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accent a cheese plate?

we are having a cheese plate after dinner and i was looking for some interesting, very easy edibles to add to it. This will be with wine as well.

some things I have used in the past....

fruit cake
dried fruit such as figs
nuts
fruit crackers
bread
chocolate

I would love some interesting ideas. thanks!

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  1. It seems like I've seen guava or quince paste (from ethnic groceries) suggested in articles.

    6 Replies
    1. re: mamaciita

      How is quince paste served, is it spread onto the cheese or a cracker? I have often seen it in the cheese case at Whole Foods and wondered what one did with it.

      1. re: schellter

        Quince Paste can be spread, but it is more attractive IMHO sliced into a small sliver and served on top of a small slice of manchego cheese (or other cheese of your choosing) on a small cracker. Very yum... One of my favorites.

        Would be nice served with small slices of date bread or figs halved with a dab of creme fraiche. This might make the platter more "desserty". Maybe some apple wedges?

        1. re: Mothership

          I love to slice a wedge of Manchego into long , thin triangles. Then I cut a slice of quince paste (yes, from WF) about 1/8 inch thick. From that, I cut small wedges that mimic the shape of the cheese (this is much faster than it sounds) and set the quince triangle on top of the manchego triangle, put on a plate. I don't bother with a cracker or anything underneath.

          I've been snarfing it that way myself for a couple of years, but I tried serving it to guests for the first time at my parent's 50th anniversary party. I assumed it would not be a super-popular item because I assumed the mostly elderly crowd wouldn't go for something they were unfamiliar with. Wrong. It was the first thing to disappear...i didn't make near enough. i've served it again the same way at a party of cyclists, and it disappeared again. Addictive. Easy. The only problem is manchego prices are insane now.

          1. re: danna

            how does the quince paste go with parm reg or piave vecchio?

            1. re: cleopatra999

              Quince paste goes well with many hard cheeses such as parm reg, you can think of it as a variation of apricot preserve. I don't know piave vecchio, so i won't comment specifically on that. But the manchego/quince paste (membrillo) combo is absolutely brilliant.

              The classic accent for parmegiano regiano is aged balsamic vinegar and a nice amarone - very lovely combo!

              Other combos: I second the honey recommendation below. A young fresh goat cheese, smeared onto a piece of crusty bread and drizzled with good honey is a very decadent combo.

              Medjool dates are fabulous with strong cheeses like blues, Epoisses, aged hard cheeses. I would comment that I find it hard to match these cheeses with wine, and when you add the dates, it becomes harder. I tend to like ports with strong blue cheese, and big fruity reds like Syrah with some of the aged hard cheeses, but I find it hard to match a good wine to an Epoisses. I know they say to match a good red burgundy with Epoisses, but I find I can't appreciate the burgundy as much, and I'd rather focus on the wine than the cheese if I am drinking a really good burgundy!

              Spiced nuts are fun to add. I also love a good fig preserve, one that it not too sweet.

            2. re: danna

              I do the same and it's wonderful. Next time try adding a few toasted almond slivers on top of the quince paste -- it adds a great note and crunch to the combination.

      2. Marcona almonds
        Fig jam
        Sliced pears

        And a wine we often enjoy with cheese is Moscato D'Asti.

        1. fruit (apples, grapes, pears - bleu cheese and pears are one of my favorite combos)
          quince paste, as mamaciita suggested - i've also had other different flavors of fruit paste (fig, pear, plum)
          jam (we've used fig jam)
          honey
          dried date or fig cake (wow, i never realized how attached i am to figs!)

          i'm interested to hear what other people put on their cheese plates

          1. Fruitwise: apple, pear, kiwi, red grapes
            Cheesewise: Sharp Cheddar, Bleu or Stilton, something mild. These should be in wedges.
            Mostly, I don't do crackers or cocktail breads because I don't think it necessary after dinner. But, after a light lunch, I would use one or the other.
            I place them on a wooden lazy Susan in the middle of the table and use cheese plates and cheese knives at each setting.

            1. lately...ancho chili spiced or candied pecans, Raincoast Crisps - the newer Salty Date & Almond variety...and like others have said, seasonal fruit.

              6 Replies
              1. re: maplesugar

                raincoast crisps are always a must, I love the rosemary ones.

                quince paste is an interesting suggestion as are different 'jams', I have not ever thought of that.

                pears are really nice right now, so that is a good idea. marcona almonds would be great, I tried them the first time in the states (bought from trader joes) have not ever seen them up here in Canada (have not really looked), but we have a new gourmet store that I can check out.

                there is a brand of mixed candies nuts called Sahale that would be a nice addition too.

                thanks everyone, keep it coming! I am getting inspired!

                1. re: cleopatra999

                  If you have a Costco membership, they have roasted, salted marcona almonds that are positively addictive. I second the quince paste rec, it's delicious with cheese. If you are in the Toronto area, I just posted in another thread that Longo's carries a line of fruit pastes: quince, pear and fig. They are all amazing and each pairs best with different cheeses, so you could offer a couple of different combinations on your plate (e.g., quince + manchego, pear + blue).

                  1. re: TorontoJo

                    I will check at costco thanks for the tip, I am not in TO, I am in Edmonton, I will research where to get the pastes.

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      Check the Italian centre shop and Bosch kitchen centre. Those are the only places I can think of for quince paste. I did see fresh quinces at sobeys urban market a few weeks ago iff you want to make some yourself.

                      1. re: cleopatra999

                        Oh, I should note that the marcona almonds at Costco are located into the "snacking nuts" (roasted peanuts, cashews,etc.) section rather than the "cooking nuts" (raw almonds, pecans, etc.) area.

                        1. re: TorontoJo

                          I'm addicted to marcona almonds! Too bad they're so expensive....

                          I love putting a sweet onion jam on a cheese plate, fwiw.

                2. Here's a link to Perada, a pear jelly that I plan to make for an upcoming tapas party.

                  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Appeti...

                  I also like something juicy but neat, so I'd echo the grapes suggestion.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: nemo

                    this looks fantastic, unfortunately I will not have the time to do this, another time perhaps!

                    1. re: cleopatra999

                      To top a nice pieces of brie: Sliced onions and sautee (med heat) in a tsp of olive oil & pinch of salt, after about 5 minutes, add two tbsp of balsamic vinegar & one tbsp of brown sugar, after about 10-15 minutes more it's done..pour on top of the brie, this can be cooking while your getting ready or preparing something else. This was a HIT my cocktail party night!

                  2. I've made a lovely prune/pear compote that is lovely with blue cheese (and on ice cream, for what it's worth). I'm pretty sure I've posted the recipe - let me know if you want me to find it for you - it's really fabulous.

                    1. Stonewall Farms Roasted Garlic & Onion Jam

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: greygarious

                        That is such a great item to keep on hand! So many wonderful uses, makes for quick party snacks.

                      2. I like everything mentioned so far and would add to the list olives and maybe some mustards.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Infomaniac

                          Didn't the OP say this cheese plate was to be for after dinner? Some of these are more appropriate during cocktails.

                          1. re: Gail

                            Yes. I would assume nuts, fruit/compotes or sweet breads are more appropriate. Although, I've only recently gotten into cheese, so I'm no expert and someone stumped by the "after dinner" cheese dilemma!

                            1. re: Gail

                              mmmmmm.....cocktails, I guess that when I eat cheese more.

                          2. Fig cake with almonds is always a great choice, the Italian import shops sell that here in CT. I also like dates, candied nuts, including some hot and sweet nuts with brown sugar and chipotle or ancho powder. Dark, bittersweet chocolate and some fresh, unripened cheeses can be nice. I think it is nice to have some high quality bread, baguette or similar to pile things on.

                            Really crisp sliced apple or asian pears can be sliced, treated with acidulated water or vitamin C to retard browning and used like a cracker

                            Dried fruits like Apricots, prunes, dates, pineapple, etc can be great with some cheeses as well.

                            I like a sparkling wine, a port or a sherry with an after dinner cheese plate.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: gardencub

                              yes, the cheese is for after dinner.

                              I will check for fig cake that sounds nice, and I have to hit the Italian shop for the cheese as well. I was thinking of some thin Italian cookies too? Like a flat biscotti would be great!

                              gardencub: how do I treat the pears/apples?

                              we are having a recioto with the cheese.

                              1. re: cleopatra999

                                I'm not gardencub, but sliced medium width and fanned across your serving platter or board. Also, think of a muscat dessert wine too.

                                1. re: Gail

                                  actually we are having the muscato later on after the cheese with the panna cotta :)

                                2. re: cleopatra999

                                  Slice your apples and bears as you desire, thin rounds or crescents work well. soak them in a small amount of water with lemon juice or a vitamin C capsule broken open and added. Citric acid retards the oxidation of apples, etc.
                                  Drain your fruit well and display as you like.

                              2. I love these Spanish torta olive oil flatbreads- They're crispy, a little sweet, and flavored with anise. Online, they're available at Zingerman's-
                                http://www.zingermans.com
                                In the SF Bay Area, I've also found them at Dean & DeLuca, Mollie Stone's, and Nugget market

                                9 Replies
                                  1. re: Bigley9

                                    they look great, but unfortunately I live up in Canada, have not ever seen them up here.

                                    1. re: cleopatra999

                                      They are available at the Cookbook Co in Calgary and I'm sure in other gourmet food shops. I also saw them at Linas. Not sure where you are but they are definitely in Canada!

                                      1. re: sarah galvin

                                        ah, too bad I missed out, for next time then. I am sure I can find them up here in Edmonton too.

                                    2. re: Bigley9

                                      weve tried those and tho they have good flavor find them a little greasy with cheese and some are freaked out by the sweetness.

                                      For a sweet add to a cheese plate I am adddicted to bitter honey which sets off blue and sheep cheeses, among others to a T. Specifically italian corbezzolo (arbutus) honey. A great thing to bring back from an italian trip, since its hard to find here. I just bought a container of spanish chestnut honey and have high hopes for this one, too.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        This has made me want to try my (Californian), Blood Orange marmalade with the Stilton I just bought!

                                        1. re: jen kalb

                                          AG Ferrari (small SF Bay Area chain) sells corbezzolo honey. It's the best of the three brands I found available in the US. Mail order:

                                          http://www.agferrari.com/index.php/it...

                                          The GourmetSardinia brand sold by cooking.com / shop.com / igourmet.com is more expensive and had only a hint of the distinctive flavor.

                                          http://www.cooking.com/products/shpro...

                                          The Dr. Pescia from cheftools.com smelled and tasted just like chestnut honey to me, great stuff but completely different. Jar I received looked different than the one pictured on the Web site.

                                          http://www.cheftools.com/prodinfo-new...

                                          Tedious further details on my blog:

                                          http://blogs.sfweekly.com/foodie/2009...

                                          chefshop.com has a page for Rau brand but it's been out of stock for months.

                                          http://chefshop.com/Itemdesc.asp?ic=4...

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Im glad someone else has treaded this path.thanks for your research. the bitter and less sweet quality of this honey is addictive with Cheese.

                                            I found this additional producer in my own tedious online search, Liccu Manias, have you had occasion to try it?
                                            http://www.gustiamo.com/cgi-bin/front...

                                            By the way, the Spanish Chestnut honey is almost gone (came in an earthenware pot and is labeled Miel Asturianas, luscious.

                                    3. dark chocolate wafers or dark chocolate graham crackers
                                      dried fruits
                                      frozen grapes

                                      1. Truffle honey is a nice addition to a cheese plate. Either the kind with bits of truffle in it or honey with a bit of truffle oil mixed in or drizzled on top.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: rdnnyc

                                          yes! had truffled honey at Otto this summer...loved it.

                                        2. not yet mentioned, cocktail onions, cornichons, branston pickle.

                                          and walnuts and blue cheese with wild chestnut honey is somewhere very close to heaven.

                                          1. I like baking a wheel of brie in puff pastry with a bit of raspberry preserves.

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                              sounds good to me, jpc! I usually add a splash of Amaretto & sliced almonds to my version...might have to make that this weekend now!

                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                  oh my...that's easy & interesting. Isn't that recipe from the original "Ham on the Street" FN host?

                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                    Yes, that is a George Durant recipe. I watched the episode where he made this immediately went to the kitchen and made it. It was very good.

                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                      jpc, did you happen to catch the episode when George Durant combined grilled cheese & fruit sandwiches, making some very unusual but delicious combos...this recipe with caramel reminds me of that "experiment."

                                                      1. re: jpc8015

                                                        http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/200...

                                                        jpc, this recipe has my attention tonight. What do you think?

                                                2. re: jpc8015

                                                  my Whole Foods just put out the brie they had last year at the holidays. $7.99 for a small wheel. We put fig preserves on it and heated last year for a x-mas party. I'm not a huge brie fan because I have a hard time w/ rinds (any HINT of moldi-ness, bleu-cheesy-ness sets me off) but this was very mild and approachable...perfect for party fare.

                                                  1. re: danna

                                                    I used to be that way with brie. Once you get past it you can really open up a whole new world of cheeses. I have since graduated to the washed rind cheese and they are fantastic.

                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                      I agree, there are some absolutely amazing cheeses out there, rind and all! I am cheese crazy. for occasions such as this, I rarely buy brie. That being said, I still love a good TRIPLE cream brie... yummy!

                                                3. Goiabada, or Brazillian guava paste, is indeed great with cheese. It's traditionally served with Minas cheese.

                                                  http://www.amigofoods.com/goiabada.html

                                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minas_ch...

                                                  1. thanks for all the great suggestions, here is what I ended up with:

                                                    Raincoast crisps (2 flavors)
                                                    Roasted garlic, onion & fig jam
                                                    Maple syrup and walnut spread
                                                    white truffle honey
                                                    quince paste
                                                    amaretto cookies
                                                    chocolate almond crisps
                                                    two flavors of spiced & sweet nuts (Sahale)

                                                    Cheeses:
                                                    Manchego
                                                    Piave Vecchio
                                                    Parm Reg
                                                    Gorganzola
                                                    Soft ripe french cheese (can't remember the name right now)

                                                    apples
                                                    pears
                                                    cactus pear
                                                    persimmon
                                                    grapes

                                                    still hoping to find fresh figs

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: cleopatra999

                                                      cleo figs seem to have two seasons in which they drop fruit...May/June and Dec/Jan so we likely saw the last of the fresh first season figs in mid-late Sept (the last time I saw & picked some up at Planet Organic) and we probably won't see more til the new year. If there are some still around, I'd think Italian markets would be your best bet.

                                                      1. re: maplesugar

                                                        i saw fresh figs here in metro dc maybe 5 weeks ago. different variety, perhaps. a/c to these charts, fig season can be quite long for some varieties:: http://www.freshplaza.com/news_detail...? -- nice info re figs in general on this site, too.--
                                                        id=24298http://www.seasonalchef.com/cropchart...

                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                          Cleo is from edmonton and I saw fresh figs at the Sobeys urban downtown in july.

                                                          1. re: Bryn

                                                            don't california figs get shipped to edmonton?

                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              I'm a 3hr drive south of Cleo in Calgary - figs I pick up are usually californian but from what I understand even though there are a number of producers there just aren't that many that ship up here. Although in the past few years I've seen them more and more...so I'm hpeful their rise in popularity beyond the newton will mean we'll see them more/for longer periods.

                                                              1. re: maplesugar

                                                                yes, i agree, that it is becoming a little more common to see the fresh figs in season in our grocery stores, too, here on the east coast. my mom grew up in north florida, and they had a fig tree. mom would "put up the figs" every year --- even well into the years after she left the homestead. the place became run down after her sisters and brothers inherited various portions of the property. no more preserved figs.... ;-( we'd eat them on nice fluffy biscuits hot from the oven.

                                                      2. re: cleopatra999

                                                        Have you ever seen dried fruit crostini? They sell them here in CA at various wine shops and are fabulous with almost any cheese platter.

                                                        Also, I make a confit of shallots, onions & dried cherries that is to die for to serve with a manchego & a baguette. It's really all you need!

                                                      3. Mt. Vikos makes a delicious Fig and Hazlenut spread (they also make an Apricot/Fig spread and others that are equally good). I cut a baguette into rounds, lightly toast, then spread the spread on the circles and top with crumbled goat cheese and toasted nuts, then broil (from the top of the oven) until the cheese is lightly toasted. Have done it twice now for dinner parties and there is never any left; and easy hit!

                                                        I picked up my Mt. Vikos spreads at a local grocer who now says he isn't allowed to order from the cheese distributer who sells them anymore :-(. But I'm certain other vendors carry them or that they would be able to be ordered online somewhere... perhaps someone has a source?