The best cheese platter is a result of careful curation. It doesn’t take much culinary skill to pull together a thoughtfully delicious spread. Over the years, I have kept track of my favorite offerings, sometimes swapping in new discoveries or seasonally appropriate foods.
When gathering cheeses, I think is important to include a variety of textures and various flavor profiles. I include a blue cheese, a goat cheese, one washed rind cheese, a hard cheese and often a pressed curd variety. A few of my current favorites are Humboldt Fog from Cypress Valley and an ash-covered goat cheese I recently discovered.
Over the past decade, in tandem with the local and natural food movement, dozens of small, local dairies have popped up all over the country. When traveling, I seek small goat farms and local creameries. Often, you can visit the farms where you will meet some of the hardest working, dedicated foodies around.
Of course, a focal element of my cheese platters are the chocolate pairings. The Rooster truffle is a must. It was my first serious exploration into the combination of cheese and chocolate. It combines taleggio cheese with organic walnuts and bittersweet, dark chocolate. Eating the pyramidal truffle alongside other cheeses will help the palate discover more of the cheese nuances in the dark chocolate ganache. I often place other truffles and chocolate bars near cheeses that would serve as appropriate pairings. Try to pair light flavors with white chocolate and stronger flavors with darker chocolate. Your guests experimentations with the best combinations will be part of the fun.
Non cheese accouterments such as dried fruits, nuts, crackers, honey or preserves, are as important to the presentation as the right accessories are to a perfect outfit. They provide additional textures, aromas and flavors to enhance the cheeses. A few of my must-haves are charcoal crackers from The Fine Cheese Company (they can be found at specialty food stores), Rock Creek Crisps and any type of local honey.
The non-edibles are also worth consideration. When arranging my grouping of cheese, chocolate and accouterments, I prefer a large, wooden board. The bigger the better for a grand, jaw dropping, gluttonous display! I am also particularly attached to my white handled cheese knives.
No need to hold off on entertaining because you can’t tackle a large, culinary feat. Just practice pulling together your favorite cheeses, experiment with pairings and buy a few bottles of wine. Your guests will surely be impressed and palates will be pleased.