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what is your ideal cheese plate/board?

am hoping to serve 2-4 cheeses at a nye party and amlooking for something new. stuck in a rut i like but it is a rut! usually i do some kind of sharp cheddar, a blue, a goast cheese and something else. tried a cheese recently i was crazy about called istara, a raw sheep's milk cheese... it was divine. when i read that it had "nutty/figgy" flavor i was sold.
what are your favorite cheeses to serve? and are there any accompanyments you can't live without (i'm crazy about those spanish, anise-flavored tortas/crackers)?

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  1. ines rosales tortas- they are indeed fabulous.

    Any of the Istara cheeses- P'tit Basque, Etorki, would be fine.

    I'm loving our great american cheeses, however- Pleasant Ridge Reserve for a pressed cheese, any of the beautiful aged cheeses from Vermont Butter and Cheese (Coupole, Bonne Bouche, Cremont) and a blue from Rogue Creamery (such as Rogue River Blue, Caveman or Oregonzola). Green Hill from Sweet Grass Dairy in GA is a buttery, delightful bloomy cheese.

    The real question is- do you have access to a good cheese shop?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheesemonger

      thanks for the terrific suggestions! i guess i'm a newbie (more than one istara?! yea!). i'm not sure if i could say cleveland has a good, dedicated cheese shop. however, we do have a great market and there's a little mediterrenean grocer who gets wonderful cheeses... he is who turned me on to istara and maytag, etc. i'm going to ask about the sweet grass dairy cheese you recommended. have seen the vermont butter + cheese selections but have not tried them. exciting! have you ever tried the different varieties of fig cakes?

    2. Most people I know will not truly enjoy a master cheese layout on NYE. (they are too into the alcohol and more substantial hors d'oeuvres). What I put out is both a sharp and mild cheddar, pepperoni, several different crackers, grapes, and strawberries.

      1. I love La Tur -- a combination goat, cow, and sheep milk. Very sexy and yummy! Also recently had a Spanish goat cheese named Leonora. Loved it enough to stop and take note. Have a delicious NYE celebration!

        2 Replies
        1. re: amyleechen

          so excited to get these recommendations... thank you! sexy cheese, oh my! can't wait to try it.

          1. re: swiftbanderilla

            Do let us know what you put together and enjoyed! May you have many wonderful cheese plates in the coming new year!

        2. We're doing a NYE get together this year and are doing a cheese selection. We're doing brie, chevre, that flaky gouda from costco, manchego, and something nice and moldy.

          I also have salami, smoked salmon. crackers, and will be making a couple of other things for people to eat, sharp cheddar gougeres filled with (yet again) costco's sonoma chicken salad, toast points topped with sautéed crimini mushrooms and creme fraiche, and maybe smoked salmon, herb, and creme fraiche crostini. Of course there will be a few different types of olives and some sliced apples as well.

          I'm also making coconut cake and lemon bars.

          1 Reply
          1. re: LaureltQ

            what a great spread! the toast points sound especiallly delicious (and i'm a sucker for any smoked fish). i just made an old recipe of my mom's (who is 80+) - sounds terrible but it is good... stuffed spanish olives in a cheddar pastry that is heated for 12 minutes at 400degrees. crispy outside, flaky and salty inside... great with cocktails. i love coconut cake but am kind of intimidated by making it. good for you! sounds really great... thanks for sharing and have a wonderful nye!

          2. I also like the istara P'tit Basque and have found most people really like it.

            1. For Christmas we tried, or should I say inhaled some La Tur with water crackers and red grapes - soft to runny in texture and so delicious - definitely my new favorite combo.

              For a cheese board I usually inc. (in addition to the cheese) a combination of fresh fruit (apples, pears, figs), dried fruits (cranberries, apricots, cherries), nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.), crackers/bread and cured meats or olives.

              I know it's prbably too late for NYE but there are some very good cheese mail order options for your future cheese needs inc. gourmetlibrary.com and http://www.murrayscheese.com.

              1. accompaniments depend on the milk, the type and age of the cheese, and the region it's from. but some of my favorites:
                - membrillo
                - fig spread (i like Dalmatia & it's pretty easy to find)
                - various honeys
                - Marcona almonds
                - prosciutto
                - chutney

                it will be easier to choose specific accompaniments once you decide on the cheeses.

                14 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Goodhealthgourmet listed what I was about to list (i.e. natural ingredients such as honeys, Marcona almonds, prosciutto and olives) so I'll say DITTO! :-D

                  I'll just add fruit pastes in addition to chutneys. Chutneys with mustard seeds are very good.

                  1. re: chefathome

                    ooh, and mostarda! i knew i was forgetting something :)

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      Yes! My tongue was all tied up and I could not remember what that was called. I love it with pear and apricots. So delicious. This is really inspiring me to make some this week. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/food/...

                        1. re: swiftbanderilla

                          It is and as you can see by the recipe it is very easy - but sure to impress your guests! Man, I wish I was coming...

                          1. re: chefathome

                            ok, so what would you pair this with? my mouth is watering...

                              1. re: chefathome

                                cheese or otherwise! and i am all about adding figs!!! oh how i love apricots and figs...
                                thanks again.

                                1. re: swiftbanderilla

                                  Toasted nuts, grapes, apple and/or pear slices, dried fruits such as figs, an interesting bread with some texture like fruit or oats, a honey, a wine jelly if you have one (these are easy and fun to make, too). Olives and charcuterie are also excellent. I would definitely do something like a prosciutto or seranno or even wild game charcuterie. Nice balance.

                                  This is going to be so much fun!

                                  1. re: chefathome

                                    wine jelly... this is getting dangerous. the mostarda sounds great in that iit will combine sweet and savory... love that. one of my favorite things to make (and eat) is tomato jam. sounds awful but it is... exquisitely good. i've been wanting to experiment with tea more, too... made a wonderful earl grey syrup foor cocktails and your idea has me thinking i coud make earl grey jam and pair it with cheese... too weird?!?

                                    1. re: swiftbanderilla

                                      Definitely not weird! Early Grey jam would be so lovely with cheese. Believe me - I understand what you mean about tomato jam and combining sweet with savory. I made tons of tomato jam this year! Basil jelly is also yummy. Making condiments/preserves is one of my favourite things to do in life. My pantry and freezers are packed with all sorts of yummy stuff including white and red wine jelly, basil jelly, apricot jalapeno jelly, lavender jelly, all kinds of salsas, ketchups (i.e. papaya), mustards, roasted applesauce, barbecue sauces, vanilla bean pear butter... Ooh...the apricot jalapeno jelly may go nicely with some of your cheeses, too.

                                      I would love to hear about your Earl Grey jam and cheese! That is something I am going to add to my list.

                                      1. re: chefathome

                                        it was everything i could do not to shriek whilst reading your last message. wow, Wow, WOW! i've been collecting viintage cookbooks and especially love some of the neat preserves recipes/ideas and hope to explore more soon. vanilla bean pear butter sounds lovely (how beautiiful are those little specs of vanilla bean... just made applesauce with vanilla bean at t-giving and it was grand). apricot jalapeno jelly... sign me up! how good would that be with a bloomy cheese and cracker? whoa. i bet basil jelly is incredible. my good friend is a lavender nut, so i'd like to steal your jelly idea to make it for her. we made syrups for christmas gifts and with the earl grey we made vanilla, cardamom/orange/cinnamon, lavender, and coffee. i promise to keep you abreast of my adventures and thank you for your wonderful and inspiring ideas!

                                        1. re: swiftbanderilla

                                          "my good friend is a lavender nut, so i'd like to steal your jelly idea to make it for her"

                                          that lavender jelly would be wonderful on your cheese plate if you end up serving a bleu, goat or feta...it's a wonderful accompaniment to all of them, as is lavender honey.

                            1. re: chefathome

                              Oh, you can also add chopped figs to the mostarda.

                  2. Have to agree with cheesemonger - the Bonne Bouche is divine and addictive.

                    1. i forgot to post this earlier. since you're a fellow fig freak:


                      it's *killer* with goat cheese, particularly a ripened soft (like Humboldt Fog) or semi-soft. mmm...

                      1. In recent years, I usually serve a single cheese, rather than a selection. And almost invariably a local one. Means I can ensure that not only is there a very generous serving but I can ensure it's in perfect condition and have no clash of accompaniments.

                        So, for example, the Cheshire we have at the moment is accompanied by celery, local apples and bread. In fact, it's rare that we would ever put out different accompaniments to these - maybe grapes instead of apple if we use Mahon.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Harters

                          how nice. one good cheese is worthy, i'm sure. i have to fight my american "more is more" instinct! lol. i believe that with this crowd, different cheesees will appeal to different people (or should i write that certain cheeses will not appeal to certain people). but i like your idea... serve one that is excellent and paired nicely. thanks!

                          1. re: Harters

                            One local cheese is great. However, the Canadian prairies are hardly known for their cheeses so we have no option but to purchase imported cheeses from a cheese shop a few hours' drive from here. One reason I like to use 3 or 5 (usually 3) cheeses is to educate (including ourselves). I know, that sounds snobbish, but many of our friends request that. So, we enjoy choosing and pairing. Cheeseboards are a relatively foreign concept here (in fact, other than a few high-end restaurants, I have seen ZERO). It is sad. In fact, usually I would prefer a cheeseboard to traditional dessert in a heartbeat.

                            I think that since it is so uncommon we practically lunge for cheeses that we will likely only see once. We can be pretty greedy! :-D

                            Harters, I love British cheeses and have been to many of the places where the cheeses are made in the UK. Every time we go we wish we could sneak some back to Canada in our luggage.

                            1. re: chefathome

                              what a visual... the cheese lunge! thanks for making me laugh. i get it!
                              yes, variety is fun in this vein. i'm lucky to have some really creative, risk-taking, highly food-interested but not food snobbish friends. so we all learn together. it truly has been exciting, eye-opening and educational for me to read posts here... so much to explore. so fun. i served an interesting cheese plate at thanksgiving and it became the center of all the activity... encouraged people to interact, try things, talk aboout likes and dislikes. i can't tell you how much pleasure i get from that. loved hearing a shy friend yell "let me in there!" thanks again for your post. i enjoyed reading it.

                              1. re: swiftbanderilla

                                Yes - when I get so excited about finally seeing a cheese I've only dream about I lunge. Or I stand there acting casual, averting my gaze elsewhere until the person in my way moves on, away from my treasure. Tempting to knock people out of the way but I don't carry it that far! :)

                                Your Thanksgiving sounded marvellous - what a superb entertainment idea! I loved that your shy friend was so excited about it. Food just has such a way of bringing people together, doesn't it? Even talking/typing about it does!