It’s easier than you think to create a showstopper.
1 – Choose a Board. This is an important step to do first because the size of the board determines how many items you should buy. Wooden cutting boards, marble slabs, ceramic platters, or glass plates are all great options.
2 – The Meats. The meat is usually the star of the plate. Don’t forget about this when you are making a vegetarian or vegan plate. There are many delicious meat replacement sausages that you can include. They can be cut into cubes or sliced – and deli slices can be laid out as well.
If you’re a meat eater, choose a few types of salami, pepperoni, and prosciutto. But, don’t neglect the pâté. Things like braunschweiger, duck pâté, and salmon cream cheese are easy to spread on a cracker.
3 – The Cheeses. Choose two more cheeses than you have chosen meats. If you are pairing them together, it is nice to have a cheese that stands alone. Variety is key here. Select cheeses that differ from one another. You should have some hard cheese for making cubes, some soft cheese for dipping, some that are mild and some that are strong.
4 – Pickles. These include cured olives, peppers, garlic, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, etc. Think more savory for the pickles that you choose since both the meat and cheese are going to have a nice saltiness. This is also a time to think about pre-assembled bites like prosciutto and provolone roll-ups or stuffed dates.
5 – Fruits. Mixed berries or slices of lemon are a nice way to add color to the plate. But, before adding too many things that you don’t intend people to eat, consider adding some items that add to what you’re serving. Pomegranate arils can be sprinkled around the plate, and the other half of a pomegranate can be used as decoration. Figs are also a pretty and delicious addition. Grapes or grape tomatoes help fill in spaces and add a bit of sweet to the plate. Dried fruit like dried apricots, banana chips, or golden raisins are also welcome additions.
6 – Nuts. Crunch is important with all of these soft foods. Pistachios, walnuts, and pecans are all charcuterie standards. Macadamia nuts can help elevate the plate, or if you have no preference, you could buy some bulk mixed nuts to create variety. If you’re staying nut-free consider some crispy bread sticks or rye crackers.
7 – Spreads. Don’t forget that decadent element with some spreads, jellies, and honey. Try to compliment the fruit that you are already serving and fill in where there are gaps. If fresh figs aren’t available, consider a fig spread. If you feel like your honey should be the star of the show, choose a spicy mustard or tart chutney. Hummus is also a welcome addition to your selection of spreads.
8 – Crackers. Your delicious foods need a vehicle for getting to the plate. Plain crackers are always the best, the important part is that they are large enough to hold something, but still bite sized, and sturdy. Water crackers, rice crackers, and pita chips are great!
At this point you’re ready to assemble Decorate your plate with all of the delicious things you have gathered together. Remember, you can use small cups or bowls for dividers, cut large slices smaller, and lay things out decoratively to make the whole plate look appealing.
9 – Finishing Touches. By now your plate is nice and full and you may not need anything else. However, you can bring the visual to the next level by adding a bit of green. Sprigs of rosemary, mint, parsley, or dill can be a nice flourish. It can also help to hint at what type of foods you are serving. If you have an herbed cheese, you can signal what types of herbs were used.
10 – Markers. If you have a lot of items, you may consider putting flags on your plate. This is also nice if you have three distinct types of cheddar and you want to call them out.
The most important thing to remember is that this should be fun, and you should choose things that you like. Pair things together that you know compliment each other and you can’t go wrong!
Other considerations: Party size, allergies, personal preferences, and what you are willing to take home as leftovers.
Under $20 Board
- Serves 4-6 Guests
- Applegate Genoa Salami – $5.69
- Eiffel Tour Brie – $3.99
- Montchevre Goat Cheese Medallion – $1.09
- 1/2 Pound Castelvetrano Green Olives – $6.99/lb.
- Field Day Traditional Water Crackers – $2.69
- 1/4 Pound Antioxidant Superstar Granola- $12.99/lb.
This can be arranged on any cutting board or large plate. Fold the slami so that they stand up or lay them around the outside. Tip: Letting your cheese come to room temp. helps bring out the flavors.
Serves 10-12 Guests
- Tofurky Deli Slices, cut into quarters
- Tofurky Italian Sausages, cut into medallions and fried in a pan until brown.
- Punk Rawk Labs Herb Nutmilk Cheese
- Grlk Spread
- Holy Land Baba Ganoush
- Stacy’s Everything Bagel Chips or Pita Chips
- Black Olives
- Whole Pomegranate, cut in half, arils removed from one half
Arrange this on your favorite ceramic plate, placing the Baba Ganoush in the center and working your way out. You can contain the olives with a small bowl if desired. Sprinkle the plate with arils and place the other half of the pomegranate on the plate as decoration.
Serves 10-15 Guests
- Whole Olli salami
- 1000 Hills Summer Sausage
- Loki Smoked Filet or your favorite pâté
Cheese Basics: Choose one of each type.
Aged: Aged Cheddar or Fini from Caves of Faribault or an Aged Gouda like Jeff’s Select
Firm: Parmigiano-Reggiano or Sartori Montamore
Creamy: Delice Brie or Shepherd’s Way Hidden Falls
Crumbly: Chèvre like Singing Hills
Blue: Gorgonzola or St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese
- Kalamata Olives
- Grapes & Figs
- Dried Apricots
- Raspberry Preserves
- Water Crackers & Bagel Chips
This plate usually has 3 meats, 5 cheeses, and some type of cracker or bread. The rest is up to you!
- Salmon & Cream Cheese Spread
- Shepherd’s Way Big Woods Blue
- Montchevre Chevrette Goat Milk Camembert
- Kindred Forage Mushroom and Scallion Jack Cheese
- Banana Chips
- Dried Papaya
- Dried or Fresh Mango
- Dried Pineapple Rings or Fresh Pineapple
- Sicilian Style Olives
- Macadamia Nuts
- Maple Syrup in Lieu of Honey
Pretend you’re on a tropical island by arranging it on a banana leaf or an Elvis commemorative plate.
- Niman Ranch Canadian Bacon
- Blue Earth Brie
- Cannon Belles Cheese Curds
- Chocolove Toffee & Almond Chocolate Bar broken into squares.
- Sesmark Savory Rice Thins
- Ames Farm Honey
- 2-3 Figs
Serve on a nice crystal or cut glass plate. Great with wine.
Written by Vicki Scott, Social Media and Creative Coordinator