What a Friend We Have in Cheeses

Cheese is good. It’s a fact. I know some people would probably argue that this is only an “opinion”, but I disagree.

Cheese is good. It just is. I love cheese.

Another factually good thing is bread.

Bread is good. It just is. I love bread.

We tried to do Whole30 last January, and we were so good at it that we finished in 22 days. (That is a joke. We unashamedly jumped ship together and ordered Pizza Hut on January 22nd. We regret nothing.)

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If you’re not familiar with Whole30, it is a diet plan that “isn’t actually a diet.” You restrict your diet to certain food groups for 30 days to detox your body. Instead of giving you a list of what you can’t eat, it’s easier to tell you what you can eat. You can eat eggs. You can eat meat, but not with butter or bread or anything good. You can eat vegetables and fruit, but not too much fruit. If you get hungry for a snack, you can eat your own sadness. One woman described it as “only eating food that God made. Why didn’t you make cheese, God?!?!” After 22 days, I was just tired of thinking about what we were going to eat all the time. Yeah, I felt better and had some of the benefits from cutting out all dairy, grains, alcohol, and sugar. But if you remember our fact lesson from the beginning, bread and cheese are just GOOD! They just are! We can’t quit. On day five I just wanted to lay in a pile of bread and snort some flour. (Graphic? Yes. True? Also yes.)

Now that you’re familiar with what Whole30 is, this is the exact opposite of that. Whole30 is North. A cheese and charcuterie board is South. Whole30 is sadness. A cheese and charcuterie board is joy itself.  Whole30 is bad. Cheese and charcuterie boards are good. These are facts.

At this point you might be wondering, “What is a cheese and charcuterie board? Is that only for people that like weird cheese?” If you’ve never put one together, and the idea of trying weird cheese is intimidating to you, hang in there. I promise that it is not difficult, and it is good.

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This is a cheese and charcuterie board. (Charcuterie just means “cured meats”).

 

We bought all of our cheese, meat, and wine from Trader Joe’s. You can find these ingredients from other grocery stores, but we’ve found Trader Joe’s to have the best selection for the best price. Here is a breakdown of everything we include on our cheese board, plus some tips for cheese shopping if it is your first time!

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1.Start with Brie

If “weird cheese” intimidates you, you’ll be safe trying Brie cheese. It is mild and doesn’t smell weird. I like to put brie on a piece of baguette and top it with a little drizzle of honey. My husband’s favorite tip for picking out the right brie is to look for “the bulge”. Brie is supposed to be soft and creamy, and the piece that bulges out the edges of the rind is sure to be extra soft and creamy! Here are some pictures to help see the difference. We bought the first one. I would recommend buying mostly brie if this is your first time enjoying weird cheese. You can get a large slice like this for about $3-$6 depending on the size.

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2.Smoked Gouda

We tried this for the first time this weekend with Ben’s parents, and really liked it! We ate it on crackers, but it is also good on baguette! Gouda is a hard cheese, like cheddar. I like to serve a mix of soft and hard cheeses when I create a cheese board. I eat soft cheese on baguette, and hard cheese on a cracker, but #youdoyou. This smoked gouda kind of reminds me of bacon. I don’t think it has bacon in it, but if you like bacon you might like this cheese!

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3.Blue Cheese

You either love blue cheese, or you don’t. I’ve never met a person that “kind of” likes blue cheese. If you’re not sure how you feel about it, buy a small hunk. This piece is still a good size, and only cost $1.75. I love blue cheese, but my husband doesn’t. (More for me!) It has a very strong and unique flavor, but if you love it then you really love it!

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4.Charcuterie

Like I said before, “charcuterie” just means “cured meat”. Think “fancy ham”. I like to buy this package that has a few options. The calabrese salami is my favorite. These aren’t too weird. You can eat them on the baguette with your cheese, or skip the baguette and eat them plain! I like to make tiny sandwiches of baguette, brie, salami, and dijon mustard.

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5.Speaking of Mustard…

This is my favorite mustard from Trader Joes. It also has a strong flavor, but it isn’t too spicy.

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6.Almonds

Nuts take your cheese board to the next level. That’s all there is to say about that.

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7.BREAD!!!

As I said before, we love bread. Trader Joe’s has great baguettes. Since the nearest Trader Joe’s is over two hours away, we stock up when we’re in the city. You can freeze them! When you’re ready to use it, just pop it in the oven for a few minutes and you’ll have warm, crusty bread. (Amen.)

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(These are pita crackers from Trader Joe’s)

Typically, cheese boards are served on a wood platter. We served ours on this wood tray from the new Magnolia collection at Target. (My husband actually picked it out and had the idea to write this post! Thanks, Ben!)

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The other dishes and linens you see in these photos are also Magnolia and are all available at Target!

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Black Dinner Plate | Cream Salad Plate | White Placemats with Black Checks (folded up and used as napkins) | Striped Napkins (in bread basket) | Linen Table Runner | Grid Stoneware Pitcher | Gold Flatware | Red Wine Glasses | Wood Board

We decided to also have fondue, because this meal definitely needed more cheese. (That’s a joke). We’re sharing our cheese board leftovers with our friends tonight, so we decided to stretch the other ingredients with fondue!

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(I love this picture of Ben, carefully stirring the fondue as it melts. The man is serious about cheese.) Our fondue was purchased at Trader Joe’s around Christmas. You can put it in the freezer and use it whenever! They only sell it in the winter, so we like to buy a few packages to save for such a time as this. The only other ingredient we buy for fondue is broccoli. If you buy it in the bag, just throw it in the microwave to steam it! We sometimes serve roasted potatoes with fondue, but only when fondue is the main course.

(This is our fondue pot from Amazon. It is out of stock in black but is available in red!)

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The final component to a good cheese board experience is wine. We like wine, but we don’t know much about it yet. Wine connoisseurs everywhere will probably cry at my next suggestion, so if you know about “good wine” then just ignore me. We definitely appreciate “good wine” when we have it, but we also enjoy Trader Joe’s boxed wine. It costs $13 for a box, which contains almost 3 bottle’s worth. We usually buy the Cabernet box. They also have chardonnay and rosé. They also sell cheap bottles of various types of wine. For this meal, we bought their $3 bottle of Chardonnay. It was great. Ben made the comment, “It would be more expensive to buy a bottle of water this size… and it would be a plastic bottle”. 🙂

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One time, while checking out with our box of wine, the cashier said, “Oh, I see you’ve got your juice box. All you need now is a straw.” I couldn’t tell if he was making fun of us or relating to us, but either way we were happy with our decision!

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If you do want to try a fancier bottle, this is our favorite wine. (The bottle on the right). We had it in Paris with Ben’s family.

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No trip to Trader Joe’s is complete without a bouquet!

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The thing we love most about this meal is that you have to take your time. We love having charcuterie and fondue for a date night at home, but we really love sharing it with friends. The communal nature of this meal encourages the fostering of relationships around the table. The tips I shared are just how we like to do things, but you can experiment with your own preferences. The most important part is enjoying it with someone you love! I would rather have pizza rolls with my husband and best friends than the fanciest meal by myself. But if you take the time and make the effort to create a special meal and share it with friends, you’ll be in for a treat. If you’ve never created a cheese board, I want to encourage you to try it out! It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to serve a special meal. Our very normal Wednesday night became a special experience that we shared together. And tonight, our very normal Thursday night will be a special experience with our friends.


I try to make my posts as short as possible, but I guess I had a lot to say about cheese!

I love it when readers share their take on something they read here. If you do decide to create your own cheese board, share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #hollandavenuehome. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful ordinary Thursday!

-Avery

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Trader Joe’s. We just really love it. (But Joe, if you’re out there, please sponsor me.) The Target and Amazon links, however, are affiliate links. This means I’ll receive a small percent commission on any Target or Amazon products you buy through one of my product links. As you can see, I only linked to things I already own and would recommend!

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