Texas Living

The Complete Guide to Grazing Boards

By Eve Hill-Agnus 5.6.24

From contemporary and sleek to romantic and bohemian, a grazing board or table is a fun and stress-free way to serve food at your next get-together. Try the tips below from Texas grazing board experts to make your next gathering a showstopper. 

grazing boards

Basic Grazing Board and Table Techniques

Determine whether your grazing board or table will offer heavy or light fare and if there is a color palette or theme. Then, layer your foods in this order:

1. Cheeses, whole fruits, grape clusters, bowls for dips, jams, jellies, honey, larger items (like kebabs or cupcakes), if using, and baskets for crackers (keep them separate to avoid sogginess).
2. Charcuterie (in folds or roses) and veggies.
3. Fill in with berries, nuts, dried fruits, and chocolates.
4. Accent with greenery, herbs, and edible flowers.

Go Green!

Lane Tunstall of Board + Brie in Roanoke says, “You have to use green. It brings it to life.” She suggests fresh herbs, green grapes, green olives, cornichons, and green veggies such as sugar snap peas, cucumber, celery, and broccolini for green accents. In the green register, Olivia Genthe of Fount Board & Table in Dallas favors overlooked but potent herbs such as shiso, tarragon, and dill. When possible, buy locally or from a farmers market to ensure you’re getting the freshest, in-season produce.

Play With Color

Outside of green, colors play a key role in a good grazing board. Think blueberry goat cheese and purple grapes, but without necessarily placing them next to one another: “So the eyes dance around the board,” Tunstall says. Orange pops, so she recommends half-moons of cara cara or blood oranges (dried or fresh). Other grazing board artists use whole pomegranates or watermelon slices and fill in any empty areas with berries or grapes. Pro tip: Tunstall recommends snipping grapes into clusters and arranging them stem-side down to look like bunches of balloons.

Mix Savory and Sweet

If you mix it up, guests can easily assemble a well-balanced plate. In the sweet department, Leon Vigil of Thyme & Date in Dallas loves including macarons and dark chocolate. Beth DiBaggio of La Dama Grazing Co. in Austin has used homemade mini pavlovas and more unique treats like seafoam-green mint-chocolate malt balls. Lean on charcuterie cuts to add smoky, spicy, and salty flavors. From hot soppressata and prosciutto to coppa and pâte, there are many meats waiting to be paired with a sweet counterpart.

Say ‘Cheese!’

Variety is the spice of life. Tunstall recommends a soft goat cheese or brie (or both), a hard cheese such as manchego, and a “fun” cheese. “Go into any cheese shop and pick one you haven’t tried,” she says, such as an Irish porter or dried apricot-studded Stilton. Genthe likes using goat cheeses in ways that take guests beyond the expected. (Try a hard cheese like goat-milk Gouda or a lightly smoked goat cheese.) She also recommends seeking local creameries, like Armagh Creamery in Dublin, Texas.

grazing boards

Give Them Something to Talk About

A grazing board or table is impressive in its own right, but if you’re serving a larger crowd, consider incorporating larger food items that will both spark conversation and satiate. This can mean platters of kebabs and heavier canapes. Main proteins tucked into a table can make people feel taken care of, Genthe points out. If your get-together has a theme, play into it! Add waffles, parfaits, or hashbrowns for brunch, or wings, buffalo dip, and pigs in a blanket for a tailgate.

grazing boards

The Logistics of a Good Grazing Board

Before arranging your grazing board or table, consider placing parchment or butcher paper on your surface for easier cleanup. Gather tongs and toothpicks (for sliced cheeses, charcuterie, desserts, and veggies), knives and spoons (for soft cheese and dips), and small cocktail plates and napkins.

To label or not to label? That is the question. While the element of surprise and delight is hailed by many grazing board professionals as a hallmark of the setup, a pretty little card can accompany items that might need explaining or contain allergens. Practice food safety and keep any perishables refrigerated until the last moment. Remember: A grazing setup should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours. And most importantly, have fun!

Complete your grazing table with a DIY flower arrangement.

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