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The ultimate cheese board brings in multiple textures, flavors and colors to please both the palate and the eye. (Photo credit: Doug Young with food styling by Katie Minucci)

Guests are coming from the city (or, maybe, just down the street), and more than likely cheese and crackers will be put out to greet them. But to wow them? It’s time to elevate with a really beautiful cheese and charcuterie board, one that celebrates the seasonally available local vegetables, fruits and hand-made accoutrements. The abundance of resources on the South Fork can help.

Caterers figured out the crowd appeal of assorted cheese and meat boards a long time ago, which is apparent by how many tend to flock around that particular table at special events.

“A beautiful cheeseboard may look like a huge feat, but it’s quite simple,” says Steve Cardello, chief operating officer of Savory Hospitality, a boutique catering firm located in midtown Manhattan. Cardello, who sources cheese from Mecox Bay Dairy for their bespoke boards, says it’s all about balance.

Mecox Dairy Farm’s happy cows grazing on sweet grass. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

“The cheeses should be a blend of milk types but also should complement each other’s flavor profile. Because cheese can cover so much territory globally, I like to start with a theme, either focusing on a country (Spain, Italy, Denmark) or a region (Eastern Long Island, Hudson Valley, Vermont, Basque country, Parma, Central Coast).” he says. “Other themes could focus on the cheesemaker (family-owned) or the types (blue, washed rind, triple cream).”

To make the boards visually appealing, Cardello recommends a blend of fresh and dried fruits, savory crackers and premium nuts. “The addition of local honey with floral notes is also a good choice (buckwheat and wildflower)” adds Cardello.

Since Eastenders are lucky enough to have Mecox Bay Dairy here in Bridgehampton, finding the right cheeses will be foolproof. “I recommend our brie with imported Italian black truffles as a good cheeseboard choice,” says Pete Ludlow, son of Art Ludlow, Mecox Bay Dairy’s founder, “and it is only available in the summer.” 

Ready to start your edible work of art? Here’s a helpful guide thanks to Savory Hospitality with some Southforker local add-ons.

THE CHEESE: We recommend at least three cheeses with different textures: hard, semi-soft and soft. Look for a variation of goat, sheep and cow cheeses. Blue cheese adds a funky taste and color to the board. We love to roll goat chevre in everything bagel spice. Mecox Bay Dairy is a great start for local, handmade artisan cheese and Catapano Dairy Farm in Southold is known for its delicious goats’ cheese. For one-stop specialty cheese shopping, hit up Cavaniola’s in Sag Harbor and Amagansett, which carries a world-class selection of imported and domestic cheeses, or Shelter Island’s ever-delightful King Andrew Cheese, the covered wagon run by cheesemonger Reeve Andrew and Jessie King that has a glorious selection of world cheeses and knowledgeable expertise on them all.

THE MEAT: Prosciutto and Genoa salami are always crowd-pleasers. Spicy capicola brings the heat! (Try Citarella for some wonderful charcuterie choices.)

THE DIPS: Jam, honey, preserves, mustard, pesto. (Balsam Farms beach plum preserves are a great choice).

Marilee’s Farmstand in Sagaponack is a great source for vibrant, fresh veggies to complement your cheese board. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

The possibilities are endless. Truffled honey is our favorite decadent upgrade. (local honey can be found at most farmers’ markets and stands throughout the East End.)

THE FRUIT: Grapes, raisins, dried apricots, and berries are a classic. Amp it up a notch with fresh figs, juicy orange slices and dried dates (local blackberries and strawberries from Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett are a sweet addition)

THE NUTS: Any kind of nut will do, but Marcona almonds, spiced pecans and chocolate-covered cashews are a flavor-popping surprise.

THE GARNISH: No bountiful board is complete without garnish. Our favorites are rosemary, sage, fennel fronds and edible flowers (nasturtium a must, and you can buy the plant at any number of local garden centers—bonus, it looks beautiful, too).

And let’s not forget the veg. Sagaponack Farm Distillery carries zingy pickled dilly beans, or add some fresh fennel or local radishes from Marilee’s Farmstand for crunch and bite.