You can still have big flavor at a small holiday gathering. Here are our tips for making the most of your cheese board.

Cheese Boards with Tillamook Cheese and Fruit, Crackers
Courtesy of Tillamook

2020 has probably been the year in which you mastered sourdough, perfected your roast chicken, and dialed in your mixological magic at the home bar. Next 2020 foodie challenge? Upgrading your cheese board. While the holiday season is upon us, this year we’re all celebrating a little bit differently. Big parties are on hold, but you can still transform an intimate family gathering into a truly celebratory and special occasion with a well-curated cheese board. You’ve probably put together a good one before, but chances are there’s more you can do to maximize the deliciousness. Here are five can’t-fail tips for building a much better board.

Book a Flight

No, not an airplane, but a tasting flight of aged sharp white cheddars from Tillamook, the excellent farmer-owned and operated co-op in Tillamook, Oregon. They’ve got their aging program down to a science in the Maker’s Reserve Extra Sharp White Cheddar collection of cheeses, which features different vintages (yes, just like wine!) made using their 111 year-old recipe—with the added benefit of being patiently aged. The cheeses sit anywhere from 3 to 10 years, which allows them to develop profound complexity, nuanced flavor, and an increasingly crumbly texture over time.


Tillamook Cheddar

Courtesy of Tillamook

Take the Vintage Advantage

They say age is just a number, but when it comes to cheese nothing could be further from the truth. Tasting through a flight of aged cheddar is proof that time simply makes cheddar better. Start with, say, a young cheese like the fresh, bright, and citrusy Maker’s Reserve 2017 and move on to the 2015 vintage, which starts citrusy and pleasantly bitter, giving way to nuttiness, and ending smooth. Finish with the 2010 vintage and you’ll be blown away by that vintage’s buttery, bold, caramel sweetness. 

Tillamook Cheese Board with Fruit

Courtesy of Tillamook

Pair Perfectly

Those flavor notes beg to be contrasted and complemented by what else you put on the board. Many sweet and savory ingredients actually share flavors with cheese. Think of it like a symphony: different instruments playing the same tune in different ways. Given that many aged white cheddars have nutty, fruit, and umami characteristics, you can amplify those flavors with marcona almonds, dried cherries, and charcuterie. Or lean a little in the opposite direction with pickled olives, candied fruit peel, and peppered salmon. A great cheese board is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Best Cheese Board Bottles 

Pick the wine you’ll be serving with the same ideas in mind: A fruit-forward Sauvignon Blanc and a bold and peppery old vine Zinfandel both harmonize with foods on the board while providing that zippy acidic reset. A dry fino sherry has wonderful shared nutty characteristics. And you can’t go wrong with a classic concentrated sweet and complex vintage port. 

Buy for the Board

Now it’s time to put together the perfect cheese selection for your holiday board. Check out Tillamaps, Tillamook’s store finder, to find Maker’s Reserve near you.