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How to Make a Cheese Board, As Told By Trader Joe’s

If there’s anything I learned this holiday season, it’s that Trader Joe’s is the place to pick up all your charcuterie board accouterments. Not only do they carry a wide variety of cheeses and sell them for reasonable prices, but they also carry truffle salami and an incredible fig butter that I definitely polished off yesterday. And Trader Joe’s seems very aware of its meat and cheese board reputation, as the grocer recently dedicated an entire episode of its podcast, “Inside Trader Joe’s,” to just that: “Cheese, Cheese, and More Cheese.” So, listen up, because with one more holiday celebration to be had — New Year’s — there’s still time to learn how to make a cheese board.

“Sometimes we get a little cheesy on Inside Trader Joe’s,” said co-host Tara Miller, director of “Words and Phrases and Clauses” at Trader Joe’s. “I think this could be one of our GRATER episodes,” added co-host Matt Sloan, the “Marketing Products guy.”

Episode 20 of “Inside Trader Joe’s” is a deep dive on cheese, including how cheese is made, where the cheese sold at Trader Joe’s is cut and packaged, how they manage to sell their cheese at an affordable price, and more.

“People who haven’t really discovered our cheese case, when they first see it, they’re just shocked at the pricing because we’ll offer a cheese that might be $25 a pound at a specialty cheese shop and they think, well that must be different, but it’s not. It’s the same cheese from the same part of the world from that same tiny little cheese maker, but we just buy so much of it that we can get a better price,” she said.


But let’s get to the reason we’re all here: how to build a cheese board.

“You must have customers coming in saying, ‘I have to do a cheese board and I don’t know what to put in it,'” Miller said to Ena, a Trader Joe’s employee for 14 years who’s been in charge of the cheese section for eight. “How do you advise them?”

How much — and what kind — of cheeses?

Image: Trader Joe’s.

According to Ena, the host should supply about three to four ounces of cheese per person and a total of four varieties of cheese, including a soft cheese, a semi-soft cheese, a semi-hard cheese and a hard cheese.

For the soft cheese, opt for brie. “Bries are a sure thing to get,” Ena said.

The semi-soft could be gouda, Jarlsberg, stilton or blue cheese.

“And then your semi-hard, which is cheddars and manchego,” Ena added.

Hard cheeses include parmesan, pecorino and asiago.

How to display the cheese

Image: Trader Joe’s.

As for how the cheese is displayed, get as creative as you’ve like, but don’t overthink it. For instance, some cheeses, like parmesan, can be cut into cubes, while others can be left alone, like brie. “There’s no wrong way,” Ena said of making a cheese board.

One way to make the board more approachable is adding signage identifying each cheese. “That’s a terrific idea for cheese,” Miller said. “I think because sometimes people are intimidated by a cheese they don’t recognize.”

As for cheese placement on the board, Ena recommends separating the “stinky” cheeses from the the “non-stinky” cheese with meats or fruits.

And as for what the cheese is placed onto, it doesn’t have to be a board made of wood. You can use anything you want.

What alcohol pairs well with cheese?

Image: Whisky Auctioneer.

Looking to pair your cheese board with booze? Category Manager for Wine Chris Condit has just the list of wines and other alcohol to grab from Trader Joe’s.

Starting with sharp cheddar, Chris recommends pairing it with TJ’s $14.99 Platinum Reserve Rutherford Cab.

For parmesan, pick up a bottle of Incanto Prosecco. “Nothing says holidays like breaking out a magnum of sparkling wine,” he says.

For goat cheese, he adds, “you need something with a little more backbone to kind of cut that goaty flavor, if you will. Maybe a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre or something out of New Zealand perhaps. Maybe even a Hefeweizen beer.”

Manchego pairs “beautifully” with Puerta de Plata Spanish Wine from Northern Spain.

And for blue cheese, go with a port, a Riesling, Trader Joe’s Tiramisu Pastry Stout, or Babka Stout.

Or, to make it even easier on you, grab just one bottle: an 18-year-old Highland Scotch. “That’s good with everything,” Chris says.

Listen to the episode on Trader Joe’s website.

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