Cheese the Day
5 Tips for Making a Board Bursting With Flavor and Color
By Karen Shih ’09
Photos by Stephanie S. Cordle
When Kara McGrath ’13 got married in 2018, she served her guests a flowery, four-tiered cake—made not from red velvet or buttercream, but wheels of manchego, blue cheese and Harbison.
She soon capitalized on her fondness for fromage and left her career in international development. Today, she and her husband, Aaron Fagan ’13, own and operate Paste and Rind, a Washington, D.C., cheese and wine bar offering mystery tastings, custom platters and a monthly subscription box.
McGrath shares tips for getting “gouda” at making your own cheese board:
VARIETY RULES, TO A POINT.
Use three or four types of cheese with different textures and milk types. Add a jam or spread, then some crunch with honeycomb or pickles, and finish with nuts.
BITE-SIZE IS BEST.
Big chunks of cheese get messy, so she recommends pre-cutting everything. “Ease and access get underrated in our Instagram world,” McGrath says.
EVERYTHING MUST BE EDIBLE.
No purely decorative garnishes!
MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL.
“We consume with our eyes as much as we do with our other senses,” she says. Fill the board from edge to edge and use color blocking—think curves, not straight lines—with charcuterie, fresh fruits and veggies, or crackers.
WHAT GROWS TOGETHER GOES TOGETHER.
That’s the rule of thumb she uses when pairing drinks. “If you’ve got a French-style goat cheese, a French white wine is a good option.”
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