How to make a cheese plate: local experts help

Categories: Advice
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Courtesy of lateplate.com

Stinky? Moldy? No, not your apartment, the cheese! (sigh) So much to learn, we're here to help.
I once lived in France, where the only French I could speak was in the cheese store (On peut dire, 'la fromagerie'). I could point out the cheese I wanted, and even if my accent wasn't the greatest, I would still be understood. In other situations, this wasn't always the case--for instance, the time I tried to help an old lady in the metro who looked lost, and she hobbled away from me as fast as she could.

I digress. The bottom line is cheese can help your life even when you are not in a foreign country. Cheese plates are great for small gatherings (the ol' wine and cheese party never goes out of style), to bring to potlucks, or to just eat at home, (like the French). But, how do you do it? When faced with hundreds of cheese possibilities, how do you make a good plate? We asked some local cheesemongers for tips.

Here's what they said:
  1. Know your audience. (This is code for "if you are hangin' with a bunch of blue-haters, don't serve a flight of blue cheese.")
  2. Remember to dress up a plate. (Don't forget the bread, wine crackers, jam, nuts, etc.)
  3. Serve at room temperature. (Wiff, wiff, the perfume of the cheese is part of the taste, so let it come forth.)
  4. Consider creating a plate based on one of these tried and true themes: by region (all Minnesota cheeses, or all American, or Italian), by animal (one goat, one cow, one sheep), by texture & flavor: creamy (can be mild), hard (sharper), blue (shall we say, poignant?)
Right about here, we'll lose the people who will eat the cheese, but not try to decipher them (you know who you are!). That's okay. For those of you left, the cheese whizzes (heh, heh, heh), I present the cheese plates:

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Nerud's cheese plate has a variety of flavors and textures. Yours should, too.
 
Assorted Flavor and Texture Five Cheese Plate
Elizabeth Nerud of Lunds

  1. Prima Donna($17.99/lb) -- aged gouda, sharp, hard, but with a sweetness
  2. Fromage d'Affinoise($19.99/lb) - soft brie, lush, sexy, if you will
  3. Lagrein($19.99/lb) - made with milk from cows that graze in wild garlic; some of that savory flavor makes its way to the cheese
  4. Thomas Hoe English Stilton($24.99/lb), smooth blue
  5. Gran Queso($14.99) - sharp, rich, savory (but, without the sweetness of the gouda)

Visually Arresting Three Cheese Plate
Mike Brandt of Lunds
  1. L'affine au Chablis($32.99/lb)-- white wine washed brie will be the focus of the plate, served near fresh grapes, and homemade herbed crostini
  2. Piave($19.99/lb) -- Italian nibbler cheese will be served cubed or sliced into match sticks; it's nutty and sharp with mellow finish
  3. St. Pete's Select Blue($13.99/lb) -- Faribault, Minnesota blue could be served crumbled in endive leaf boats with walnuts and drizzled with honey

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Olson picks a goat cheese, on the far right, in the French bucheron style.

Domestic Cheese Plate
Elise Olson of Surdyk's
  1. Shepherd's Way farm Big Woods Blue -- 100% sheep's milk, has the punch of a roquefort, but drier in texture ($16.99/lb)
  2. Grayson, Virginia -- similar to an Italian taleggio, is made from cow's milk, strong aroma, beefy, not light ($16.99/lb)
  3. Mad River Roll, Cypress Grove Creamery, CA ($18.99/lb) -- made in French style, ripened goat log, smoother texture and crisp flavor
  4. Marieke Gouda, Thorp, WI -- gouda made from raw milk by Marieke Penterman, who learned to make cheese in Holland. Sweet and nutty, considered one of the few authentic domestic goudas ($15.79/lb)
  5. Mt. Tam, Cowgirl Creamery -- made from organic cow's milk, a rich creamy triple crème, buttery and with a hint of mushroom ($23.49/lb)

I know what some of you are thinking -- "Forget creating my own cheese plate--I can just print this out, run to the store, and come home with something wonderful." Well you stinking little cheese curd ... you're right.


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