Satisfy the crowd. “For your tray, you want sweet, savory, crunchy, sour—all of the qualities you get out of a great dish,” Keuler says. Here, he anchored the savory side of the board with Jeff’s Select gouda from Minnesota and Prairie Breeze sharp cheddar from Iowa. Cornichons, buttery Castelvetrano olives, black-pepper salami by Elevation, and Italian speck—a cold-smoked ham with intense flavor—round out the offerings. The tray’s sweeter side includes bright-orange mimolette from France and double-cream brie from Haystack Mountain in Colorado. Marcona almonds, blackberries, So Damn Gouda’s signature red-wine reduction jam, and dried figs and apricots complement these two cheeses.

Size it right. Anchor your board with no more than four cheeses, and plan on serving about 3 ounces of cheese and 1.5 ounces of cured meats per person. And if multiple hands reaching for the same platter makes you nervous in these strange times, go for personal-size portions on smaller boards.

Mike Kueler
The pro: Mike Keuler, So Damn Gouda. Photo by Ryan Scheer

Add some crunch. So Damn Gouda makes their own crostini, and you can too: Thinly slice a day-old baguette, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake at a low temperature (325 degrees) until the slices become crisp. You want mild crackers, says Keuler, who also recommends Raincoast Crisps for their slightly sweet flavors that pair especially well with creamy cheeses.

Relish the cheese ball. “I grew up in Minnesota, and you can’t have a gathering in the Midwest without a cheese ball,” Keuler says. While the versions from his childhood were made with port-wine cheese, So Damn Gouda’s signature recipe uses finely shredded aged gouda and the shop’s red-wine jam for updated deliciousness. Pimiento cheddar and fresh-herb-and-goat-cheese options are also available.

Get some help. “Sometimes, people think cheese is like wine: If you don’t know what you’re talking about, you can’t access high-quality products,” Keuler says. But that’s not true, he insists. Call the Sunnyside shop for help choosing cheeses that’ll please all of your guests, from picky children to the most sophisticated palates. And if you just want to order a tray without fussing about it, the company’s website has ready-to-go options—with wine!—available for delivery within 24 hours. Which leaves only one question: To brie or not to brie?

Hilary Masell Oswald
Hilary Masell Oswald
As the former editor for two of 5280’s ancillary publications, Hilary Masell Oswald split her time between the vibrant design-and-architecture scene in the metro area for 5280 Home and the always-changing field of health for the annual 5280 Health.