It is always funny to me the things people email me about after reading Felt Like a Foodie. I am reminded of grammar mistakes, spelling errors and incomplete sentences. I will be told about hanging participles (do you see a dermatologist for those?), improper apostrophe use and metaphor maladies. I appreciate the editing help and feel like you all make me the bestest writer in the world. (I just wrote bestest to make some people I know cringe!)
Folks also like to comment on my pictures. There are details in my photos that I completely overlook like a crumb on a plate or a smudge on a glass. Some people can see an ingredient in a dish that I may have forgotten to add to a recipe or the fact that I post a recipe on a Wednesday but I Instagrammed the picture on Sunday.
My last blogpost drew a lot of comments for one reason…..people thought my cheese plate was beautiful and wanted the recipe. Flattering as the compliments were, I was not sure how to reply. My good manners told me to say thank you and be humble. My low self-esteem persona started to have a Sally Field moment and scream “They like me. They really like me.” And, of course, the high integrity blogger in me thought there is no recipe, I’ve just learned from all the talented chefs on the Internet.
These are the chefs who are the Monets of Muenster, the Gauguins of Gouda and the Cezannes of Cheddar. They can look at a refrigerator of cheese like an artist’s palette and not only make a plate that is delicious but beautiful to look at.
Recently I’ve had two different inspirations that I think have changed my cheese plate finesse. The first was a visit to the “Cheese Cave” at the Standard Market in Westmont, Illinois. If you are a lover of beautiful grocery stores, this is the place to stop for a visit.
The cheese shop is a must. They had a cute little cheese bar where you could either have a chef-designed board or you could design your own. The cheese mongers description of the different cheeses and accouterments made it very easy to find a mixture of things I liked and a couple new flavors. (I think I have to go again so I can explore more, eat more cheese and ask more questions.)
My second catalyst was a recent article posted by Saveur magazine. Besides the great list of hints, the photographs of Lilith Spencer’s cheese platters were like I was in a cheese art gallery. (I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a cheese art gallery but there should be!)
As much as I have learned from the articles and photographs, the limitations of a small town do show up when I’m making a plate of cheese. I can’t always get the variety I want unless I buy it off the back of a guy’s truck in a parking lot or go to one of the cities with the fancier markets.
So with that said, I thought I’d share how to make a cheese plate…small town style. (A lot of my suggestions are the same as the city….just on a smaller scale.)
First, less is more. My mom was right when she said this about everything. (I mean EVERYTHING…clothes, shoes, toys, boys……) Just because you found 8 different cheeses that look interesting, you don’t have to put them all on your plate.
My golden rule is to pick 4. We always have a cheddar, gouda (hubby’s favorite), a bleu- crumbly cheese and something softish. If you have access to a cheesemonger, go with at least one of their suggestions but also go for some things you know and love. (Because it is all about you!)
I have to have one fresh fruit on the plate. It is usually grapes because they don’t turn brown on the plate and are the least effort.
I also like one dried fruit….cherries, blueberries, raisins or dates. This will give you a nice little sweet bite and a fun chewy texture to add to the mix. (You need to have a lot of texture on your plate.)
There has to be a crunchy/salty competent too. Maybe some good crackers or a handful of nuts….really whatever you have in the pantry. (I think the biggest mistake people make when making a platter is not shopping in their own pantry or cabinet before they go to the store.)
As I mentioned in my last post, I like something pickled. It can be a variety of vegetables, hot peppers or a little fun pickle. Think of this adding to the sourness of your flavor profile.
I like some at least two meats! Okay, I know it is a cheese platter but not having a little bit of meat on there is like a painting without a signature…..it just doesn’t seem finished. (A little cup of whole grain mustard or a little jam also is a nice thing to add.)
Finally, the plating…look at what you have before you start plopping it on your plate. I loved Saveur’s suggestions of plating the “big” cuts or slices first and building around that. Put things that taste good together….next to each other.
I am also a firm believer that you need to cut the cheese (stop giggling) before you put it on the platter. Those cute little knives are adorable in the package but when you have a herd of people attacking a cheese plate, it can get messy and cumbersome.
A cheese plate has become one of my favorite lunches. I can modify it for a lunch alone or make them larger for a crowd. (Maybe share one with a starving artist?)
So to make your shopping list easier here is all you need:
1 mustard or jam
1 dried fruit
1 fresh fruit
From there, let your artistic side show on your plates. Thanks for your questions on my plates and I hope this helps! (If it doesn’t, I’m sure I’ll hear about it!) : )