Prepping the Perfect Party Platter

As spring approaches, the prospect of entertaining outdoors becomes increasingly appealing. However, with social media constantly broadcasting images of spectacular spreads, the standard of your average party platter has increased significantly. In fact, you’re more likely to hear the term grazing board than the dated ‘party platter’. 
A bit lost? Stick to our guide for a grazing board which tastes as good as it looks (and vice-versa).  

Wood and Marble
While porcelain, glass serving-ware and cake stands look great if well displayed, large wooden serving paddles and marble platters take on a new level of sophistication when adorned with fresh produce. They’re also easier to clean.

Wood and marble lend a rustic feel to a platter, while elegantly laid produce channels the Italian art of sprezzatura (studied effortlessness). Wood and marble serving plates vary in price depending on the type and size, but you’ll find an abundance of options at 1829 Solingen, Big W, and Bed Bath N’ Table

Cheese
What’s a grazing platter without cheese? Depending on how many people you’re catering for, try to include at least three varieties: cheddar, brie or camembert, and a blue. A good rule of thumb when selecting cheeses is to include a crowd pleaser (a young cheddar or something from the triple cream family) and a more challenging flavour (eg. Roquefort). Keep in mind that a mix of hard and soft cheeses will cater to more tastes and can be matched with other flavours from the grazing platter. 

Sweet fruit pastes like quince or fig pair beautifully with a sharp blue cheese, while dried grapes do just as well and lend an ancient Roman feel to proceedings. These days, you can find an excellent variety of gourmet cheeses at supermarkets like Coles and Woolworths. For something a bit more specialised, try Deli Extra

Meat
As with cheese, go for a mix of different styles when it comes to smoked and cured meats. Italian classics like prosciutto and a mild salami are no-brainers, and adding a Spanish chorizo, French saucisson or spicy ‘nduja will keep adventurous guests happy. You can also include pâté, terrine and other rich items: just make sure they’re kept refrigerated and out of the sun. 
You can get delicious (and cheap) imported ham from Aldi, and a variety of pâté in most large supermarkets, but stick to specialty stores like Deli Extra for more unique items. 

Crackers
Sure, there’s a time and a place for Jatz; it’s just not now and not on your grazing board. Stick to lavosh and water crackers for the more mellow cheeses; you can choose a sweeter cracker or heavier biscuit for the stronger flavours of blues or aged cheddars. 
For something a little more substantial, offer a couple of bread varieties; you can’t go wrong with a hard crusted ciabatta and a seeded variety. These can be eaten with other items on the board or dunked into a dish of high-quality olive oil. 
Aldi, Coles, Woolworths, and Deli Extra have a fantastic array of crackers and crisp breads, and don’t dismiss Breadtop for some truly unusual textures. 

Fruit, Nuts and Bolts
This is where you can get creative. Add bursts of colour around the grazing platter with handfuls of fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, vegetables, dried fruit and even edible flowers. Not only does a colourful spread visually elevate the platter, it means a larger array of produce so there really is something for everyone.
Dips, particularly more colourful varieties like taramasalata and avocado dip, can be spooned into small dishes and placed across the board. Having a few vegan options is a good idea too. 
The staff at the family run Westpoint Growers should be your first port of call.  

Putting it all Together
Now the fun part. Provided you go with the highest quality and freshest produce you can get your hands on, it’s difficult to go wrong if you follow a few simple rules:
Group your items in threes (or fives, depending on the number of guests). It lends an attractive symmetry to the board. 
Place the cheeses first and make sure each has its own cheese knife. 
Make sure everything on the board is ‘bite-sized’, or can be picked at easily without disturbing other produce. 
After the cheese is laid, spread the crackers; fold torn pieces of cured meats for texture; place small bowls of olives, dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke, seeds and nuts around the board so everything is in reach.  
Finish with fresh fruits, arranging berries and seasonal produce in groups of threes around the board.  

Having a hard time deciding on an interesting combination? Take a leaf out of Your Platter Matters or Picnic Perfection’s book and create a grazing board that goes from savoury to sweet and beyond in centimetres.