The holidays are here and family gatherings will be smaller this year, albeit nonetheless packed full of holiday cheer. With less mouths to feed, there will be less emphasis on providing hearty appetizers to hold your guests over while they anxiously await the holiday feast. However, to provide the immediate family with small snacks, we’ve asked Chef Christina Machamer what she suggests as a light starter good for grazing while sipping on delicious Frank Family wines. Her answer? A cheeseboard! As the winner of Hell’s Kitchen Season 4 and a certified Sommelier, Chef Christina is no stranger to pairing wine with food. A cheeseboard is one of her favorite appetizers to pair with wine because of the versatility that the array of cheeses have to offer – they please many palates and many wine styles!
To make a cheeseboard exuberate the holidays, one may think many colors are necessary. However, Chef Christina demonstrates how you can create a monochromatic board inspired by holiday colors that still feels vibrant and festive. For this board, she chooses white and green.
Choosing the cheese is an important part of the puzzle. However, Chef Christina shares that it’s best to stay simple. Keeping the number of cheeses low will allow for a quick assembly time of your cheeseboard and more time to focus on the main meal of the evening. For this board, Chef Christina has chosen only four cheeses: a wheel of Boursin Herb and Garlic, 2-year aged Kerrygold White Cheddar, Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Brie, and fresh goat cheese.
When assembling your board, Chef Christina advises to keep in mind height and drama. She begins with a bowl of green pitted olives which adds height and color to the board. Next, the wheel of Boursin cheese is placed whole, as the soft cheese crumbles easily. The cheddar is a great choice to cube, also making it easy to eat, especially for kids. She then places the cheddar in a dramatic line down the middle of the board. Chef Christina suggests pairing the cheddar cubes with a nice red wine such as our 2019 Carneros Pinot Noir or 2017 Napa Valley Zinfandel.
Fresh goat cheese should also be placed on the board whole. If you prefer to begin your evening with a glass of bubbles, this refreshingly, light cheese will offer a bright splash of acidity that pairs beautifully with our 2016 Rouge or 2014 Blanc de Blancs. Lastly, the Mt. Tam Brie wheel is cut in half lengthwise using a cheese wire and rounds out the cheese offerings. To elevate the brie and give the creamy cheese extra holiday cheer, Chef Christina thinly slices green grapes, laying them on top of the halved brie wheel. The flavors of the brie and grapes pair nicely and it makes a lovely presentation.
Sliced green apples are strategically placed next to the brie and goat cheese to encourage pairing. The fresh acidity of the apple partners with creaminess of the two cheeses to create the perfect bite. Finish the board by sprinkling grapes, almonds and tucking in crackers. Top it off with whole, green fruit such as a pear, a green apple or a tangerine with its stem and leaves for a pop of color.
Before you begin your cheeseboard-building journey, Chef Christina reminds you to consider an extra large board. When putting the finishing touches on, not everything needs to be compact and touching. In fact, small areas of the board showing through can actually show some character to the overall feel of your board. Last but not least, have fun experimenting with new textures, flavors, and wines!
Watch Chef Christina build her holiday inspired cheeseboard below for even more tips!