Cheese plates are great because they are practical, they go perfectly with wine and they’re super tasty. This is the one guide you didn’t know you needed. Here are some battle-tested lessons I’ve distilled after years of putting together impromptu cheese plates.

Board

Board selection is a direct function of two parameters: size and fanciness. Black slates and wooden boards look great but hard to clean. Ceramic is practical but not particularly attractive. All said, even a hotel plate will do in a cheese plate emergency situation.

An aperitif hour with local cheese and wine selection at the Woodlark hotel in Portland, Oregon.

Cheese

Considering that cheese is the star of the plate, find the highest quality cheese you can find. In Singapore, The Cheese Shop at Joo Chiat is your best bet. In Switzerland, Berger has become a household name for us. A good rule of thumb is to mix and match different types of cheese, including hard (gruyere, comte), soft (vacherin mont d’or, brie) and blue (roquefort, stilton).

Meats

Saucisson is the clear winner here, closely followed by prosciutto and jamón. Cured meats are an absolutely necessity. If you see a cheese plate without any cured meats, walk away.

Fruits & Nuts

The acidity in fruits help balance the fattiness of cheese. Always choose fruits that are fresh and in season. Grapes are the poster child of cheese plate fruits, but figs and peaches are amazing as well. In the nuts department, walnuts are always an excellent choice, followed by almonds and hazelnuts.

Another impromptu cheese plate we put together with local produce from surrounding village shops while staying at Two Rooms Hotel inside the Urla Vineyard in Turkey.

Crackers & Bread

The perfect companion to cheese is the olive oil sourdough cracker, but the good old sourdough bread would work too. Just don’t go overboard with the bread (ba dum tss).

Extras

A couple of extras make the cheese plate truly shine, such as honey, jams, chutneys and green olives. For the adventurous, a can of sardines in olive oil can elevate the plate from aperitif to dinner. Vegetables like radishes and carrots may sound like a good idea, but I advise staying away from the temptation, because you definitely don’t want to dilute your beautifully crafted plate of greatness with healthy food!

Bon appetit!