, lay out a beautiful spread, open some wine, and text your friends. After all, the start of every good cheese board is the people around it.

THE BASICS

Tres Leches Deciding which cheese to buy can be overwhelming. Start with a foundation of three different types: one made of cow’s milk, one of sheep’s milk, one of goat’s milk. From there, you’ll want to mix textures and years of age.

Warm Up Lots of people make the mistake of serving cheese too cold. Take your cheese and cured meats out of the refrigerator an hour before serving to enjoy the flavors at their fullest.

Peak Season Your cheeseboard shouldn’t look the same year-round. You’re eating food mostly unadorned, so show off the very best of the season. For early fall in the South, that means loading up your board with figs, grapes, pecans, carrots, and apples.

Find Balance Think of your cheeseboard as a kaleidoscope: every bite is different. Aim for a mix of flavors (sweet, salty, tangy, savory, nutty, briny) and textures (creamy, crunchy, crumbly, smooth). And don’t forget the pickles! Pickles add the zing every spread needs.

UPGRADES

Honey Do This simple upgrade turns plain goat cheese into one of the hottest items on your board. Spread fresh chèvre into a small bowl, drizzle the best local honey you can find over the top, and finish with fresh-cracked pepper.

Warm Up Stock up on various crackers, yes, but grilled bread will disappear faster than you think possible.
Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet and add slices of baguette. Pan-fry until golden brown and crunchy on both sides. Finish with salt, and pile onto your board.

Pretty in Pink Quick-pickled shallots add an unparalleled pop of color and flavor to your spread. To make, fill a jar with two large shallots, thinly sliced. Combine ½-cup of apple cider vinegar, ¼-cup water, 1 Tbs. sugar, and 1 Tbs. kosher salt in a saucepan and simmer until sugar dissolves. Pour mixture over shallots, seal jar, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat Wave Transform typical cheese board sidekicks by warming them before serving. Try toasting nuts with spices, gently cooking dates with olive oil and salt, or warming herb-marinated olives.