Tips & Techniques

How to Build a Snack Board That'll Dazzle Your Friends

August 22, 2017

“Love your people and make a proper board,” declares Hello! My Name Is Tasty, the new cookbook from Portland chef John Gorham and writer Liz Crain. Gorham’s Portland temples, Tasty ‘n Sons and Tasty ‘n Alder, mostly cater to brunch and all day munching, but are also known for their boards—literal slabs of wood covered in all manner of delightful snacks.

A snack board is a great thing to put out for pals or family who stop by, a gesture of hospitality that’s as grand as it is easy to throw together. They also make for a great grazing-style dinner, perhaps for eating while watching your favorite dragon show on Sunday nights. No matter the occasion, Gorham and company have some pointers for creating the best boards possible.

Use the Bloody Mary Rule

“Basically all of the things that go well in or with Bloody Marys” are great on a snack board, writes Gorham, even if you’re having them with wine, beer, or sparkling water. This includes “solid gold” options like “hardboiled eggs, various cheeses, cured meats and seafoods, jerky, pates and terrines, mustards, [and] pickles.”

Keep Materials on Hand

In case of surprise visitors/snack attacks, Gorham says he keeps “things like pistachios, favas, olives and cheese, bread and crackers” on hand. Other good pantry staples for snack boards: mustards, pickles, honeys, jams, and other condiments that pair well with meats and cheese.

When in Doubt, Theme Your Board

A central theme can help you focus your offerings. Gorham offers options like the Southern Board (pimento cheese, country ham, pickles, andouille sausage, potato chips), the Breakfast Board (labneh, six-minute eggs, hearty bread, chicken liver mousse, more ham), the Smoked Trout Board (smoked trout, six minute eggs, nicoise potatoes, sour cream, German bread, bacon jam), and the Pickle Board (pickled beets, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, and more, all served with hearty bread).

Above All, Project Bounty

The whole point of a board is to offer guests hospitality, so when putting one together, make sure it looks plentiful. Writes Gorham of a family trip to Germany, “I’ve always innately had the hospitality aspect of having a spread of food set out for friends and family, but for breakfast in Germany there would always be coffee and multiple boards of salami, cheese, bread, mustard, pickles, and more. It other words, they take the board to a whole other level.”

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Paula Forbes has reviewed cookbooks for nearly a decade for sites like Epicurious, Eater, Eat Me Daily, and now Food52. She's currently working on a cookbook about the foods and restaurants of Austin, Texas.