Because sometimes, you don't want a whole meal -- you just want a literal board of curated, perfect bites. And perfection, thy name is cheese, so here is where to find the best in Austin.
Cheese for all seasons: Malaga's "Plato de Quesos y Fruta" is one of my go-to downtown snacks when I'm feeling virtuous, while their "Queso de Cabra Frito con Miel" (fried, breaded goat cheese cakes with honey) is not. Both are out of this world delicious.
More often thought of as a wedding venue, the historic, aristocratic Mansion at Judge's Hill has some truly inventive culinary treats hiding out in the kitchen -- basil marshmallow creme? Lamb bacon? I didn't know you had it in ya, Judge's Hill! Undo your belt buckle a notch and order the fried cheese plate, which comes with fancy little flourishes, like a tiny pitcher of maple syrup.
The first time I popped a sliver of al tartufo cheese in my mouth, I grabbed the arm of the person next to me (a friend, thank God), and cried, "OH MY GOD." "What?" she asked. I tried to explain what was happening in my mouth -- what I now know is a combination of raw cow's milk and truffles -- but back then, I could only look at her with wide eyes and point to the cheese, silently urging her to try some. That was at Fabi & Rosi, who regularly serves al tartufo on their modest little cheese board. I don't know where they get it (heaven?) but I can't find it anywhere, so poor me -- I just keep having to return for more.
Henri's opened to incredible fanfare last year in 2012, and though they've rotated cheesemongers, the quality of their board remains excellent: Marcona almonds, fresh regional fruits like Fredericksburg peaches, and generous slices of cheese hard and soft adorn this plate, which is ravaged by the average consumer (meaning, me) in under five minutes.
Carnivore-friendly cheese: Salty Sow's charcuterie and cheese board satisfies one's inner longing for the other parts an animal's body has to offer, like its tongue, for example. Salty Sow's version is prepared in-house, and this board also comes with marvelous, paper-thin prosciutto that is fun to wrap around harder bites of cheese in true fat lush fashion.
It's no longer a surprise when food trailers serve us beautiful plates of well-sourced fare, but still, I was pleased to see Luke's Inside Out's cheese plate -- straightforward enough with gouda, blue cheese, fruit, olives -- so generously presented, and with high-quality versions of each element. Note that this item is listed under "shareables" on their menu, but I'm happy to report that it's 100% possible to hog it all for yourself.
Family-style cheese plate: By far the biggest cheese board on this guide, Olive & June's does not hold back. The housemade mortadella sausage is salty and divine, especially when smeared with some licorice-y fennel preserves, and the cheeses -- oh. Let's not even talk about it. I'm still recovering from some housemade ricotta, whose creamy masses may or may not have been licked totally clean by my spoon.