Photo by Rachael Brugger
When arranging a cheese plate, include an array of cheese types and include pairing options, like nuts or honey.
Being loyal residents of Wisconsin, naturally we love our cheese. All too often we find ourselves purely using it as an ingredient in a dish, such as melted on top of pizza or in our Cornucopia Beer-and-Cheese Soup. However, a cheese plate is a simple but superior way to celebrate the flavors and varieties of cheese.
The term "cheese plate” can be a bit misleading. The experience goes beyond just cutting up cheese and sticking it on a dish. With a dash of thought, the cheese plate reaches higher culinary ground and is something you’ll naturally slow down to sample and savor.
A cheese plate also builds community. Put one out at your next gathering or any situation where you want to create an opportunity for mingling and conservation. The antithesis of fast food in our cluttered world, a cheese plate shines the spotlight on one key ingredient: cheese.
Here are the three "As” of a classic cheese plate to get you started:
No Velveeta, please. A cheese plate is the opportunity to upgrade and invest in your local area artisan cheese makers that are making small batches of fine cheese. Don’t be swayed by the higher per pound price tag; this isn’t something you need to shred into multiple cups to cover a casserole. Just a half pound will provide ample sample servings.
If you are able, find a local cheese monger, someone who intimately knows and buys from a variety of local cheese artisans. For us, that’s Alp and Dell Cheese in nearby Monroe, Wis. Housed next to the Roth Käse cheese factory, owner Tony Zgraggen is an encyclopedia of information on what to try.
Three cheeses are really all you need for a basic cheese plate. Too many flavors and everything starts blending together. Arrange the cheese on the plate in an order of mildest to strongest in flavor to lead your palette best through the flavors, such as a fresh mozzerella, followed by a Muenster and a pungent blue cheese for the finale.
Add some palette-pleasing accompaniments to your plate to enhance the cheese flavors. This isn’t meant to overpower or take away from the cheese flavors, but rather thoughtfully compliment your selection. Olives and crusty bread are classic cheese-plate palate cleansers, but also try some fresh fruit slices, like apples or pears. Nuts also work well; pair a rich cheese, like Brie, with toasted almonds.
And by all means, add some Wisconsin flavor to your cheese plate!
Savoring the good life,
<< More Farmstead Chef >>