Gorgeous cheese plates on Instagram are swoon-worthy, but assembling your own can be intimidating. Wander into any specialty cheese shop and those high price tags might make you faint for a different reason. But wait, stay with us—you don’t have to spend a ton to build a beautiful cheese plate.
While assembling a board on a budget does come with restrictions, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it forces you to get creative. Evan Talen, cheesemonger at Aperitivo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and recent Cheesemonger Invitational Champion, says having fun is the most important part of creating pairings. “I try to decipher if a complementary or a contrasting flavor will make a more complete bite,” he says. “My rule of thumb is to keep things simple and let cheese be the star.”
If experimentation isn’t your thing, then consider trusting your monger. They serve as the gatekeepers of cheese wisdom, so “let them work their magic,” advises Talen. “It isn’t a shock to us that you don’t want to spend your whole paycheck on cheese,” he says. At right, find Talen’s picks that all add up to less than 35 dollars (to score this price tag, ask for a fifth of a pound of each cheese).
1. Gorgonzola Dolce PDO
Origin: Piedmont or Lombardy, Italy
Milk: Raw or pasteurized cow’s milk
+ BLACK MISSION FIGS
Gorgonzola Dolce is beloved among blue turophiles, and with good reason. The slightly sweet blue paired with rich figs “can be the dessert course of your cheeseboard,” Talen says.
2. Shelburne Farms 2-Year Cheddar
Origin: Shelburne, Vermont
Milk: Raw cow’s milk
+ PITTED MESON OLIVE MIX
This aged cheddar is big on buttery flavor.“The briny acidity in the meaty olives is just what the sharp cheddar needs,” says Talen.
3. Raclette PDO
Milk: Raw cow’s milk
+ MINI AMES HONEY
Much like young cheddar, raclette isa supreme melter and often used in cooking. However, “it’s an outstanding, rich, and pungent cheese with incredible texture,” says Talen. The sweet honey juxtaposes the funk of the raclette.
4. Idyll Farms Idyllweiss
Origin: Northport, Michigan
Milk: Pasteurized goat’s milk and cow’s cream
+ EAT THIS MEYER LEMON & LAVENDER MARMALADE
Lemon and lavender jam might seem like an uncommon pairing, but the combination of sweet and floral teases out corresponding notes from this goat’s milk bloomy rind.