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Jul 2, 2001 10:28 AM

Help my mother create a cheese plate

  • m

My sister just brought my second nephew into the world last Thursday. My folks will be hosting the Brice at their home in NJ this upcoming Friday. Mom is looking for some help in selecting interesting cheeses that will work well with traditional Jewish Appetizers. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. While you haven't mentioned exactly which Jewish appetizers will be served, here are a variety of cheese plates that I'd be pleased to find at a Bris (the baby, of course, will not be pleased about ANYTHING! :-)

    Generally speaking, I'd go for a soft or hard goat cheese, a sheepsmilk, a raw-milk (if possible) ripe full-flavored brie-type, a Jarlberg or Leerdamer (for those who aren't into unusual cheeses,)and a Spanish or Italian cheese (soft like Taleggio or "snacky" like Ricotta Salata or Pecorino,) an English hard cheese and some Stilton. Oh yes, and a dessert cheese.

    Specifically, here's a varied plate they might like (not that I'm suggesting you serve ALL of it! :-) These are just some of my favorites.

    --Petite Billy or Valencay Goatsmilk
    --Soft goat cheese in ash or herbs or a Montrechet or Boucheron.
    --Quesar del Torta (Spanish - should be soft,ripe)
    --Ripe French Muenster (the real strong tasty stuff--not what we grew up thinking muenster cheese was!)
    --La del de Cleron brie-type cheese--ripe
    --Italian Pecorino (for nibbling) or Taleggio or Strachino for spreading.
    --English Porter Cheese--this fairly-new import is delicious--it's flavored with beer and is cut from a large round chunk and you'll spot it by its most unusual coloring--brown-and yellow marbling--covered in a waxy rind.
    --a nutty-flavoried Jarlsberg type cheese -- Appenzeller?
    --A British hard cheese: Lancashire, Caerphilly, Wensleydate, aged Cheddar or Derby Sage.
    --Two blue cheeses: the English Colston Bassett Stilton and either a German Palladin (nice and tangy) or a soft Italian docellate.
    --a sweet caramel-flavored Gjetost--a good dessertcheese.

    (I'm not suggesting my favorite Italian truffle-cheese, because it's ridiculously expensive for a party--and you deserve to eat it all by yourself. :-)

    I have to say, that being Jewish myself, the above may not exactly compliment the herrings, the sturgeon, and the bagels and lox, if that is what's being served. But if I were arriving at the party, I'd sure be happy to see this cheese plate.

    Have a wonderful get-together and mazel-tov to the new parents!

    5 Replies
    1. re: Lynn

      Lord! I think I would instantly attain samadhi if I saw a cheese plate like that. That, or suffer the ill effects of eating too much cheese for several weeks.

      How can you tell if you have a ripe muenster? That and the caerphilly have me really curious.


      1. re: ben fisher

        Am just racing from the office for two days--will try to answer your question from my sister's computer later!! I'm computerless in my apt!

        1. re: Lynn

          What you put on your plate depends on your audience - you will have some real conservative folks, but with luck you will have some cheese lovers too.

          Be sure to provide something to eat the cheese with and knives to cut it - lots of people seem to put out the cheese with fruit but without any bread or crackers. For hard cheeses that may be ok (you know, the kind of spread with squares and toothpicks), but with creamy or crumbly cheeses, its a big mistake.

          (1) a blue cheese - roquefort is supreme and bleu de causse and cabrales, in chestnut leaves are close runners up, but saga and some of the other modern bleus are very popular with a crowd. Cheeseheads really appreciate seeing a blue cheese on that tray.
          (2) a tangy sheep cheese - idiazabal from spain is a bit smoky and particularly nice. Manchego, crotonese or one of the other younger eating pecorinos or from italy or brebis from france are nice. some of the creamier sheep cheeses like etorki are also popular.
          (3) a creamy young goat cheese, maybe rolled in herbs. I particularly like some of the ones with rosemary and other dry herbs that feel very mediterranean, but the fresher versions, with tarragon, garlic etc. are also very nice.The humboldt fog, with a line of ash through it that somebody suggested would also look nice on a cheese tray.
          (4) one or more firm cheese - say an edam, gruyere or emmenthaler or maybe a cheddar to add color to your plate and suit the more conservative crew.
          (5) a soft-ripened cheese, like taleggio, st. nectaire, camembert, oka, or brie.

          ps. try to taste the cheeses as you are buying them and ask the cheese sellers advice on what is good. If you have to buy packaged cheese, take a good look at it and if it has been packaged up very long at all, avoid it. Buy from a place that has good turnover.

          Good luck and enjoy!

          1. re: jen kalb

            Thanks so much to everyone for their input. These lists will really help mom out. Ive just faxed her your suggestions.

        2. re: ben fisher

          Hi, Ben--I'm borrowing my sister's computer to answer your questions from yesterday about Muenster and Caerphilly.

          Ripe Muenster/Munster--

          Most of us grew up with American Muenster cheese--that dull, flavorless, smooth, sliced-from-a-loaf stuff that was crammed into sandwiches. There was no such thing as "ripe"--in fact, there was no taste, no smell, no nothing! The German and Danish varieties are more appealing, but still incredibly mild.

          But FRENCH muenster (the name muenster refers to "monastery") is the jewel in the crown. It's made from cow's milk and is described as "sharp, beefy, and nutty." I would add creamy. A nice, smelly (but tasty)orange washed-rind surrounds it. It may be hard to believe that something so smelly can taste so good--but trust me--it does!

          I think that Alsace-Lorraine is the primary source for Muenster--and the "Gerome" variety (a village name)is the kind I usually buy. It comes either individually in a small round wooden box--or can be sliced off a larger round wedge. (I buy it sliced, so that I can taste it first.) Before it ages, it has little of its great flavor--I've never bought it unripe.) But when it's ripe, it is soft, creamy--sort of straw-colored inside. And the washed-rind actually adds to the flavor. Taste it before you buy it--I've had some intense, wonderful pieces recently (from Zabar's and Fairway's.)


          I really like this tangy Welsh cheese--tho it can get dry, if not stored well. It's both creamy and crumbly(VERY crumbly,)but does make a delicious melted cheese and tomato sandwich. Otherwise, I just put it in a bowl and eat it--crumbs and all. It's cow's milk--semi-firm. Rather mild with almost a lemon tang. A great snacking cheese. If it's not too dry-looking, it's usually ripe. Again, try a taste at the shop, first.

          Enjoy both cheeses!

      2. My favorite goat cheese is Humboldt Fog made by Cypress Grove. Tangy with a slightly smoked flavor. Matches up well with a Sauvignon Blanc.

        1. First, establish the limits of the "stinkyness" factor of the group. You want to vary the cheeses by texture and flavor and types of milk and perhaps country of origin. And maybe throw one in to see who the real enthusiasts are. Here are a few off the top of my head that I know are widely available at cheese counters. It's good to ask the cheesemonger for other recommendations if you know and like a certain style. ... I think I went a little crazy with the list ... what can I say, I used to sell cheese.

          Soft Cheeses
          Brie - mild
          Teleme - mild
          Saint Andre - mild/creamy
          Explorateur - mild/creamy
          Pave d'Affinois - mild
          Camembert - mild
          Chaumes - mild
          St. Albray - med
          L'edel de Cleron - med
          Taleggio - med
          Pont L'eveque - med/sharp
          Livarot - med/sharp
          Muenster (gerome) - sharp
          Reblochon - sharp

          Swiss-Type Cheese
          Leerdamer - mild
          Jarlsberg - mild
          Emmentaler - mild
          Gruyere - medium
          Comté - medium
          Appenzeller - sharp
          Tete de Moine - sharp

          Semi Soft Cheese
          Fontal - mild
          Asiago (fresh) - mild
          Chimay - mild
          Oka - mild
          Pyrenee - mild
          Deux de Montagne - mild
          Saint Nectaire - mild, nutty
          Tomme de Savoie - mild nutty
          Sardo - med
          Morbier - med
          Fontina - med
          French Raclette - med
          Swiss Raclette - sharp
          Esrom - sharp

          Blue Cheese
          Blue Kastello - mild
          Cambazola - mild
          Montbriac - mild
          Montanolo - mild
          Fourme d'Ambert - med
          Blue d'Avergne - med
          Maytag Blue - med
          Stilton - sharp
          Shropshire - sharp
          Cabrales - sharp
          Gorgonzola (dolce latte) - sharp
          Roquefort - sharp

          Hard Cheese
          Asiago - med
          Aged Gouda - mild/med
          Aged Jack - mild/med
          Idiazabel - med
          Manchego - mild/med
          Cheddars - mild/sharp
          Caerphilly - mild
          Wensleydale - mild

          Goat Cheese
          Montrachet - mild
          Boucheron - med
          Pyramide - mild
          Crottin - med
          Sainte Maure - med

          Sheepsmilk (pecorino) Cheese
          Etorki - med
          Sardo - med
          Manchego - mild/med
          Toscanello - med

          1 Reply
          1. re: Eric Eto
            Jeremy Newel

            Thank you for this list!!! I have saved it for future reference. It will be invaluable for future wine-tastings.

          2. It doesn't sound like this will be a kosher affair (if it is, forget all about cheese), but nonetheless I really hope you're not serving cheese with chopped liver!

            BTW -- all the suggested lists sound awesome.