Darcy Miller, Darcy Miller Designs, Graze New York, Food, Party Food, Graze board
When it comes to entertaining, you want your food to look as good as it tastes. For a no-cook appetizer, a grazing board checks all the boxes—it could even serve as the entire menu for a cocktail party But a grazing board is not just a pretty plate! It’s also colorful, versatile, and everyone loves it, because there’s something on it for everyone, and guests can pick and choose what makes it from the board to their dish.

You don’t have to be an artist—or a chef—to build a board that your guests will enjoy gazing at and grazing from. Whether you go crudité, meat and cheese, breads and crackers, or a mix of all three, it’s easy to build a grazing board from whatever you can find loc.

At a recent baby shower I hosted, I served these two boards were put together by Graze New York. They look wildly impressive but they swear you can—and should!—try this at home! Here are their tips for building your own grazing board:

Darcy Miller, Darcy Miller Designs, Graze New York, Food, Party Food, Graze board

Start with the basic
Simple is better when it comes to the serving piece itself, so use a basic wooden board. A base that has a design or detail tends to take away from the beauty of the finished product, so less is more here.

Then load on a healthy mix
The food is where more is more! Provide a good assortment of items on the board. If charcuterie is your thing, try to include at least three different types of cheeses (a soft, a hard, and a cubed or crumbled are good starting poinand and three different types of meats. When doing crudités, choose an assortment of vegetables with different shapes, colors, and textures. Even when it comes to crackers, you can offer two different options, a sweet and savory. This way, your guests can play around with different flavors! A savory cracker with a spread of sweet fig jam, and a slice of gooey Brie topped with a piece of salty prosciutto is the best of both worlds.

Add some dips
Speaking of mixing flavors, dips and condiments are as important as the main items on the board. Little pots or piles of toppings add visual variety and give your guests options for flavors. Think jams, mustards, hummus, aiolis—the list goes on. You can mix different tastes so that the flavors play off of each other: salty nuts, tangy dried fruit, sweet fig jam, and garlic mustard that has a bit of a bite to it are great additions to a cheese board. On a crudités board, hummus is always nice—plain, beet, roasted red pepper, olive–whatever variety you like!

Set it up
The board gets better as it is built. For a cheese board, first put down any little ramekins or bowls that hold the dips and fill them with a sweet jam and a tangy mustard. Start with with your core items (your meats and cheeses, or your vegetables) and then build on top of that. If it helps to follow a pattern, start on the left and work your way across the board. On the cheese board, alternate with cheeses next to the meats, and then fill in between with things like grapes, olives, crackers or bread. Scattered nuts, dried fruits and fresh berries are some of the final touches that are layered on top.

Loosen it up
Nothing needs to look too “done” or placed. Have one item to flow into the next in an organic way. For a natural look, break the cheese by hand for different sized pieces rather than serving it cubed into perfect squares. When placing the salami, fold it in half, and then half again into “salami flowers.”

Remember the little things
It’s the cute extras that makes the board feel a little more personal and special–like use honey with a wooden honey dipper on the meat and cheese boards, or bamboo tongs and knives.

Spruce it up with a few flowers
I like to use fresh flowers and greenery; some favorites are dainty chamomile and eucalyptus. They add that little “wow” factor but don’t overpower the board.

Keep it local
Shop local whenever possible, especially if there’s a farmers market nearby. You’ll be able to find lots of unique ingredients you might not look for in a store, and knowing that the food is locally sourced is an added bonus. Surprise your guests with unexpected extras like dried currants, dried sweetened hibiscus flowers, dehydrated blood orange, and gooseberries. Outside of the farmers markets, get to know your local speciality shops to find those extra items your supermarket might not stock. The hunt is part of the fun, but if you don’t have time for that, fear not, the supermarket is really all you need!).

Shop in season
Nowadays you can get almost anything any time, but produce is always tastes better when it’s in season. Take advantage of stone fruits, berries, corn, and zucchini when they are at their prime in the summer then stick with pomegranate, cabbage, cauliflower, and squash in the winter.

Above all: Enjoy yourself!
Think of the board as a blank canvas and have fun with it. The best boards are the ones that aren’t prescribed. The more you let it flow and less you think about it the better it comes out!

Darcy Miller, Darcy Miller Designs, Graze New York, Food, Party Food, Graze board