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Rebecca Mehra loves cheese. When she competed in the 800 and 1500 meters during the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, she used some social media savvy to make it known that she would “run her heart out for cheese.” She gained notoriety for her desire to find a cheese sponsor and wound up hearing from Velveeta, Whisps, Cabot Cheese, and Rogue Creamery.
“The only thing I don’t love is like a Cheese Whiz or a Kraft American square. I’m not that psyched about it,” she says. “But I could eat cheese and crackers all day. That’s my favorite post-run snack, almost every single day.”
When building a cheese board, Mehra likes to make sure there’s a combination of cheeses from different “families.” With a bigger board, she recommends an aged cheese (like cheddar, Gruyère, or gouda), a soft cheese like Brie, something firmer and sharper like an aged Manchego, and a blue or goat cheese “for some tang.” And always remember to let your cheeses come to room temperature to allow for all their nuances in flavor and texture to come out.
We’ve put together a charcuterie and cheese board based on some of Mehra’s favorites that’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser.
Manchego is a hard Spanish cheese with a wax rind (so don’t eat it!) that Mehra lists among her faves. Try to get one that’s aged 12 months or more, allowing for the development of crystals that add textural interest and bursts of flavor. This is a salty, addicting cheese—ideal for pairing with a delicious wine or refreshing seltzer.
A blue cheese is a must for any board. Mehra lives in Bend, Oregon, and is partial to Rogue Creamery, an award-winning cheese producer in the southern part of the state. It has several blues—get your hands on this Oregon Blue for a more mild flavor.
“Much of my dad’s family lives in Switzerland, so I grew up going to visit them, and got to experience a myriad of amazing Swiss and French cheeses,” says Mehra. “I think my favorite type is probably Gruyères.” With a rich, creamy, slightly nutty taste, younger Gruyères make for excellent fondue.
La Tur is a soft, distinctly flavorful cheese from the Piemonte region in Italy, made from a blend of goat, sheep, and cow’s milk. Allow La Tur to come to room temp and it becomes melty, oozy, and perfectly dippable. This is Mehra’s “all-time favorite cheese.” She likes it with some fig jam on a cracker—we also love it with some crusty baguette and prosciutto. For the uninitiated, La Tur may smell quite funky, but don’t let that deter you. You’ll be a convert at the first buttery bite.
A mix of fresh and dried fruit is a good way to get some staples (dried apricots) on the board with some in-season favorites (Bosc pears are a fall standout). The tartness from fresh fruit is great for cutting through the richness of too much cheese (if there is such a thing!).
Mehra builds her boards with a variety of crackers and never goes without Raincoast Crisps, such as the fig and olive flavor. Include a mix of crackers that add to the cheeses and some that can act as palette cleansers.
The cost of putting together a high-quality cheese board can add up quickly, but having a couple of standout extras can elevate the experience from “delicious” to “memorable.” Honeycomb and Marcona almonds are what Mehra calls “big bonus” accoutrement—the sweetness of the honey pairs particularly well with tangy blues, and Marcona almonds provide a soft crunch from Spain that can’t be matched by other nuts.