Among your caprese skewers and grilled crostinis, another fail-safe appetizer you can serve this summer is a cheese board. They’re perfect to pack up and bring to a picnic, should you want to feast on jams and brie in the park; plus, the low-maintenance preparation is an easy way to impress guests if you’re hosting a party. To come up with the ultimate spread of cheeses, fruits, nuts, jams, crackers, and breads, we reached out to Eric Brazel from Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica—the in-house fromager and veritable cheese master—and asked him what his ideal summer cheese board would look like. In short? A few classics like domestic goat cheese and grapes, along with some surprises too—he prefers Robiola to brie, and also recommends serving cubes of honeycomb instead of liquid honey, which is heavenly with blue cheese.
Before we give you Brazel's perfect cheese board, a few tips—as tempting as it is to head to the supermarket, Brazel says you’ll find the best cheeses at independent cheese shops. Experts can help you pick the right cheese (and quantity of cheese) for each occasion, as well as recommend different pairings. As for the fruit, breads, and other accompaniments, the farmers’ market is your best bet. With these guidelines in mind, you’re well on your way to crafting the best-ever cheese spread for your next event—for the rest, check out Brazel’s picks below.
The cheese spread: 7 types you should try
Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue ($18 at amazon.com)
Gorgonzola Dolce – “a soft creamy Italian blue cheese.”
Robiola Cheese – “I prefer Robiola to most brie cheeses,” Brazen says.
La Tur – “This is an Italian cheese made with cow, goat, and sheep milk. It’s a variation of a Robiola cheese and delicious.”
Goat Cheese �� “There are plenty of great domestic goat cheeses," he says. "It’s a nice addition because of the tangy, chalky texture.”
Aged Gouda from the Netherlands
French Ossau-Iraty – “This is a sheep’s milk cheese that is aged 6 to 8 months.” ($13 at amazon.com)
Honeycomb – “Cut it into cubes instead of a pool of honey,” Brazel recommends. “The honeycomb pairs so well with blue cheeses.” ($18 at amazon.com)
Plain crackers – neutral flavor means they won’t compete with the cheese.
Nut bread from the farmers’ market – “I toast the bread to make them nice and crispy like crackers,” he says.
Grapes – You want them plump and broken into little clusters for serving.
Almonds or hazelnuts – Brazel says these should not be salted.
Stone fruit – “I like firmer versions such as nectarines and peaches,” Brazel says.
Membrillo/Quince Paste ($14 at amazon.com)