One of our favorite family activities is sharing a beautiful cheese and charcuterie tray, whether over a picnic at the lake or hosting friends for a dinner party in Dallas. Molto Formaggio in Highland Park Village is our go-to place WHERE THE GENERATIONS MEET™ for fine wine and cheese pairings. You can even bring in one of your own serving pieces, and they will design a board or tray with the right mix for your occasion while you wait!
My boys often request to stop in “their favorite store” (one of mine, too!) for samples of cheese and to pick up snacks as we’re running errands. Modeled after specialty shops in Europe, Molto Formaggio curates the finest cheeses, gourmet food products, and wines for their customers. Sometimes those customers include tots like mine, and the staff is friendly and patient to let them sample and select which cheeses they may like (or dislike!).
They’re great at the education component, too. Did you know that there are some cheeses made from Buffalo milk? My boys loved that little fact, and they always browsing the labels, which show icons of the animals that sourced the milks for each cheese and flags to identify every country of origin!
We interviewed the team at Molto Formaggio for their “how-to” guide of making memorable cheese trays (with wine pairing advice, too!):
Where to Begin
For adult gatherings, the first consideration as to cheese selection is what wine(s) are you serving. Red? White? A Crisp Rosé? Bubbles? Once you know the bottles you’re opening, it narrows down what should go on your cheese board or tray. Goat cheese typically pairs well with whites, while sheep and cow cheeses are better with reds. Rosé is the most flexible wine pairing, and champagne also goes with everything but is best with the most buttery and creamy varieties (think Brie!).
To boil it down to a quick tip, remember this: If it grows together, it goes together. For example, if you find a both a wine and a cheese sourced from the same region of France (Oh là là!), they’re likely to pair together beautifully!
Choose Your Cheeses
Choosing your cheese assortment is a matter of taste. That’s why it’s great to sample a selection (and include the children if they’re interested!). Pick a variety textures to create a visually interesting plate, and prioritize assorted milk types over color. If you don’t have time to taste, just request bestsellers or “crowd pleasers,” and the experts at the counter can narrow down some options for you.
Fun fact: Most colored cheeses, like sharp cheddar, are colored orange with anatto seed, which doesn’t affect the flavor and is simply “for looks.” So, rather than relying on color to pick a bold cheese, ask someone for recommendations or do some online research on flavor profiles to find what you’re looking for!
If you’re wondering how much cheese to buy, Molto Formaggio recommends three types of cheese per plate, but up to five is best if you have a party of 20 or more. If you’re only serving two to four people, a simple cheese board with one star selection is easy and delicious, too!
Add the Accoutrements
Now that you’ve picked your cheeses, add a few accoutrements and garnishes for visual interest and complementary flavors. Some standard recommendations are jams or chutneys, cured meats, nuts (like our favorite, salted Marcona almonds!), green olives, fresh and dried fruits, crusty bread or crackers- even chocolate goes well with cheese!
Some general “rules” are that red or blue fruit jams pair well with cow and sheeps milk cheeses, whereas yellow and orange fruit james go best with goat or buffalo milk cheeses. Place the jam on or next to its relevant cheese so guests can easily pair them.
Olives, pickles, meats, and nuts are savory and colorful components to your presentation. A tip for your meats: The smaller the diameter of the meat, the thicker you should slice it. For example, salami can be cut in thick slices, while prosciutto should be most thinly sliced.
Local or flavored honeys and fresh figs are versatile with most cheeses and wines. Part of an actual honeycomb is beautiful on a tray, too! Dark chocolate or fresh fruit can also add a nice tad of sweetness to saltier complements.
Lolli and I both love adding some candied jalapeños or sweet peppers to our assortment as well. We’ll even sometimes include a small dish or footed bowl of Grandma Ruby’s Pimento Cheese or Lolli’s Signature Smoked Turkey Pâté on our trays to spread on crackers and add an unexpected element!
Finally, a fresh and crusty yet soft baguette from Empire Bakery is one of Molto Formaggio’s top recommendations for what to serve with your a cheese tray, as well as Kii crackers, which add a flavorful crunch and rich color to your plate’s palette.
Perfecting the Plate
Now that you have all your ingredients, it’s time to put your curation together. Our friends at Molto Formaggio use their artistic backgrounds to curate cheese trays that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are tasty! As you plate your items, think about how to keep the design balanced and visually interesting:
How you slice and dice your cheeses can create the biggest “wow” factor aesthetically. Use a variety of shapes, like sticks, triangles, and even chunks. Just keep a lot of your offerings bite-sized, so guests (including kids!) are comfortable helping themselves. And be sure to cut your cheeses around the time you’re serving them, so they don’t dry out!
Cut a slice out of the soft cheeses as you serve the tray, so no one is intimidated to “dig in.” Include one server for each cheese, but place a few extra beside the tray if you have a larger party. Don’t forget small spoons for the jam(s) as well as toothpicks or small forks when applicable. Then, say “Cheese!” and capture the beauty of your hors d’oeuvres sensation in a photo for future reference (It’s great to keep an archive on hand for future entertaining inspiration!).
Lastly, if you need the right serving piece for your next event’s cheese tray or board, here are a few to consider, along with knife sets and smaller dishes for all your accoutrements, too. VOILA, Y’ALL!™
Bon appétit! Please let us know if you give any of these tips a try by tagging us in your Instagram posts @lolliandme or on Facebook! And thank you Molto Formaggio for lending your advice to us and for being a regular family favorite!