Inside The Wisconsin Cheese Board Awards: Tips, Inspiration, and a Touch of Competition

'Tis the season for holiday gatherings! What better centerpiece for friends and family to circle around than some gorgeous gorgonzola, a sharp aged cheddar, or a nutty alpine? Perhaps all three cheeses will grace your spread, along with dried fruit, crackers, salami, jam…are you drooling yet?

We all want to be a cheese board champion and social media is chock-full of inspiration. This season, Wisconsin Cheese is introducing some good-natured competition to the holiday season and challenging you to take your cheesy creations to the next level. The Wisconsin Cheese Board Awards are taking place until December 16th and the stakes are high. Eighteen weekly winners and six finalists will receive prizes; the grand prize being a year’s supply of Wisconsin Cheese for yourself and a friend, plus a donation to the food pantry of your choice.

Celebrate Wisconsin Cheese
The contest's week 3 winner, titled “Celebrate Wisconsin Cheese.” Image attribution: Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

Folks from across the country have already begun submitting their cheese boards for review by a panel of three judges, each of who live and breathe all things cheese boards. To get you started they have some game-changing tips for enhancing anybody’s board.

Marissa Mullen (@thatcheeseplate), is a Brooklyn-based cheese superstar. She is a best-selling author, content creator, photographer and food stylist and the founder of That Cheese Plate, a global community for cheese plate inspiration and recipes and is also the Resident Cheese Contributor at Food52. Marissa’s method behind crafting the perfect cheese plate is called Cheese By Numbers: 1) Select your board 2) Place your cheese and dipping bowls 3) Add charcuterie for a salty sidekick 4) Create seasonal “produce ponds” 5) Add crunch 6) Add the dips 7) Garnish with seasonal elements.

Doug Clemons (@cheesetraygay) began his cheese journey at Wisconsin Cheese Masters, a specialty cheese shop in Door County, Wisconsin. Two years ago, Doug started The Cheese Tray Gay as a place for celebrating trays and sashays—a welcoming, non-pretentious and unintimidating way to learn and connect over cheese. Doug is a proud resident of Cheeselandia. He is all about adding flair to cheese boards to up the ante at any celebration. His first tip: Start with a singular cheese color to make the accompaniments pop. 

Alisha Norris Jones (@_immortalmilk) is a bartender and resident cheesemonger at Marz Community Brewing in Chicago, IL. Her background as a monger makes her an expert at cheese selection and slicing, while her background in anthropology and art helps weave a story into every cheese board she creates. Her tip: A variety of styles and proper cutting and presentation are the building blocks of a beautiful board. 

cheesy night
The contest's week 2 winner, titled "Cheesy Night." Image attribution: Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

A few stunning weekly winners have already been selected and they are sure to spark some fresh ideas. This “Cheesy Night” homage to Van Gogh’s Starry Night is truly “edible art” according to judge Doug Clemons who also said: “My only critique is that it looks too good to eat. Would that stop me? Of course not.” The most recent weekly winner is titled “Celebrate Wisconsin Cheese.” Not only is it honoring the state’s dairy producers but judge Marissa Mullen says “I really love the use of symmetry here. The colors are soothing as well.”

These are the cheeses seen on the winning boards so far: 

Week #1 Winner:

-Hoard’s Dairyman Sharp Cheddar
-Roth Smoked Gouda
-Hoard’s Dairyman Belaire

Week 2 Winner:

-Widmer’s Mild Brick Cheese
-Pine River Spicy Beer Cold Pack Cheese
-Pine River Garden Vegetable Cold Pack Cheese
-Roth Grand Cru
-Henning’s Blueberry Cobbler Cheddar
-Roth Gorgonzola Crumbles

Week 3 Winner:

-Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve
-Deppler’s Swiss
-Roth Grand Cru
-Deer Creek Moon Rabbit
-Schroeder Kase Triple Cream Brie
-Hill Valley Dairy Cheese Curds

Best of luck with your holiday cheese board endeavors - whether you go for gold or just enjoy some gouda, you really can’t lose!

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin
The contest's first weekly winner. Image attribution: Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin

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