A well-composed holiday board can set the stage for main-course merriment. But the at-your-leisure crowd favorite can be a bit intimidating to piece together just right. We sat down with Olivia Genthe — owner of Uptown’s café and charcuterie board concept, Fount Board and Table, set to open in mid-December — to gather expert advice on curating an impressive and inviting holiday board this season.
Here are her five essentials to help you build a better board.
Seasonal and Approachable Cheese Choices
When it comes to choosing cheese, Genthe suggests opting for a salty and creamy triple cream over classic holiday brie. For a little seasonal flair, spruce-wrapped goat cheese is among her go-tos, while a hard, smoked bleu cheese can offer guests with texture and taste aversions an easy way to enjoy.
Options for Guests with Dietary Restrictions
Be sure to include cracker, protein, and spread options that guests with dietary restrictions can enjoy. “I try to make sure that we have a dairy dip, a non-dairy dip, and a vegan or plant-based thing that’s different,” Genthe says. Sweet potato crackers are among her gluten-free go-tos, and she suggests bresaola beef as an alternative to classic pork pairings.
A Luxurious Butter
Genthe recommends investing in a high-quality, cultured butter that can be served simply or as a complement to other board ingredients. German and Italian butters are her favorites as they provide a creamy texture and subtle flavor that many guests mistake for a cheese option.
Neutral Herb or Floral Garnishes
Choose herbal garnishes that will complement your board’s flavors — not overtake them. “Be mindful of the stuff that you put physically next to the food,” Genthe says. Though spruce, pine, and rosemary can add seasonal scents and visual interest to your boards, they can overpower the flavors in the foods they touch. Genthe recommends selecting a seeded, silver dollar, or willow eucalyptus from Central Market instead.
Genthe advises choosing one item to place on your board that tells your story or lets a particular guest know you are thinking of them. This can be a fruit that brings back memories of your late grandfather, a mustard from your hometown, or even your favorite flower. “It’s to celebrate each other and who and where you come from,” Genthe says.