PDA

View Full Version : Creating the perfect cheese tray...



kcmo727
02-18-2010, 05:28 PM
I am having a party this weekend and usually when I make a cheese tray, I just place the wedges of cheese on the board then add grapes, pears, crackers, baguette etc. Recently, we went to a local wine bar and I was so impressed with their cheese tray presentation. They drizzled the bottom of the tray with honey, then placed the cheese (neatly cut in thin slices) on top, along with fantastic "sides": dried cherries that had been soaked in some kind of port, spiced nuts, cornichons etc.

I am trying to recreate this at home and I am going to use the ideas mentioned above but I could use other suggestions as well, especially for little nibbles to go with the cheese. Also, what are your favorite cheeses for serving, or any other ideas for a perfect cheese tray?

TIA!

wallycat
02-18-2010, 05:44 PM
I personally would not want honey on my cheese. :o

Canice
02-18-2010, 07:53 PM
Actually, I'd start by identifying the best cheese source in your area and find out what they have that appeals to you and/or what they're recommending that's new or special or interesting - and, of course, keep in mind how interested/adventurous your guests are. There are just soooo many fantastic cheeses out there.

Here are a few ways to approach creating a tasting tray (three is a good number unless maybe it's for a large group):

• One type of milk, three very different cheeses (chevre, Garoxta, and Achadinha: all made from goat's milk, but wildly different cheeses)
• Three members of the same family, (e.g. Epoisses, Red Hawk, and Taleggio are all washed rinds, from three countries)
• The same style, but different cheeses (say, a French Roquefort, an English Stilton and a Rogue River from Oregon)
• Three different ages of one type (a young Gouda, a 2 year aged Gouda, and a 4-year Saenkanter, for example)
• Three different styles/textures (Brillat-Savarin triple crème; Fiscalini Bandaged Cheddar; Capriole, a semi-soft goat's milk)
• Three different types of milk (Abbaye de Belloc for sheep's; Humboldt Fog for goat's; Pleasant Ridge Reserve for cow's)

Honey can be interesting, but it has to be a special honey, selected for the specific cheese you intend it to be drizzled over: chestnut for one cheese, truffle for another, none for most, etc.

I've taken a number of cheese classes from one place (The Cheese School of San Francisco (http://www.cheeseschoolsf.com/)) and they consistently present beautiful and interesting accompaniments. I don't know which are imports, which are just local, which are from specialty stores only, etc., but I'll give you a sampling. (FWIW, you can never go wrong with Marcona almonds, IMO: they're pretty and delicious and their flavor does not compete with the cheese.) I'll also list the names of the classes, if that helps with ideas (I can tell you which cheeses and which accompaniments were presented at any one of them, again if it's of any help).

Examples of accompaniments:
Sweet baguette
Walnut bread (typically with blues)
Fig spread
Pear and hazelnut fruit paste
Quince paste
Dried apricots,cranberries (NOT "craisins") or cherries
The Gracious Gourmet dried fruit chutney
Harvest Song Pear and Apple Conserve
Harvest Song preserved walnuts
Pastilla Nash sugar plum and walnut log
Apricot conserve
Pears, apples, grapes
Olives
Cured meats
Robert Lambert green grapes in Chardonnay preserve
Robert Lambert dark cherries in Merlot preserve
Robert Lambert black grapes in Pinot Noir preserve
La Rustichella black truffle honey
Marshall's Farm California sage honey

Class titles include:
Cheese & Charcuterie
Washed Rinds & Beer
Cheese & Beer of the Pacific Northwest
Cheese & Wine of Sonoma County
Locavore's Cheese & Beer
Cheese & Wine Pairing
Demystifying the Blues
Cheeses of Italy
Farmstead Cheese
Basic Cheese Primer
Selection, Storage and Service
Blue Ribbon Beauties: American Cheese Society Winners for 2008

And here's a great Library of Cheeses (http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/library.asp) for reference, if it's helpful.

kcmo727
02-18-2010, 08:10 PM
Canice,

THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow, you are truly amazing...I am printing out your post and bringing it with me to Whole Foods tomorrow. We have a Dean & DeLuca here too, if WF does not have what I need so I should be all set. I love the suggestion of marcona almonds, that is exactly the kind of thing I need help with. To be perfectly honest, the original title of this post was "Attention Canice and other cheese lovers: I need your help with my cheese tray..." but after I typed it in, I thought maybe it seemed a bit pushy and demanding. So thank you once again, Canice, for all your help. You are a fromage goddess!!!

Canice
02-18-2010, 09:05 PM
Deep bow in humility! :o
Not a goddess, but a glutton, lol.

Really glad that was helpful to you. I loved, loved, loved my Cheese School classes and haven't been to one in too long. I am certain the helpful cheese monger at WF will be awesome in suggesting the right selection, as well as accompaniments. And D&D can surely round things out.
Hope you'll report back with your findings and party results :)

Oh, and IMO it's best not to set out whole wedges of cheese without a few "starter" cuts. For some reason, it seems no one wants to be the first to slice into it.

PurplePotato
02-19-2010, 06:57 AM
Oh, and IMO it's best not to set out whole wedges of cheese without a few "starter" cuts. For some reason, it seems no one wants to be the first to slice into it.

LOL, depends on your guests - my friends are NOT shy when it comes to cheese. LOL.


I personally would not want honey on my cheese. :o

Agreed - honey available but not already on.


The only thing I can possibly think to add to the wealth of info from Canice is cheese labels. We have really nice metal olive picks and I take a file folder label - folded in half it is the perfect size to wrap around the end of the pick and stick in the cheese to label.

little_bopeep
02-19-2010, 01:27 PM
Phoebe's the Bean Queen, so Canice gets to be the Cheese Queen. I tried to be clever and think of the name of a cheese that rhymes with queen, but I came up empty. I'll keep working on it, tho... But really, Ana is also a Cheese Queen, so I'll have to take that into consideration, too. Hmmmmmm...

colleency
02-19-2010, 06:40 PM
I'm am humbled by Canice's amazing cheese wisdom!

little_bopeep
02-19-2010, 07:13 PM
I've got it!!!

The Fontina Czarina. Eh? Eh??

TieKitty
02-19-2010, 08:02 PM
And here I thought Canice was only the Queen of Soups!;) Now we know she is multi-talented. What else are you hiding?:p

Canice
02-19-2010, 08:23 PM
That's it, sistah! Soup and cheese :p

However, if you want to come by for lunch, I'll give you a big bowl of home made soup, delicious bread, and some nice cheeses.

oct2189
02-19-2010, 08:25 PM
That's it, sistah! Soup and cheese :p

However, if you want to come by for lunch, I'll give you a big bowl of home made soup, delicious bread, and some nice cheeses.
You're too modest - have you forgotten your savvy of Mac and Cheese?:rolleyes:

TieKitty
02-19-2010, 08:45 PM
That's it, sistah! Soup and cheese :p

However, if you want to come by for lunch, I'll give you a big bowl of home made soup, delicious bread, and some nice cheeses.

LOL. I'm almost tempted to fly to San Francisco just to take you up on that invitation. I'm sure lunch would be outstanding!

kcmo727
02-20-2010, 04:52 PM
I'm back with a run down of my cheese tray -- it was a big hit! I am not sure if I did a good job combining cheeses but this is something I would like to get better at.

WF was out of Humboldt Fog so I bought a goat cheese called "Blue Haze" that has little flecks of lavender and rosemary -- it was mild but so delicious. I put a jar of fig spread with it and the combo was excellent. The other cheeses were brie and Red Leicester, a cheddar from England. My other accompaniments were Marcona almonds, grapes, Butterscotch pears and slices of baguette. I skipped the honey, but maybe next time I will give it a try.

I had great fun putting it together and I so appreciate all the advice, especially from Canice. Thanks again!!

ADM
02-20-2010, 06:45 PM
I tried to be clever and think of the name of a cheese that rhymes with queen, but I came up empty. I'll keep working on it

Green? aka Moon Cheese. :D

Canice
02-20-2010, 06:50 PM
Yay! I'm so glad it worked out and was such a hit!
I tossed out Humboldt Fog as an example, but I actually prefer the Purple Haze - lavender and fennel pollen! I just brought some to a friend's house a few weeks ago :)

I was looking for Red Leicester for AGES for a recipe from an English cookbook, and I don't know that I ever found it, so it seems you got one that's a little unusual.

Glad I could help.

kcmo727
02-22-2010, 08:56 AM
I was looking for Red Leicester for AGES for a recipe from an English cookbook, and I don't know that I ever found it, so it seems you got one that's a little unusual.





Hey Canice,

I just checked the label on that cheese b/c it seemed weird to me that I could find something in Kansas City that you couldn't track down in SF, and the cheese is actually a blend of Red Leicester and other English cheeses: Derby and Cheddar. The brand name is Ilchester. It was really good but I will keep a lookout for an actual RL, would love to try it. Thanks again!