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Celebrate Vermont with your Holiday Cheese Board

Over the last few years, cheese boards and other grazing boards have been elevated to an artistic pursuit. They can be themed for any preference and occasion. There's a reason why cheese boards are especially popular around the holidays.They are easy to pack one up and bring to a friends house, or lay one out yourself for a party at home.

The best ones take you on a journey, and are both visually and flavorfully creative. We've seen butter boards, charcuterie boards, even "seacuterie" boards. But really, the OG of grazing boards is the good ol' cheese board. And if you are going to build a cheese board, there is no better place to source the tastiest of ingredients than Vermont. We spoke with a couple of our local experts, to get their recommendations for the building blocks to create a great and tasty cheese board. Check out their advice below, before you head out to the store to build your own!

Mad River Taste Place | Waitsfield 

The Mad River Taste Place is a specialty grocery store featuring a curated collection of local Vermont products, thoughtfully selected to educate and delight. The Waitsfield-based store is stocked with a wide assortment from the makers and growers of the Mad River Valley and across the state, from cheeses and meats to local craft beers, wines and ciders.

Mad River Taste Place General Manager and superstar cheesemonger Mary Tuthill says:


Holiday Specials

"Some of our favorites get dressed up for the holidays -- look for special washes on year-round favorites like Harbison washed with ruby port, or the winter-exclusive Winnimere, both from Jasper Hill Farms. These limited releases are indulgent and decadent; they make a great addition to a festive cheese board but also a special gift for any cheese lover on your list. Blake Hill Preserves Caramelized Fig with Pear & Honey would be a perfect pairing with deep seasonal flavors to accent the richness of the cheese. Pour yourself and your guests a glass of Eden Ice Cider and toast to a delicious holiday gathering."

"Tarentaise from Spring Brook Farm is the ultimate winter cheese, drawing from its heritage in the Swiss Alps. This firm, nutty and smooth alpine cheese pulls its weight on any cheeseboard but also works in fondue or French Onion soup if you find yourself with any left over. This selection plays well with any dry-cured salami from Babette's Table. If you choose to snack beside the fire with a robust red wine like Barbara Ann from Ellison Estate Vineyard, the Mad River Blue from Von Trapp Farmstead is your perfect pick. Nicely salted and complex in flavor, this fan favorite is both creamy and crumbly. This blue cheese comes to us from our Waitsfield neighbors, made from the farmstead herd's organic milk."
Don't forget the extras
"Other cheeseboard accoutrements we always suggest are dried fruits and nuts. We have West Worcester Smoked Nuts that are seasoned, smoked and lightly salted - incredible! Olives, pickles or cornichons for crunch and briny flavors fit in perfectly. Lastly, fresh fruit or vegetables are great too. Cucumbers, carrots, grapes or berries are all easily accessible additions."
How much per person?
"As a rule of thumb, we suggest about 4oz of cheese per person, but if there's lots of other appetizers or entrees planned, you can scale down to 2oz. In addition, 2oz of cured meat per person works well. Put out jams & mustards in their original jars with spreaders or spoons so guests can identify the label or read through the ingredients for allergy info."

Salt & Bubbles Wine Bar and Market | Essex

Stop by this cozy, whimsical setting for a glass or bottle of wine and light fare, or peruse their shelves for a bottle of wine to take home from the retail shop. The folks at Salt & Bubbles focus on affordable wines made ethically by people who take care of the land and the people they work with.

Salt & Bubbles Owner, Manager and all-around wine expert Kayla Silver has this to say about board building:


Where do you start?
"When people order a full board we always like to start with diversity and texture as the starting point. If we know we want to have one firm cheese the other should be soft, or if one is cow milk based the other could be sheep/goat. Same goes for charcuterie, if you have a whole muscle meat like Prosciutto, Speck or Coppa, the other could be a salami or a pate or rillettes."
Add a little color
"For the visual effect of a board, make sure you have color that isn't more of the same shade of "brown" or "beige" that cheese/charcuterie can tend to be, things like pickles with bright color, jams, and if you are feeling fancy either dried or fresh fruit always looks beautiful on a board."
Kayla's current picks:
- Vermont Shepherd 2 year Invierno 
- Sage Farm Sterling (French Valençay style cheese from Stowe)
- Timberdoodle from Woodcock Farm, a Taleggio style cheese that is so so tasty!
"Anything from 5th Quarter or Babettes Table, but favorites include the Pate Grand Mere from 5th Quarter, or the Saucisson Sec from Babette's Table."
Sweet Pairings
"V Smiley Preserves for the win - always! Personal favorites include her Cherry Fennel Sherry preserve but all of them are excellent.
Another thought is sourcing some local honey - we all know someone down the road or the town over who has a delicious raw honey! If you don't, get some Ariel's Honey!"
Don't forget the extras!
"While these products are not from VT we love Fallot Dijon Mustard and make our own pickled mustard seeds in house. Other musts are the West Worcester Woodfired Smoked Nuts from Bon Temps Catering from VT and Frog Hollow Crackers are a great addition to any board."
Don't overthink it
'When it comes to pairing accoutrement, sometimes just don't overthink it! While there are specific pairings that come to mind for me for specific cheeses, just like wine, if the food is delicious and the wine is delicious and you picked overall delicious items - it'll be great!'
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