Updated: Jan 31, 2020
Meat + Cheese displays aren't usually friendly on the wallet but in this post, I will show you how to create a plentiful meat and cheese board using items you already have at home and from your nearest #TraderJoes. As an added bonus, I included the shopping list!
Meat and cheese boards have become a staple for house parties this past half decade. Yes, meat and cheese has always been at parties, but when I was younger it was either on that plastic tray or on all different smaller plates. We've stepped up our game thanks to Pinterest and easy sharing of beautiful pictures on Instagram. Did you see the CHOCOLATE boards?!
But with this trend usually comes a steep price tag… until I discovered the Trader Joe’s Cheese Wall.
PART ONE: What’s on the Board
Olives and/or Pickles: I strive to buy pitted olives so I don't need a pit bowl. Plus spitting out pits isn’t the most flattering thing to do on this planet and your guests will subconsciously thank you! Cornichons (tiny pickles) also look great either directly placed on the board or in a tiny mason jar. Tip: Use varying bowl heights on your board to add dimension.
Meats: Look for an assortment of different colors and textures. I pinch the middle of a slice in order to give it the crinkled look. Tip: I slice the majority of a pepperoni roll and leave the rest for the guests to slice.
Fruit: Dried fruit, such as apricots and/or seasonal fruit like a mandarin, grapes, pear or pomegranate. If I use mandarins, I leave a few mandarins unpeeled on the table next to the board. If it’s the fall, add a tiny pumpkin for flare. I also love slicing figs and leaving some whole. Tip: If available, buy the dried fruit 'snack packs'. It's a fraction of the price and you won't have leftovers.
Spreads: a fruit preserve adds a pop of color. I like the preserves that are either purple or orange to add more color assortment. The preserve can be smudged directly on the board (I learned this in Italy) or in a small mason jar or bowl of choice. Don't forget your mini knife or spoon!
Honey: another thing I learned in Italy is the beautiful combo of a hard salty cheese with savory honey. This is a real treat and not something I often see on boards.
Cheese: Hard, soft and somewhere in between. I go for a Brie, a sharp cheddar and a smoke. I also like having a spreadable cheese in the mix. In the Trader Joe's shopping list below, I will tell you exactly what my go-to items are.
Nuts: Walnuts are different and big and fill up a good amount of space. I also like to add a savory nut that I usually make myself.
Carbs: Although I’m not a fan of manufactured carbs, this is a necessity. If you are adding a spread, a loaf of bread, thinly sliced, is a nice addition. You can pass on the bread and use whatever assortment of crackers you’d like instead. Tip: Slice the bread and throw it in the oven for a few minutes and drizzle with EVOO if you want to go all-out.
Garnish: I love the way rosemary looks and smells. If you don’t have Rosemary sprigs or something else green in the house already, I do not think garnish is 1000% necessary. No one will miss it and it won’t make the board taste any better or the party any more memorable.
Part Two: Trader Joe's Shopping List
Trader Joe's has a great assortment of olives and pickles. These are my favorite options.
Colossal Olives hand stuffed with Garlic Cloves $3.49
Cornichons (tiny pickles imported from France) $2.69
They also have a surprising assortment of meats and salami rolls a few bucks less than other stores. I'm here for a deal and quality
Spanish Brand Deli Selection $4.99
Chianti Red Wine Artisan Salami: $4.99
We usually have a lot of fruit and dried fruit in the house already so I don't need to buy more. Buy items you will enjoy because you will have leftovers. These dried fruits make great additions into homemade trail mix! I am choosing two for my board from this list.
Grapes: the prices range depending on the type: $3.49
Soft & Juicy Mandarins (dried fruit): $2.99
Sweetened Dried Orange Slices: $1.99
Calimyrna Figs: $4.99
Their cheese wall is mouth watering. I've probably purchased all of them at some point by now but these are what I've noticed to be the crowd pleasers. Anyone else getting hungry?
Feel fee to eliminate one or two cheeses! Blue cheese is usually found on boards but I find that it's usually not eaten so I skip it. Sometimes I will use Feta instead.
Spreadable: Wild Blueberry Vanilla Chevre (a favorite on all of my boards and a great pop of color) This is a spreadable cheese. $4.49
Hard: Unexpected Cheddar: this is 100% a crowd favorite. It seems like it has some sort of salt crystals. I wish I could eat it right now! $3.99
Hard: Asiago with Rosemary and Olive Oil $3.69- wonderful with the honey!
Semi-hard: Smoked Gouda $3.19
Soft: Triple Creme Brie Cheese: $3.52
Semi-soft: Port Salut- OMG: it is semi soft, sweet and mild. I don't know what this cheese is but it's amazing. It has an orange shell which adds some more color $5.00
You most likely already have jams and honey. if not, Trader Joe's has great options too! Here are a few that pair well with the above cheeses. Any combo is great! Choose one:
Fig Butter: Perfect for Gouda and Asiago: $2.49
Hot & Sweet Hot Pepper Jelly: Spread it on top of a block of cream cheese (believe it or not) or my favorite, Brie! Sometimes Brie comes in large slices. I will cut it in half and use half with the spice and half plain. $2.49
Seville Orange Marmalade $3.49
Apricot Preserves: $3.49
Just like fruit and jam, we also always already have nuts and honey in the house. Trader Joe's has a ton of options for nuts and they even have seasoned. As I was browsing the aisle this time, I found something called:
Savory Banana & Nuts Trek Mix: bananas, cashews and pecans $2.99
Carbs such as crackers and/or bread fill the board and is the last item placed. We usually have some variety of crackers already in the house because we make these spreads so often! Here are my top options. Tip: Don't go too crazy with crackers. When guests bring other appetizers, they usually come with dippers!
Cracker Assortment: all different shapes and flavors all in one box! $3.49
Social Snackers: Rich and buttery, almost like Ritz. I like the shape and price of these too $2.69
Demi Baguette: slice it thin and place it directly on the board to drizzle that honey and jam on with a slice of cheese-- YUM $1.29
As I said, I don't usually go out of my way for garnishes. I will buy them if I need it for something else, otherwise they usually go to waste. Rosemary makes a tasty and pretty garnish for cocktails too.
A few few final tips that work for me:
Place your bowls on the board first
The nuts, crackers and dried fruit are your fillers so add that at the end
There was a party where I did not pre-slice any of the cheese and they were not eaten as much as it's eaten when it is sliced. I recommend slicing the hard cheeses and leaving one smaller block for them to cut themselves. Once they have a bite, they won't be able to stop so they will use that knife to cut the cheese.