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Help with Cheese Platters

Cheese has become so important because of the amount of vegans/vegetarians, diabetics, and less dessert eaters who would rather substitute with cheeses after dinner. I have always put out cheese in a non-creative sort of way (brie, cheddar with grape clusters on the side) or left it up to someone else or caterer.

I'd like to learn more about the cheese groups and creative ways of serving. There are so many ways of doing this, and I only know that like cheeses should be together.

What are your favorites, how do you like to serve cheese for gatherings? What kind of serving trays/platters do you use? Any websites, articles or threads that you know of related to this would be a great help.

I will list my favorite cheeses, and as you can see they are all different types. There might be a way to bring these cheeses together so that they don't clash with one another, maybe by adding some that I haven't tried yet.

My choices are few: Stilton, Cheddar, Gouda, Parmiggiano Reggiano, Manchego, (Brie if I must). I may be forgetting some but would like to add more to this list. I'm looking forward to your suggestions. Thanks all!

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  1. one rule is : soft, hard, smelly. (um, well, that's the abbreviation of the rule ;-).

    for serving, ii like to place the large pieces of cheese on wood boards, or for fancier events, on pretty porcelain platters, perhaps on those grape leaves (real or those parchment ones specially made for the purpose http://www.thefind.com/brand/browse-s... ). lidia likes to have a whole big parmesan wheel for her party guests to dig into. (yeah. when i'm lidia and can get a big discount!).

    something sweet is good to have nearby, and you can't go wrong with grapes. there is also quince paste ("membrillo"). apricots and apples are also good (acidulate the apples if it is going to be on a buffet. this diminishes the best apple flavor, though). walnuts and honey are also very, very lovely with certain cheeses. the interplay of those flavors and textures is magical.

    i like a couple of cheese sites in particular, one is "murray's" http://www.murrayscheese.com/ and there is a french cheese site http://www.cheese-france.com/ and one for spanish cheese http://www.cheesefromspain.com/CFS/De... . there are lots of great sites around. http://www.google.com/search?client=s...

    and to go with all that cheese, new wine glasses for good wine! i'm currently loving these similar to the ones on "avec eric." http://www.crateandbarrel.com/dining-...

    3 Replies
    1. re: alkapal

      Alkapal, I'm familiar with those leaves, someone gave them to me long ago; a great reminder to purchase these.

      But truly the articles above are leaving too much up to me and I think I need to be handheld. I can't afford to do a course right now (or even a book for that matter). Yes the wine glasses are a great suggestion!

      1. re: alkapal

        I second the honey with cheese. Read about it in the LCBO magazine and it recommended it with certain cheeses, however I love it with most cheeses.

      2. A good cheese platter will have a progression from mild to "in your face" and it will include a variety of textures. There should be something on either the table or the platter that allows the eaters to cleanse their palate before moving to the next cheese in the sequence. And finally, the cheese varieties should be complimented by the wine you will be drinking with the course. If you have a cheese shop nearby, try to sample some cheeses before you purchasing. I have found that the easiest way to build a cheese platter for a meal is to stick with the country of the meal's cuisine. So, if you are making a Spanish meal, Spanish cheeses, etc.

        And one final thought, cheese is not vegan and will not be enjoyed by your vegan friends.

        7 Replies
        1. re: smtucker

          I could see about staying with the type of cuisine, but what about cocktail parties where you have a mixture?

          1. re: lilgi

            depending on the cocktails, you're likely not so worried about pairing them with food. if that's the case, a small variety and a nice assort of textures is still best.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Okay, in some articles they want you to keep the textures the same? Maybe I'm just confused...

              1. re: lilgi

                That's bum advice, IMO. The last thing you want is the "same" cheeses. I usually just stick to the ol' 1 hard, 1 soft, 1 stinky. I love Manchego, so that usually finds a spot somehow, too.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  Yes, whenever I serve Manchego it seems to go over well with everyone, maybe because it's not a strong flavor and it's got great texture with crackers.

            2. re: lilgi

              Yea. That is my weakness.... living in France as a child, I don't think of cheese as something to serve during the cocktail hour. Generally, the cheese served with cocktails seems to fall into the soft category- brie, camembert, herbed, etc.

              And your original post did ask specifically for the cheese course within a meal.

              1. re: smtucker

                i don't like it before dinner either as it dulls the palate and people get too easily full. a cocktail party is something different, although i tend not to serve a cheese plate for that either. for me, only after dinner, and only with certain people.

          2. Wow...I want to be in your social circles. I have never experienced a "progression of cheeses" Is that like a delicious parade ?
            Usually my "progression of cheese" is, set to room temp, cut cheese, place in mouth.

            10 Replies
            1. re: rochfood

              the room temp is important because it really allows the flavors to show.

              if it's a small group, i'll usually do one hard, one soft and one bleu. i offer nuts, thinly sliced apple or pear and dried fruits, like apricots or prunes. if i have time i often make this pan de higo a few days ahead:


              i prefer plain white baguette slices or mild crackers, instead of assertively flavored breads or toast.

              i'll usually also have some lemon or almond cookies on another platter.

              matching the cheeses of a region with local wines is a great shortcut. loire valley wines with goat cheeses for example.

              this site, from artisanal in nyc, has some wonderful info.


              unless you've got a good cheesemonger, or are willing to fork out some dough at whole paycheck for hand-made cheeses, i wouldn't bother with a platter of supermarket brie and cheddar, quite honestly.

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Hotoynoodle, your post is really what I'm looking for! Thanks so much for posting that recipe for fig cake; I'll be looking into that.

                I like the idea of putting out prunes very much, more than figs, grapes and the others mentioned. What kind of nuts do you like to offer? What kinds of crackers? How would you serve jam/preserves? I am very excited about your post!

                1. re: lilgi

                  you're welcome. that fig "cake, while not a cake at all, is da bomb and extra easy to make.

                  personally i'm not crazy about grapes with cheese. here in new england we don't often get great grapes. they're very one-dimensional, so i rarely eat them at all.

                  nuts, usually almonds or i sometimes make chinese spiced walnuts. or fennel/seed brittle.

                  i don't serve jams or preserves. too cloying. the membrillo mentioned above is more of a paste and quite good with manchego. plain white baguette, sliced very thin and red oval stone ground crackers are usually it. occasionally i will offer dark bread with raisins or figs in it for bleu cheese. i like the bread part to be a supporting player, with the cheese as the star. so it's excellent quality, but the flavor isn't pronounced.

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Next time I find myself at Fairway (very soon I suppose) I will be looking closely at the crackers. I get the baguette, just not a fan of it and would rather have options. ALTHOUGH, I love that Sarabeth peach/apricot jam so much it would go well with baguette. I know there are hundreds of other more sophisticated options as far as jams/preserves, but I'm very simple come to that. I want to heat that up slightly and use it as a topping on my mini-cheesecakes as well. I would still serve the jam in addition to the fig cake and prunes.

                    Chinese spiced walnuts eh? What kinds of olives, haha! Maybe a recipe for dark bread with fruit might be in order as well, I'll have to check.

                    Edit: I forgot to ask, what are your cheese preferences if you don't mind sharing?

                    1. re: lilgi

                      any jam should be room temp. don't offer warmed items with the cheese, which should be as it has been said room temp.

                      now, i have to walk that back in a way. i LOVE a warmed in the oven brie round with butter and sliced (and thus toasted) almonds on top, then slathered on crusty baguette slices. 'twas a mark of our fridays in georgetown college days.... we felt like we were "livin' the life," and indeed we were. my housemates worked at all the very best spots in the g-town resto scene, but we'd love to gather around this simple delight.

                      1. re: lilgi

                        now i'm wondering what it is you're planning? if it's a cheese and desser party, i would definitely NOT do a cheesecake. i'm in a dairy coma just imagining that. opt for contrast lie lemon or ginger-based desserts.

                        you're not matching the jam with the baguette, the idea is not overwhelm any of the cheeses. i have had apricot jam served over a warm round of brie, which was lovely, but it was also the only cheese. so don't tart up the plate with too many accompaniments. a little something salty, like nuts, and a little something sweet lithe pan de higo, or dried fruit, is plenty. however, i sometimes do like a dark bread with bleu cheese and it does offer a nice visual contrast on the table.

                        an easier question to answer might be what cheese i don't like. ;) we have some excellent cheese shops here, so i buy what looks best, or something unusual. cheese like cheddar and muenster are fine for everyday, but i'd be utterly bummed to get that on a cheese plate.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I'm not planning anything yet, but trying to get a feel of doing a cheese/dessert course which I've never done. I've only done something real simple in the past with buffets, nothing fancy, or someone else did it, and it was always for cocktails. But truth be told, the cheese platter area in either case was always my weakness since I haven't tried that many. Feel free to correct as much as you like below and sorry if it's a long post; I figure it's the best way to get a feel for planning something like this and I also have a bit of shopping to do.

                      2. re: hotoynoodle

                        Apologies in advance for the digression, but re: grapes in New England, I like to raise the example of concord grapes (not necessarily as a cheese complement, but great on their own).

                        1. re: limster

                          Yum. Also, Niagra grapes are similarly delicious with cheese. In fact, they may be the only fruits I go for first, even when there are great cheeses out. : )

                        2. re: hotoynoodle

                          Hotoy: Can I ask how you make the chinese spiced walnuts? I'm intrigued by the idea.

                  2. If you could all be a little more specific and tell me what kinds of cheeses you prefer so that I have something to go on, what kind of platters you like, etc. it would help me immensely!

                    1. When I make a cheese platter, I try to put out a variety of cheese ranging from popular semi-softs to salty aged cheeses. Purists would say that you should offer a progression from creamy cheeses to the strongest flavored cheese on offer. On the other hand, I think it is more visually interesting to vary the shapes and sizes of your wedges, so rather than arrange by pungency, I take the largest wedges and intersperse them with smaller, more flavorful (and less popular) cheeses. Additional negative space can be filled with complementary fruits, olives, preserves and condiments.

                      If I were putting together a favorites platter just for myself, I'd have to include Saint-André, Gloucester, Muenster, gouda and halloumi served with lychees, pickalilli, tomato chutney, mint and lemons.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: JungMann

                        Thanks for the idea of lychees! But from your post I gather that you don't group cheese according to their family? For instance, I read somewhere that you would group edam with swiss, gouda, etc. or parmigiano, romano, asiago, etc? The way you do it makes it so much easier for me.

                        1. re: lilgi

                          Some people would group families of cheeses, but I think that would work for a far larger selection than the 4-6 cheeses I normally have on my 18" cheese board. I have separate knives for the different cheeses to minimize the risk of contaminating a mild cheese with bits of a strong cheese and I would agree with hotoynoodle that one ought to segregate runny cheeses.

                        2. re: JungMann

                          the only problem with this is that a strong very soft or runny cheese, like epoisses, will then be spilling all over something more mild, like a comté.

                          i think it's very important to keep cheese of similar texture together and runny cheeses to get their own vessel. separate serving utensils for each cheese and nothing too crowded or it becomes too hard to slice and turns into a visual and flavor disarray.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            I also separate soft, runny or stinky cheese!

                            My new favorite "separate plate" is a nice blue Gorgonzola on a pretty (colorful) dish, drizzled with spiced honey and sprinkled with marcona almonds.

                            My old favorite was a nice log of fresh goat cheese, drizzled with fig jam and sprinkled with crisped prosciutto pieces.

                            I also keep crackers and bread simple when I want to highlight the cheese.

                            Wow, this thread is making me drool.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              I forgot about goat cheese, but I like so many that I haven't listed. Also, I agree that I like blue cheese separate from the rest. I prefer Stilton but I like gorgonzola too, and I don't like soft blue cheese.

                        3. Okay all, I'm very excited because I'm working on a "virtual dinner for 6, cheese/dessert course" and I chose to do a smaller gathering because it tends be more selective and reflect the host, and as smtucker said should match the cuisine. I'm an "a lot of food gal" so I hope you don't think it's overkill. I'm working on my shopping list (platters, accessories and foods). I'll be back later on with this, and I am in dire need of serveware.

                          Hottoynoodle, we posted at the same exact time at some point, if you wouldn't mind check again above you might have missed one and if you already did as I was typing disregard :)

                          1. I know it's hard to do in the States, but try to find a cheese person you can trust. Tell them what's for dinner, and what your budget is. Breathe. Relax...

                            If you can do that, you're golden.

                            I usually have a chevre, a bleu, a Comte, and at least one Brie depending on how many people will be at dinner. ...BUT

                            I have also presented a platter of strictly local cheeses for guests...Brie de Meaux, Brie de Melun, Brie de Nangis, (or any of the other 4 appellations of Brie) ,Coulommiers, and Pierre Robert -- because I live in the heart of the Brie region and it's fun to watch people's jaw drop when they realize just how many different KINDS of Brie there are. (2 AOC, 5 more AOP, and a few more "unofficial" types)

                            Another delicious surprise is to serve Roquefort (or any assertive Bleu, since I know Roquefort is the target of some pretty punitive tariffs in the US) with honey and a sweet dessert wine (like Sauternes or Monbazillac)...the Roquefort goes from a roar to a purr as you add the other flavor facets to the mix (and it's sublime drizzled with honey).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Fairway has a huge assortment of cheeses and I will definitely keep your sugestions with me :)

                            2. Okay, I've increase to a dinner of 12 to make sure my concepts are correct. The suggestions you have all given me are wonderful and probably not something I would have thought of myself; you guys have carte blanche to fix or add anything you like.

                              I never do anything extremely formal, so I would probably have a small table for certain items, and place most other items at the table where we'll be. I'm happy with the selections below, but feel my cheese profile is weak; still I want to keep the bleu, parm, and manchego. What do you think?

                              crate and barrel
                              wine glasses..............(amarone)

                              or sur la table

                              wine glasses............(amarone

                              rectangular cheese platter........(parmigiano reggiano, manchego, one softer mild sugestion

                              small round cheese platter........(firm stilton or firm gorgonzola, add a chevre?

                              olive boat...........(pitted kalamata olives or other suggestions?

                              porcelain boat serving bowls......(strawberries, prunes, lychees, hotoynoodle's chinese spiced walnuts

                              porcelain cake stand......(assorted pastries, pignoli cookies, mini-cheesecakes

                              rectangular beveled serving platters (set of 3 sizes)....(fig cake, baguette, sweet dark homemade prune bread, crackers

                              white porcelain jam pot....(peach apricot jam (I must have this)

                              Parchment leaves...(cheese platter decoration

                              white porcelain divided dish.......(suggestions?

                              rustic ceramic square plates.........(placesettings

                              I also need individual cheese knives

                              edit: Just corrected a link above, also just realized I still included the cheesecakes but can take them off

                              27 Replies
                              1. re: lilgi

                                serve the baguette on a board. it's visually more appealing and will be easier to cut.

                                the white plates are very pretty, but you might consider either a green or gold glass plate some of the cheeses, again for visual contrast. the plate with the picture is pretty, but i don't like plates with a pattern underneath food. too busy.
                                as an italian, i eat olives with antipasto or drinks before dinner, not after. <shrugs>.

                                are you serving 2 amarones? that is a giant wine that will overwhelm more delicate cheese and bulldoze over dessert.

                                again, i definitely would not serve cheesecake alongside cheese.

                                as for the cheeses they are not very inspired. do you have a decent cheese shop near you? i often will go with something in mind but return home with something entirely else because i buy what is best at the moment in the shop.

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  Ahh, I thought that the baguette would be already cut; that makes sense. I meant to say that I'm trying not to be too choosy about the platters and my dishes are all restaurant white; but I did choose dessert dishes with some color; I'll see how I can mix and match with my platters and still stay within budget.

                                  I forgot to take the olives out, originally I was thinking cocktail buffet. Darn! I knew my cheese profile was poor lol. The problem I have there is that I never trust my own judgment with cheese.

                                  Oh, I'll remove the cheesecake, you're right :) I thought with Amarone I would do one of the sweeter German wines.

                                  1. re: lilgi

                                    an off-dry riesling can be very nice with cheese, but amarone will clobber just about anything else, except for chocolate. you might consider a sparkling moscato d'asti. very refreshing and easy to digest with nibbles. red wine and cheese are not automatically a great match.

                                    1. re: lilgi

                                      you don't have to trust your judgement. go to a cheese shop. tell them your quandary and budget. buy a few things you like that are less generic than what you've got here.

                                      are you in ny? this shouldn't be impossible.

                                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                                        Not impossible, and Fairway (in NY) is nearby, but the vendors at the cheese department there are not knowledgeable. I'm taking down suggestions that a few have posted so far and I'll be able to sample as many as needed. I'm looking forward to it!

                                        1. re: lilgi

                                          good cheese is seasonal. take some notes from that artisanal website i posted earlier for better up-to-date info on what's around.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                                            Will do! Also, thanks for the recommendation on the wine too, a whole other section haha, but really I don't think Im'a changin' the Amarone, I know you don't want it there :) What I would do though is add more wine even if for a small crowd.

                                            1. re: lilgi

                                              i work as a sommelier. too many wines in this sort of setting just get confusing and overload the palate. people also tend to drink ":more" because they want to try everything. choose a sparkling and or a white and red and that's enough. truly.

                                              see comments upthread about cheeses paired with regional wines.

                                              one of my most memorable cheese courses was when the cheese guy at picholine in nyc asked me to first pick the wine and then he would match cheeses to it. divine.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                Well, I'm confused because I was set to have a blue cheeses and a parm, and amarone is always recommended to go with these types of cheese. I think I actually was working my way backwards as well without knowing because I wanted to have my drink of choice.

                                                I'm intrigued by your experience and savvy with all of this, thanks so much for sharing! Btw, if the recipes that you have for chinese spiced walnuts. or fennel/seed brittle are not private would you mind posting? I would love to have those as well.

                                                1. re: lilgi

                                                  of course!

                                                  just searched my docs though and looks like i fly by the seat of my pants on the nuts. boil walnut halves for a few minutes. in the meantime have spices like chile, cinnamon and ginger mixed up with salt and add them to a little skillet of olive oil. drain the nuts and add to the spice mix. fry a few minutes, then spread on wax paper to dry. you can vary the spices to your liking.

                                                  Fennel/Pumpkin Seed Brittle

                                                  3/4 cup fennel seeds, toasted
                                                  3/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
                                                  1 cup sugar
                                                  2 T unsalted butter
                                                  1/2 tsp baking soda
                                                  1 1/2 tsp ground fennel
                                                  ½ cup salt
                                                  black pepper

                                                  Toast fennel seeds, lightly, in an ungreased skillet. Transfer to a plate. Add sunflower seeds and set aside.

                                                  Place sugar, water, and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil for 2 minutes or until the liquid is thick, syrupy and starting to brown. Remove from heat and add baking soda, ground fennel, pepper, toasted fennel seeds and sunflower seeds.

                                                  Mix rapidly to coat seeds with syrup. Immediately pour the mixture on a cookie sheet, pressing them lightly to separate them, but still clinging together in a bunch. When completely cool, transfer into a tightly covered container and store in a cool and dry place. Serve with coffee or tea.

                                                  This recipe yields 1 1/2 cups.

                                                  unless i am having something like roasted lamb, amarone is simply too much for me. it's enormous on the palate and would never be my go-to after a big meal. a sangiovese or dolcetto d'alba would be nice with the parm and use a gorgonzola for the bleu.

                                                  i'm not trying to confuse you, lol, and am hoping to simplify this for you. wine and cheese from the same neighborhood. nothing too heavy or tannic for the wine. it's no crime to have something lighter and fizzy with cheese. it can often be a relief after a big meal.

                                                  if you have a better wine shop than you do cheese, ask them to help pair the two.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                    I feel that I'm walking away with so much; this made me realize how much work I have to do in this area. Thanks for your help and posting those recipes; this is exactly what I was looking for.

                                                    It's so important that we update our tastes as we go on. When time goes by and our foods don't evolve, what we end up serving feels like yellow, peeling wallpaper :)

                                                    1. re: lilgi

                                                      I reread this thread; what was I thinking?! A sommelier is saying "don't do the amarone" and I still insist? I guess this means that I will be having lamb more often :)

                                                      I looked at one of your recommendations for the moscato d'asti; I think this is wonderful! I think I've seen a bottle of Nivole around the corner with my local wine merchant. I really give you credit, and I'm going to pick up a bottle soon.

                                                      This is so much more than a cheese platters thread!

                                              2. re: lilgi

                                                IMO (another somm here), Amarone will only work with Parm. Red table wine and cheese don't pair very well. Whites are much more cheese-friendly.

                                                I like hotoy's suggestions of a sparkling Md'A and an off-dry Riesling. I like off-dry Gewurz, too, depending on the cheeses.

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  Very excited here about the Md'A; I'll be picking some up this weekend and I remember having tried it; very refreshing. I'm glad the mention of Gewurz, it's one of my favorite wines with food and I love the spiciness of it.

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    Some red burgundies can synergise wonderfully with truffled cheese.

                                                2. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Good point about seasonality. I just came from USQ Greenmarket and there were lots of cheesemakers. They tend to be EXTREMELY knowledgable about their cheeses. I know tomorrow there's a very good sheep's milk cheese maker called 3-Corner farm. I recently served a small cheese plate with 3 of their cheeses (from milk to quite intense). I'm pretty sure they will be there tomorrow along with at least 3 others (Cato Corner I believe).

                                                  I also really like Lucy's Whey in Chelsea Market and of course Murray's. They have really wonderful selections and you should have no trouble putting a plate together there. I've even asked them to pair cheeses with wines or beers and they are good at that as well.

                                                  If you want specific cheeses, I really love Truffle Tremor which is made by the Humboldt Fog people (that's correct right?). Both are beautiful but I don't know how there are right now. Maybe do some tasting.

                                                  Your guests will be happy. I'm always excited to see a cheese plate come out at a dinner party!

                                                3. re: lilgi

                                                  You don't need to go to Fairway. You live in NYC? Go to a cheese shop. Taste and talk.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    Bingo! There are a few current and former professional cheesemongers (including me), who post on CH. I suspect that we all experienced a mixture of frustration and amazement reading this thread. Lilgo, if you are in NYC, as you appear to be, you have the country's largest collection of reputable cheese shops (with only the San Francisco Bay area perhaps being able to compete for that honor) at your disposal. There are times when asking CHers for advice is second best, and this is one of them. If you want to learn more about cheese, or simply to put together a cheese plate/platter for a dinner, pay one or more of them a visit, ask questions, and TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. We, in an Internet discussion, can tell you what cheeses we prefer, but what matters in the end is what YOU like. There are hundreds of cheeses available and a nearly infinite number of possible combinations for a cheese platter. There's no one right answer.

                                                    I wouldn't avoid Fairway. It has an excellent cheese department, as you've discovered. It was built up by Steve Jenkins, who is one of America's foremost authorities on cheese. His book, Cheese Primer, came out in 1996 and was the pioneering book in the US on artisanal cheeses. It's still in print and is a valuable resource, although, because of its age, it would no longer be my recommendation for a first book on cheese.

                                                    Other places that should be on your list:

                                                    In Manhattan:
                                                    Murray's (two locations: West Village and Grand Central Terminal)
                                                    Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro
                                                    Ideal Cheese Shop
                                                    Saxelby Cheesemonger (in the Essex Street Market)
                                                    Formaggio Essex (also in the Essex Street Market)
                                                    Di Palo's (for Italian cheeses)
                                                    A good selection of cheeses can also be found in shops like Dean and DeLuca and even Zabar's,

                                                    Stinky Brooklyn
                                                    Bedford Cheese Shop
                                                    The Blue Apron

                                                    There are also numerous cheese shops in the NYC metropolitan area, whether it be Long Island, Westchester County, northern New Jersey, or southwestern Connecticut.

                                                    I'd also recommend getting a book or two on cheese. It's not clear to me how you can afford the cheeses, but say you can't afford a book. You can get cheese books new for $15-$25 and often can find used copies in good condition for $10 or less. (Check Amazon.com.) I recommend the following books, among many other options:

                                                    Cheese Essentials, Laura Werlin
                                                    Cheese and Wine, Janet Fletcher
                                                    The Cheese Plate, Max McCalman
                                                    The Cheese Bible, Christian Teubner

                                                    These will all give you a good grounding in the various types of cheese and how good cheeses are produced, along with practical advice on serving them. Laura's book will help you to understand how to distinguish among the various categories of cheese (soft, semisoft, firm, hard, washed rind, blue, etc.). It also includes some recipes. Janet's focus is on pairing wines with cheeses. The 80 or so cheeses she focuses on are all one's that you should be able to find in NYC. Max's book has a little bit of everything (except recipes), It's the first published of three books he has written. His other two are more for the committed connoisseur. Max's last book, Mastering Cheese, is IMO the best book on cheese ever written, but I think it may overwhelm the beginner. Christian Teubner's book has a European perspective. Some of the cheeses described are not available here, but the hundreds of photographs are splendid.

                                                    So go out and explore. Make this an adventure! Little by little, you'll pick up the knowledge you need, develop your cheese palate and be more comfortable trusting your own preferences and instincts. As many of us have found, being bitten by the cheese bug causes endless pleasure!

                                                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                      With book titles in hand, the NY Public Library may well have the titles. But, yes, buying a book or two is going to cost about the same as buying a cheese or two. And it's a gift that keeps on giving :)

                                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                        Cheese, I love your suggestions, It's not easy though for me to get into the city and I'm in Westchester, but I think for my purposes Fairway overwhelmed me in this department. So I could learn a lot here first before I start venturing out. The cheesemonger there was really helpful, and told me not to hesitate in trying whatever I needed.

                                                        I have bought a few used books on Amazon so I'll look into it, I prefer not to spend on a cheese book if I can avoid it and would rather update my cookbooks.

                                                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                          Love Stinky Brooklyn. Have you seen their beer selection?

                                                          1. re: JeremyEG

                                                            Jeremy, it's been 8 years since I lived in the NYC area, so I only get to the cheese shops on occasional visits. I'll make a mental note to check out the beers at Stinky Brooklyn the next time I'm there. Thanks for the tip.

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          I probably should have mentioned the Fairway is a few blocks from me, it's where I shop regularly.

                                                          1. re: lilgi

                                                            I have nothing comparable to Fairway but even when I did I sought out the specialty stores when I needed education on a food item. Big stores like Fairway are generally so busy that they just don't have the time to spend a huge amount of it with one person. Just treat it like a journey. Or a cultural outing. No different than a museum really.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              During the week it's practically empty, so even though your idea is nice to venture out it's not practical for me. Truthfully their cheese dept. is huge and they're known for this. I imagine come summertime I'll have more of a opportunity to visit the specialty cheese shops.

                                                              1. re: lilgi

                                                                Oh, I'm quite familiar with their cheese department. I apologize. I didn't realize that you have mobility issues which makes traveling around difficult. Good luck.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  C Oliver I don't have mobility issues. Thanks for your input.

                                              3. This is from Ina Garten and is my guide I use:

                                                Go to the best cheese shop in town and ask the person at the counter which cheeses are ready to serve. Taste everything; they expect you to. We all know that the Brie may look terrific, but it can be underripe and tough or overripe and ammoniated. You want only the freshest cheeses that are perfectly ripened. Take them home, refrigerate them, and then bring them to room temperature a few hours before serving.

                                                Second, be sure to have a platter or wooden board that is flat and large enough to hold the cheeses without crowding them. Arrange the cheeses with the cut sides facing out, and with several small cheese knives, maybe one for each type of cheese.

                                                Third, to finish the platter, add sliced breads or crackers, and green leaves. I use either lemon or galax leaves, which you can get from your florist. If you have a garden, any large flat leaf like hydrangea looks beautiful, but be sure they aren't poisonous and are pesticide-free!

                                                Overall, the simpler the design, the better the platter looks. Group each kind of cheese together and add one large bunch of green or red grapes in the center to create a visual focal point. Fill in the spaces with lots of crackers or small slices of bread.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: laliz

                                                  Laliz, I just noticed your post. Thank you, I am trying to get past the cheese and grape cluster thing, sort of like a fancy crash course over here; I've been typing away all day :)

                                                2. Too funny, no one has been able to speak to me at all today; I have been looking for recipes, the cheese and wine website, etc., and have been absolutely spacey with all the info :)

                                                  Anyway, one of my favorite websites is Smitten Kitchen and they had two great recipes I wanted to share for this sort of thing; and Hottoynoodle, I'm not sure if the Smitten recipe for the onion tart (different thread) outweighs yours yet because of the mustard, but it IS starting to grow on me.

                                                  These aren't planned for anything yet, just collecting recipes for now and thought I'd post to share with anyone following the thread. The grape focaccia with Rosemary looks awesome!


                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: lilgi

                                                    the biggest thing I'd underline for you is to keep it simple.

                                                    You don't need special glasses and plates and forks. A decent platter is good, because it makes the cheese easier to cut, but I can't tell you how many times I've seen cheese served on a humble dinner plate here in France. With ordinary table knives.

                                                    3-5 cheeses -- a soft, a hard, a bleu, and perhaps a goat...

                                                    Some lightly-salted nuts
                                                    Some apples and/or pears
                                                    A handful of dried apricots and/or prunes.

                                                    A sliced baguette.

                                                    That's all....when you make it too convoluted, you're allowing the supporting actors (all the foo-fa that's around it) to distract the diner's attention away from the stars (your cheese)

                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                      Your post got me thinking; originally I didn't think of the cheese as the star; I only thought of it as a way to serve a dessert course and appease those that can't go for the carbs and sweets. So in my mind the desserts and other items were always the highlight, but after this thread I am changing my mind and treating the cheese theme with more respect.

                                                      I'm collecting a few recipes so I can be flexible and creative later on for entertaining that doesn't require a cheese/dessert course, but maybe just some cheeses and accompaniments. Those two breads will be perfect to serve along with cheese for my son's graduation coming up later this year, and I could definitely see the grape focaccia getting lots of attention. But I also need suggestions on my post below, let me know what you think!

                                                      1. re: lilgi

                                                        I'm speaking from a country where cheese is a course in and of itself -- after the main meal (sometimes but not always accompanied by just a simple green salad - no other veggies - in a Dijon vinaigrette) -- and before the dessert course.

                                                        You're spending a not-inconsequential amount of money to put out good cheeses...let them speak for themselves.

                                                        For dessert, keep that simple, too...I'd for sure leave out the basil and olive oil...but truthfully, I'd just warm the plums and cherries together with a little kirsch (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier) and serve them...either by themselves, with a drizzle of creme fraiche, or over a little vanilla ice cream.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          I really would love to try this with a cheese. No ice cream! :) and that's mostly because I often do Atkins, so I feel I need the cheese. Normally in the past I just declined dessert.

                                                          This little dish looks wonderful and I LOVE bing cherries and plums. I'm considering the liqueur but I don't want it to overpower those fruits together. I may even order the cheese beforehand to try if It's not available locally. Thank you! My wheels are still turning :)

                                                          1. re: lilgi

                                                            then go with unsweetened creme fraiche. Despite what the article says, I don't think that chevre is really the after-dinner flavor you want. (I *love* chevre, but not as the last thing on my palate.)

                                                            If you absolutely have to go to cheese, try mascarpone.

                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                              aha, okay then. I went back a few minutes ago and reread it; you're right they are recommending a semisoft goat cheese and it's probably more appropriate for the salad in the recipe.

                                                              What other semi-soft cheese would you recommend for apres dinner with this? I'm thinking of squeezing a bit of fresh lemon juice over the fruit and maybe a slight drizzle of honey over all even if it's cheating a little.

                                                              1. re: lilgi

                                                                add the honey while you're warming the fruit - it will bring out the juice and will melt into the juice as it cooks.

                                                                A whipped cream cheese, mascarpone, petit suisse, fromage blanc -- keep it very, very light to play nicely with the fruit as dessert.

                                                                If you can't bear the thought of NOT having something green and leafy, add a sprig of fresh mint.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  Thanks sunshine, if I don't come up with a firmer mild dessertish cheese I'll look into the ones you posted. Mint, definitely!

                                                                  1. re: lilgi

                                                                    I'll get back to you on the petit suisse; I think I like that idea. Thinking of ordering some of the softer very mild brie-like cheese from Artisanal to try as well if I don't taste anything worthwhile at my local market.

                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                        i agree...sometimes a big ole cutting board is my favorite!

                                                        1. re: LaLa

                                                          Lala, even my cutting board is tired; but I like rustic when it comes to cheese too!

                                                      3. re: lilgi

                                                        oh, i like smittenkitchen for the most part!

                                                      4. I bought a small metal watering trough (like for sheep) at my local feed store to serve cold foods in, it ran $35. It measures four feet long, by two and 1/2 feet wide and is 8 inches tall. It can be dressed up for formal occasions by putting it on a table with a nice table cloth, i normally just put it on a heavy outside type plastic folding table. I put two bags of ice in it and it keeps stuff cold for hours and looks awesome. I put plastic or corelle type dishes in it when serving cheese as your good china will get banged up if it hits the sides. You can also find steamer trays at the restaurant supply store that will fit these perfectly. When entertaining it can also chill wine, beer, cokes, shrimp, or salad, but for cocktail parties i do:

                                                        I put out Brie, Camembert, sharp Cheddar and a cheap store brand pre made dip. In addition i do little smokies in a crockpot and roll sliced meat and toothpick it. Add tortilla chips and salsa and some ritz crackers, mini rye, melba toast, a jar of dijon mustard and a squirt thing of mayo and you have a meal. I used to always make canapes but its too much work. All of this can be set up in less than 15 minutes.

                                                        Vegans, vegitarians, and diabetics are not that hard and can be satisfied with a cheap grocery store fruit plate and a jar of olives. If they want more they should eat before they come. Most know that the world is not going to go out of its way to cater to them.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: badvegan

                                                          you didn't really mean to say that you put Brie, Camembert, and Cheddar on the ice, did you?

                                                          And some of us prefer to aim a little higher for our guests with dietary concerns than "they can be satisfied with a cheap(!!!) grocery store fruit plate...if they want more they should eat before they come..."

                                                          Maybe you should just tell everyone up front that they'll be eating cheap grocery store stuff out of a feed trough when you invite them. I'm thinking it will save you a lot on food and ice.

                                                          1. I will be bringing a cheese/dessert course to a casual dinner with two friends of mine; every month we do dinner and this year guess what? We aren't doing dessert. (Cry), this was always my strong point.

                                                            I found this recipe at artisanalcheese.com that hotoynoodle posted, and thought about bringing this except that it's listed as a salad because of the basil, olive oil and salt.


                                                            I really liked this idea to bring for our "dessert" keeping the cast of characters intact, except for doing something with the dressing? Or just eliminating the basil... Any other suggestions for the cheese?

                                                            1. Having sold cheese(my favorite food item!) at gourment markets in the past, I think I can help. You need to start out by tasting things. Find cheeses that you like, that you would want to share with others. Favorites of mine include...of the washed rind cheeses (aka stinky) Taleggio (made by Caravaggio...if you can find it), Epoisses, Livarot, Pont-l'Eveque, Reblechon... bloomy-rinded cheeses... Brie de Meaux (much better than the other bries), camembert, coulommiers, robiola (the 3 milk kind).. firm cheeses...Beaufort (Gruyere-like), Ossau-Iraty (sheep-milk traditionally served with cherry preserves), Idiazabal (a smoked Spanish sheep -milk cheese), Appenzeller, Midnight Moon (an American goat milk cheese), Lamb Chopper (it's sheep cousin), Beecher's Flagship Reserve (a cheddar-like cheese made in Seattle), Cabot Clothbound cheddar (best cheddar, I think) and an aged Beemster XO,...blues...Stilton, Cabrales, and there is a smoked blue and a sauterne-soaked blue that are pretty wonderful,...goat... Truffle Tremor (an american goat w/ truffles), Banon (a brandy-soaked goat that's wrapped in chestnut leaves), Selles-sur-cher, Boucheron..other cheeses...Brin d'Amour (a corsican soft sheep-milk covered in herbs), Mahon (the younger version). anyway, these are some ideas. I like to have cheeses of different milks, different strengths and different shapes on a board. I'm not into a lot of accompaniments...I like to tast the cheese...except for some grapes. A quince jam or fig cake can be nice, but not every cheese needs an accompaniment. Make sure, if you use crackers, that they aren't flavored. I prefer water crackers or bread. The harder mpountain cheeses are good with a hearty peasant bread while the softer cheeses are better with a baguette or Italian bread. I hope this is helpful!

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: larush62

                                                                Larush, I'll be doing some tasting soon and I'll take your list with me; thank you!

                                                                1. re: lilgi

                                                                  You're welcome! I tend to like full-flavored cheeses, so I hope you like at least some of these. I serve many of these on my platters and people love them! Let me know what you think! 2 other points to remember...make sure the cheeses you taste and buy are at perfect ripeness (I smell everything! Don't buy a cheese with even a hint of an ammonia smell! ... bloomy rinded cheeses should be creamy and bulging out of the rind and harder cheeses should never look dry or discolored. Some cheeses, like taleggio will have a tacky, moist ochre colored rind, so be sure to smell for freshness.) And #2, always serve cheese at room temperature! Have fun!

                                                              2. My second exercise complete!

                                                                I went cheese tasting today at Fairway and it turns out there is a cheesemonger there after all. I tried some cheese and I took home a few portions to sample with some apples; the fruits that I want for my dessert are not yet in season. I didn't bring a list with me since my trip wasn't planned, but the selection was huge.

                                                                The humboldt fog was bright and wonderful, I would pick that for a dinner party without a doubt, but am sticking with Sunshine's advice about the goat cheese for dessert for now. Btw Sunshine, they didn't have petit suisse, will have to order it if I want to try it.

                                                                I'm thinking of Prince de Claverolle, I really enjoyed it and it went very well with fruit; the texture was slightly firm and beautiful. I actually couldn't get enough of this one!

                                                                I tried these as well (I purposely wrote them in descending order):
                                                                Le Fournols (very nice)
                                                                Chaumes (okay too)
                                                                Pierre Robert (very salty, wow)
                                                                Brillat Savarin (hmmm, don't think this one agreed with me)

                                                                These were just my novice thoughts; I am no expert on cheese (just Feta!).

                                                                I was tempted to pick up a firm ricotta; would the chowhounds have clobbered me? I backed out :)

                                                                Larush, I am going back to try ossau-riaty which you have in your post goes with cherry preserves. I had nothing written with me today.

                                                                How did I do?

                                                                7 Replies
                                                                1. re: lilgi

                                                                  that humboldt fog is swoony good, huh? well done!

                                                                  1. re: lilgi

                                                                    Glad you like the Humboldt Fog! Prince de Claverolle is good and similar to the Ossau Iraty, but I like Ossau Iraty a little more. I think I had Le Fournols once and liked it, but I'm not sure. Chaumes is ok...a little bland for me. Pierre Robert IS salty, I know. I'm not a huge fan of the triple creams...St. Andre, Pierre Robert, Brillat Savarin. Though i like the creaminess, they do tend to be salty and not all that interesting flavor-wise.

                                                                    I have to disagree with Sunshine's advice about not having goat cheese for dessert. If you consider the cheese plates served for dessert at most restaurants in France, Italy and here, you'll see they don't steer the flavors toward sweet to make up for a dessert. Cheese, in all its variety IS dessert! You can certainly go the route of a mild, spreadable cheese with fruit and honey, but then you might as well make a strawberry cheesecake. Not to say those kind of cheese plates can't be tasty, they just really aren't cheese plates...more like a dessert that incorporates cheese. Don't be afraid to serve a variety of cheeses, including goat (which often...in the best of the fresh ones....have a sweetness to them anyway). Sorry...you can probably tell I'm a little passionate about this subject!

                                                                    Fairway has many of the cheeses i mentioned in my list, but they don't have a few of them. To find Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, go to Chelsea Market. There's a tiny little cheese store off the south side of the walkway . It's where there's a sort of court of several places. The Italian market there also has a large selection of cheeses...maybe they'll have a good taleggio.

                                                                    Beecher's Flagship reserve is hard to find, but I noticed while walking one day that they're opening a a whole store devoted to Beecher's cheeses on Broadway around 20th St. I almost fainted with excitement when I saw it!

                                                                    Another great place to taste cheese is at Murray's cheese shop, either in the village or in Grand Central Market. They have a very large selection.

                                                                    1. re: larush62

                                                                      Note that I didn't say to not have goat cheese on the cheese platter...I said not IN the dessert, which is typically the last thing on the course list. (here there's always *something* sweet after the cheese, even if it's just a chocolate on the saucer with coffee). I said that goat cheese is probably not what you want on your palate as the last flavor of the night, in a warm fruit compote as described by the OP.

                                                                      You're not the only one who's passionate...and I routinely have goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheeses on my cheese platters...some of which will knock you off of your chair.

                                                                      Cheesemaestro -- would you weigh in on the OPs comments about Pierre Robert being salty? Something doesn't ring right about that (and I'm not pointing a finger at the OP, by the way...but PR shouldn't be salty).

                                                                      They're just not the last thing on the palate.

                                                                      Subtle, but important difference.

                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                        There was nothing subtle about Pierre Robert. The salt was like a smack. I'm sure it had a nice finish, it just didn't taste like much to me.

                                                                        Edit: I'm usually heavy handed with salt (on my own food), and a lover of anything salty. We eat lots of feta here too, but it seems to compliment the tanginess of the cheese so I don't sense it as much. When I tried this cheese I didn't taste anything else but salt, but I wonder now how it would pair up with a fruit.

                                                                      2. re: larush62

                                                                        I have to agree with you about goat cheese. Of course, if one doesn't like goat cheese--and some people don't--there's no reason to put it on an after-the-main-course cheese plate. But if one enjoys goat cheeses, there no reason to exclude them. There's an uninformed opinion held by many that goat cheeses are all fresh, "curdy," and spreadable. That's not true. Spain, in particular, has several goat's milk cheeses that are firmer and more aged: Ibores, Garrotxa and Majorero, to name a few. Monte Enebro (also called Montenebro) is softer than these, but would make an absolutely wonderful addition to a cheese plate. I often include a cheese from each of the major milks: cow, sheep and goat (and sometimes even water buffalo).

                                                                        On Ossau-Iraty and Prince de Claverolle. These are indeed similar cheeses. Ossau-Iraty is a PDO/DOP cheese, which means that the European Union has granted it geographical protection. To earn the name, it can only be made in the Pyrenees Mountain region of southwestern France according to specified production methods. Prince de Claverolle (more commonly called Istara these days) and Etorki are non-PDO versions of the cheese. Other cheeses from the same region with a similar flavor profile are Abbaye de Belloc, Petit Basque and Petit Agour. The Agour is resembles the Petit Basque, but, if you can find it, I think it is superior in flavor.

                                                                        1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                          Wrote this down, taking with me :)

                                                                    2. I read this whole thread with my morning cup of coffee so perhaps I missed something. You refer frequently to cheese/dessert course. Do you mean a cheese course that takes the place of a 'dessert' course? Sounded more like you're talking about combining the two. Yes? I eat dozens (more?) of different cheeses but I don't eat them with sweets. Could you clarify please?

                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I imagine that in my case the cheese/dessert course will be the last course. Sometimes with dessert, sometimes with accompaniments only.

                                                                        1. re: lilgi

                                                                          So sometimes a cheese course. And sometimes you're going to combine cheeses with dessert-type dishes. I'm a total non-pro about cheeses but putting cheese together with cakes, pies, etc. just doesn't seem to work for a dinner. 'Course if you're having a big party where you have all manner of things for people to graze on, then the skies the limit. But if someone served me cheese with cookies, for example, I think I'd just stare at it thinking 'now what am I supposed to do with this?'

                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                            I'm trying to learn how to incorporate cheese after dinner in different scenarios, whereas in the past it was always an appetizer or part of a buffet. So there will always be different crowds, types of parties, intimate or large etc. But this is something that comes naturally for many people and I'm very new to this type of cheese course.

                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                              A cheese dessert course (for me) usually means a cheese (like Stilton), pears, apples, grapes, sometimes a jam (like fig, tomato, etc) and with porto or sauternes, etc.
                                                                              Not cheese with a cookie.

                                                                              1. re: sedimental

                                                                                Yes! That's exactly what I thought as well. That's why I was trying to learn how to accompany cheese with items that were on the sweeter side but not necessarily dessert. There are certain cheeses that pair very well with fruit and I was trying to get a sense of that as well.

                                                                                Edit: Regarding my post to serve cheese with dessert; meaning alongside a few pastries as a last course for a larger party.

                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                  That's what it is for me. And as you mention, not just any 'jam.' I love fig, have never seen tomato but I will now look for it. I think I mentioned that I've had honeycomb with a stronger cheese. I haven't looked but I bet googling about it would turn up some good ideas. I don't think OP should beat herself up because it doesn't "come naturally" to her. I don't think it does for anyone. Trial and error, lots of tasting (dang, I HATE that part!).

                                                                          2. I think my goal with this thread was to learn how to serve cheese AS dessert; I think I misunderstood something along the way.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                              Yes...cheese is a course unto itself...there can be sweet things (as above) served WITH cheese, but it's not combined with dessert.

                                                                              Dessert can follow, or it's also common to go straight to coffee (with the above-mentioned square of dark chocolate at a minimum...)...but they're not served at the same time.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                Okay I think this article helped; Cheese AS deesert:


                                                                                I'll have scenarios with larger crowds (buffet style) that have restrictions, so wasn't sure if there was a particular way of combining cheese as a last course with dessert. And if not, just put out sweet accompaniments, but I figure that won't fly well with real dessert lovers.

                                                                            2. Another suggestion when you go to a cheese shop is to tell them the cheeses that you KNOW you like and ask for something similar but better or more exotic or harder to find or something :) I've done that many times with wine. I was lucky when we lived in SF that there was a cheese shop a few short blocks from our home. I don't think they ever sold me anything that they didn't almost insist I taste first :) Didn't have to twist MY arm.

                                                                                1. I think the reason for my confusion is that I thought I saw a trend where cheese is being substituted as a dessert. I thought it was becoming more common to do this, and it veers from the traditional way to serve a cheese course after dinner.

                                                                                  In the substitution case I'm interested in knowing what cheeses work well with fruits and fruit breads, jams and spreads etc. and the wines recommended also were a big help. Since this is a course I'm not familiar with I posted accessories above that I would be needing and wanted to make sure I got it. I thought I did, but furthermore I needed recommendations on some dessert cheeses, as well as those that might be served on a "traditional" cheese course; but I feel that my title on cheese platters didn't convey this.

                                                                                  This all came about through a conversation with a friend of mine; I brought up the question "What do we do for people who don't want to/can't eat dessert?" She simply said that sometimes depending on the host, cheese and fruit are served along with dessert. I didn't think this was strange.

                                                                                  As an exercise, I'm trying to pair a firm cheese as a finishing course with fruit (I think I'll add nuts also) for a very small dinner with friends and this is my go to. I think what I was trying to do was veer away from let's say a creme fraiche.

                                                                                  I'm sorry if this thread became frustrating and confusing, it was for me as well :)

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: lilgi

                                                                                    I continue to be confused :)

                                                                                    But now you know that one doesn't serve cheese WITH dessert, right? You can have a cheese course. You can have a cheese course AND a dessert course. You can have a dessert course.

                                                                                    When you saying "finishing course," are you talking about a final course? I wouldn't serve only one cheese. Three seems to be the minimum. If you have some left over, terrific. Good meals in the coming days.

                                                                                    Creme fraiche? Now I'm completely lost. How did that suddenly get here :) Are you talking about a bowl of fruit with a dollop of creme fraiche on it? (That reminds me I need to buy some CF for some flying fish roe we're going to be having.)

                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                      Several concepts were introduced upthread. When I presented a "virtual dinner for 12", I thought that this would be a "final course", one with cheese. I imagine that only certain cheeses would be appropriate to serve with dessert. I only listed what I'm familiar with and was looking for suggestions. I am certain that this is not traditional, I'm only trying to go along with what seems to be a trend.

                                                                                      The other suggestions that I was looking for was a "final course" with cheese and fruit for an intimate dinner with two other friends of mine: bing cherries, plums, with nuts and honey and a cheese. I thought the prince de claverolle would work with this dish. I love the goat cheese, but I think there is issue with goat cheese in a "final" course. So I think this is where it gets confusing. Btw we had all already decided that we aren't doing dessert.

                                                                                      Edit: Forgot to mention these fruits aren't in season now and we're looking forward to it later on so we'll be using different fruits.

                                                                                  2. I want to thank everyone for your help and efforts, I truly appreciate it.

                                                                                    After reading the article that I am posting I am less confused on the subject. Also the cheese course as the final course seems to be a source of contention, or a concept that is only beginning to bloom over the past few years. There were a couple of threads addressing the subject here prior to mine with varied comments as well, although I must admit that my question starting this thread was less clear and sort of all over.

                                                                                    This article was informative:

                                                                                    CindyJ's menu; this is the idea; she has pastries WITH a cheeseplatter:

                                                                                    Another thread:

                                                                                    and then there was my question of which cheese in a dessert plate with fruit.

                                                                                    Cheesemonger, re, Petit Basque: Hands down I am serving this with fruit, but my comments are "Does it get any better?" This was wonderful, only I have to wait till next month to purchase some; I can't wait. Btw they didn't have Petit Augur.

                                                                                    I also tried a WONDERFUL firm goat cheese that I would serve as part of a cheese/dessert course as well: I really enjoyed Onetik Chabrin.

                                                                                    Sunshine I tried a beautiful sweet Roquefort as well (I didn't write down which.)

                                                                                    31 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: lilgi

                                                                                      I don't think a cheese course is a point of contention at all and isn't something that's starting to bloom. I've been enjoying them for ages. It's still not clear to me if you're wanting to serve cheese WITH a dessert or AS the dessert. (Picture my head spinning round and round.)

                                                                                      Then I got further confused about "a beautiful sweet Roquefort." Isn't Roquefort just one cheese made in one area?

                                                                                      I really appreciate the cheese-ophiles who have contributed to this thread. I've learned tons.

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        WITH dessert/ AS a final course.

                                                                                        1. re: lilgi

                                                                                          Well, you can do this if you wish, but it's not traditional. For a reason. Chocolate Hazelnut torte (or any sweet) does not go well with cheese of any sort. Do one or the other.

                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                              Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, but it's not an unarguable fact that any sweet does not go with cheese of any sort. I really enjoyed Chuao Chocolatier's goat cheese truffle.

                                                                                              If we're talking sweets in general, most of the cheese platters I order have honey or membrillo (quince paste) or sugared nuts. In fact, I believe membrillo is quite a traditional accompaniment to cheeses in Spain.

                                                                                              1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                Membrillo is a traditional accompaniment to Spanish sheep's milk cheeses, especially Manchego. It would also work with the somewhat similar sheep's milk cheeses from southern France. It's not traditional with cow's and goat's milk cheeses, but there's no reason not to experiment and see if the flavor combination appeals to you.

                                                                                                I agree with pikawicca that something as heavy and sweet as a chocolate hazelnut torte is better served as a separate course following the cheese, rather than with it. That is not to say that nothing sweet should ever be served with cheese. As you and many others have pointed out, honey, jams, candied nuts and other sweets can accompany cheese, but don't necessarily work with every cheese. There are also several cheeses that include fruits and other sweet things in them. There's a whole line of white Stilton and Wensleydale from England with fruits: mango, blueberries, cranberries, etc. England also produces a cheddar with toffee. Personally, I dislike these cheeses, but they have created a market for themselves.

                                                                                                1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                  But OP is talking about pastries and cake. I don't think that's what most people consider a cheese course. And if it's a buffet, they don't usually have courses per se, do they?

                                                                                                  1. re: Chris VR

                                                                                                    Yep -- chocolate and cheese are not a new thing. Cream cheese in brownies can be superb; I also remember loving a wonderful chocolate confection from the late La Tene chocolatier - a chocolate with brillant savarin and pepper.

                                                                                                    On a more fundamental note, sweetness is a highly effective way of enhancing cheese; in particular, it can contrast well with the salty flavour and cut the creamy richness or enhance nutty flavours. Consequently, sweet items are very traditional pairings for cheese (e.g. dessert wines like port or sauternes, jams/chutneys, dried fruit).

                                                                                                2. re: c oliver

                                                                                                  Not only is there only one Roquefort made in just one reason, it absolutely isn't ever sweet. Creamy, pungent perhaps, but not EVER sweet, no more than Pierre Robert is salty and aggressive.

                                                                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                    There were 3 Roqueforts that I tried; the one I liked had a sweeter finish.

                                                                                                    Pierre Robert was smack in the face salty.

                                                                                                    But back to topic, I have posted links for you. There should be no more confusion. Have a good day!

                                                                                                    1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                      Roquefort itself isn't sweet, but pairs well with a honey or a sweet dessert wine (Sauternes is traditional, but there are cheaper options) that balances the inherent saltiness of the cheese. Roquefort from six producers is available in the US. There is a range in quality, which is reflected in the price. The top two Roqueforts, and the most expensive ones, are Carles and Vieux Berger. The second tier Roqueforts (but still very good) are Gabriel Coulet and Papillon. At the low end are Societe (by far the largest producer) and Vernieres. Next time you have a chance to try this cheese, make a note of which one(s) the store carries. Roquefort is expensive because of a punitive tariff that the US government imposed on it 12 years ago.

                                                                                                      Triple creme cheeses like Pierre Robert, which is among the best of them, are indeed quite salty. I find that eating them with a simple bread or a non-salty cracker is effective in balancing the salt. You can also dab a small amount of honey or jam. However, you don't want to go overboard with this, as the cheese itself is mild and can easily be overwhelmed with too much of something else.

                                                                                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                        I think the one I tried was labelled "genuine" but I know nothing further. He had at least 2 more there. I like pungent cheese and when I tried this one after tasting the others the finish was reminiscent of "cherries", very lovely. I'll make note next time.

                                                                                                        I can imagine Pierre Robert might pair well with fruit or honey.

                                                                                                        Thanks for recommending Peiti Basque; that was beautiful :)

                                                                                                        1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                          Well, all of the ones I mentioned are genuine, so that's not a very meaningful designation. If a store carries different Roqueforts, they should be able to tell you which is which.

                                                                                                          You're welcome concerning the Petit Basque. It can be very good. My previous cautionary words about it relate to the fact that there are industrial versions of the cheese that are lower in quality. The Petit Agour that I suggested as an alternative is sometimes sold under the name Petit Ardi Gasna. "Ardi Gasna" in the Basque language simply means sheep's milk cheese.

                                                                                                          1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                            He had pyrennes Agour (don't know the spelling). I figured petit agour entirely different.

                                                                                                            I took note of the ardi gasna and will try again. I had a different cheesemonger this time and I got his name. A real sweetheart, I've never seen anyone happier to offer samplings.

                                                                                                            The roquefort I liked was indeed labelled "genuine". One other was Carles and Berger seems familiar. These 3 were behind the counter where he must access for you.

                                                                                                        2. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                          Cheesemaestro, this intrigues me...are you aware of any changes during shipping that might affect the flavor of a triple-creme like P-R? (or Royale Briarde, or Brillat-Savarin, or any of the other decadent triple-cremes)

                                                                                                          I'm NOT arguing with you...but P-R has never, ever tasted salty to me (and I use very little salt in my cooking and even less at the table, so I'm generally quite sensitive to salty things).

                                                                                                          Could it be that since I live smack in the middle of the Brie region and getting a product that's made literally right down the road, it has a higher moisture content (or some other similar aspect) that changes during shipping?

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            I doubt that the shipping has much to do with it. Almost all cheeses have salt as an essential ingredient, but certain types of cheese seem more prone to being perceived as salty. They include not only the double and triple cremes, but also washed rind and blue cheeses. In the case of the triple cremes, one theory is that the cheeses themselves don't have as many complex flavor components as many other more aged cheeses. The predominant notes are gentle flavors like butter and mushrooms. Against these, the salt may be more noticeable.

                                                                                                            Brillat Savarin is made by several producers, and the quality can vary, but PR is made only by Fromagerie Rouzaire, whose standards are high. Rouzaire developed PR as a more aged version of BS. The additional aging concentrates the flavors, including the salt, which is why PR may seem saltier than some other triple cremes. Also, the PR you buy is no doubt made from raw milk, while we get only the pasteurized milk version in the US. That may also play a role, although I'm not sure how.

                                                                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                        Thanks. I'm old enough to remember (hopefully not urban legend) that "cheese people" from Roquefort were visiting American restaurants (this was decades ago) and ordering salad with "Roquefort dressing." If what they were served was some other blue cheese, they sued them - or something :)

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          since then, though, I think there's now some sort of US law that means that the name has nothing at all to do with the origin....feta, Brie, champagne, etc.,etc., etc., all come to mind.

                                                                                                          It's pretty interesting (and yes, I've read the tariff list and descriptions) that it's JUST Roquefort that has the punitive tariffs imposed upon it...when far funkier bleus from across France escape it.

                                                                                                          The tariff dates back to the Clinton days, by the way.

                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            To be exact, the tariff dates to July 1999. It arose from the EU's refusal to buy beef raised on hormone-laced feed from the US. In retaliation, the US slapped 100% tariffs on about 30 foods imported from the EU, including among others Roquefort, mustard, truffles, foie gras and canned Italian tomatoes. The US government never said why it targeted these particular foods. The choice seems arbitrary and capricious and probably was. My favorite anecdote concerning these tariffs: Shortly after they were announced, outraged farmers in southern France broke into several McDonalds during the night. The owners arrived the next morning to find huge piles of steaming manure inside!

                                                                                                            You may recall that just before Barack Obama became president, the outgoing Bush administration tried to increase the tariff on Roquefort to 300%. That would have all but destroyed its market in the US. Fortunately, this hairbrained plan was thwarted before it could be put into effect.

                                                                                                            1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                              I always figured it was some sort of penny-ante bureaucrat (or an intern) reading through lists of imported foods, and Roquefort just sounded really, really French -- which is loopy, since other bleus from the same region aren't double-taxed!

                                                                                                              There are some other bizarre ones on that list, too...some brands of mineral water are taxed higher than others...it was pretty obviously put together by someone who didn't really understand what they were looking at.

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                There does appear to have been an intent to include some prestigious, "haute cuisine" items in the tariff, e.g., foie gras and truffles. Perhaps that's why Roquefort was also put on the list. It's considered by many people to be the greatest blue cheese in the world and among the greatest of all cheeses. Other French blues, as good as they are, don't have the same cachet at the international level and, going back 12 years, weren't nearly as well known or loved by Americans as Roquefort was then.

                                                                                                                1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                  that's what I mean...it's like they got some kid to make up the list, and he/she chose only the stuff that sounded French.

                                                                                                                  Not that I'm going to offer to clear it up any...punitive tariffs don't need to be expanded upon!

                                                                                                            2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              i didn't realize that "feta" was a protected designation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feta

                                                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                Yep - most salty white sheep's milk cheese sold in France is now just called brebis, brebis frais, or brebis facon grecque (sheep's milk cheese, fresh sheep's milk cheese, or Greek-style sheep's milk cheese)

                                                                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                  In the US, just about anything can be called "feta," no matter what milk it's made of. We have cow's milk feta, sheep's milk feta and goat's milk feta. By contrast, Greek feta must contain a minimum of 70% sheep's milk, with the remainder, if any, to be goat's milk. Cow's milk is prohibited.

                                                                                                                  The PDO is valid throughout the European Union. The protection is extended outside of the EU through trade agreements with other countries. However, the US has long been opposed to signing agreements to give geographic protection to foods.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                    that just changed last summer, by the way.

                                                                                                                    My fromager has a feta made from a blend of cow and sheep milk. I could pretty much make it dinner all by itself, and we ate a TON of it over the summer.

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      "That just changed last summer, by the way."

                                                                                                                      I'm not sure exactly what you are saying has changed. The PDO for feta has not changed. (After I read your post, I did an Internet search to verify that. I found nothing to the contrary.) Indeed, a primary reason for Greece's pushing so hard to obtain the PDO designation for feta was that so much cow's milk was being used in other countries, yet authentic Greek feta is never made with cow's milk.

                                                                                                                      If instead you're saying that countries in the EU no longer need to respect the PDO for feta, that's beyond surprising. The whole point of creating the PDO system was to afford EU-wide protection to food products, whereas earlier protective designations, such as the AOC in France, were enforceable only within their specific countries.

                                                                                                                      So I'm at a loss to understand how a fromager in France, where you live, can sell a cheese made partly from cow's milk and call it feta, unless he is doing it illegally.

                                                                                                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                        The label on the top of the plastic carton is a four-color glossy sticker that says Feta, big as life. The carton sits out at the front of the glass case, in a *very* busy market that is well known (even amongst ordinary citizens) for being particularly regimental about meeting regulations. They'll fine vendors for blinking in a manner inconsistent with EU norms, and everybody knows it. He also sells so much of it that there's absolutely nothing clandestine or underhanded...there's always a line of people to buy that one, including the maire, so I'm pretty sure it's on the up and up. Do I care enough to research the regulations? No.

                                                                                                                        And the changes are referring to when it all went from being labeled 'feta' to being labeled brebis - the changes in the packaging came about last summer...probably some sort of grace period so the producers could use up existing packaging. There's nothing formal about it...I'd read that Feta was going to be protected, but last summer is when I physically SAW that the packaging had changed.

                                                                                                                        No opinions offered...just black and white observation.

                                                                                                          2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                            "Creamy, pungent perhaps, but not EVER sweet, no more than Pierre Robert is salty and aggressive."

                                                                                                            I thought the comment below on this website was interesting:
                                                                                                            "Roquefort's taste is sweet with salty pungent mold flavors and mildly acidic taste that is is complex, creamy yet crumbly and soft".

                                                                                                            I am certain that what I tasted has to do with the complexity of the flavor but no one addressed that. I've also seen articles that indicate that middle notes on this cheese tend to be "sweet".

                                                                                                            1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                              What's a "middle note"? Just when I think I'm learning, something else gets thrown out there.

                                                                                                      3. Wow. What a contentious thread!

                                                                                                        I may have missed it, but no one mentioned the classic mnemonic for designing a cheese plate: something old, something new, something goat (alternatively, something flavored, with truffles or herbs or fruit or smoked), something blue.

                                                                                                        That gives you a nice assortment of flavors and textures and can be adapted to various levels of sophistication. For example, I was visiting a friend who was watching carbs and having trouble with wheat, so when I offered to contribute dessert, I put together a nice but not terribly exotic plate with an aged gouda (old), a brie (new), a truffled cheese (flavored) and a stilton (blue). We used sliced apple and pear and skipped the bread/crackers. The most important thing is to know your audience: some people won't accept cheese as "dessert" and some will be intimidated by unfamiliar (and stinky) cheeses, so plan accordingly.

                                                                                                        4 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                          "I may have missed it, but no one mentioned the classic mnemonic for designing a cheese plate: something old, something new, something goat (alternatively, something flavored, with truffles or herbs or fruit or smoked), something blue."

                                                                                                          Ruth, that only applies to cheese served at wedding receptions. :)

                                                                                                          Knowing your guests and their spirit for adventure (or lack thereof) is good advice.
                                                                                                          I think it is possible to overthink what should go on a cheese plate. Beyond a few simple rules that make common sense, there are many valid approaches and a lot of room for creativity. Most experts recommend that cheeses be served from mildest to strongest and that attention be paid to variety by way of different types/styles, different milks, etc. They don't agree on much beyond that. Let's take two nationally respected authorities on cheese: Laura Werlin and Max McCalman. Laura likes to keep cheese plates simple--no more than three cheeses. Max is enamored of complex plates that feature five or six cheeses or even more. (In his first book, the Cheese Plate, he even talks about putting together a plate with 10 or 12 cheeses!) For me, the main considerations in how many cheeses to include are 1) how much other food is being served, 2) whether the cheese is a highlight of the meal or merely an element among many, and 3) whether my dinner companions are passionate cheese lovers like me or not (your point).

                                                                                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                            we did mention it -- it just got brought up a little less poetically as one hard, one soft, one goat, and one bleu.

                                                                                                            And this has actually been quite a civilized and very interesting discussion, IMO.

                                                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                              This is a great thread. I've saved it and will refer back. I love CHs sharing their knowledge.

                                                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                Yeah, I saw that, but the rhyme makes it easier to remember. :-)

                                                                                                            2. Among other very helpful contributors, Hotoynoodle was fundamental in assisting me with this thread. There has been contention later on as to how to finish off a meal. I also mentioned this in one of my last paragraphs before Ruth. And there was much confusion later on as well. Overall I think most agree with hottoynoodles ideas. Hottoynoodle, thanks again for sharing your knowledge, expertise, and a few fun recipes that I'll be trying soon :)

                                                                                                              Cheesemaestro, special thanks to you as well for arousing my interest in cheese, so much so that I now feel that I must purchase one of the books you recommended. (Hmm, my birthday's coming up :))

                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: lilgi

                                                                                                                This thread got rather busy at one/some point(s). Could you please tell me about that middle note thing? I sincerely don't know what that means.

                                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                  It's similar to what one might experience when tasting wine. There are the early notes, which are your first impressions, the first things you taste when you put the cheese in your mouth. The middle notes would be the nuances of flavor that hit you when you move the cheese around to touch all areas of your tongue and palate, the paste mixes with your saliva, and the aromas travel up your nasal passages. We also talk about the "finish" of a cheese--the flavors that linger after you've swallowed it. Some cheeses have almost no finish and others have a long finish.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                                                                                                                    Thanks. I had googled it and didn't come up with anything. I think I need to pay more attention when eating cheese :) I don't have to spit like some do with wine, do I?!?!?

                                                                                                                    1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                                      Heh, no.

                                                                                                                      Unless you get ahold of some of the crazily goaty chevres or sheepy brebis (goaty and sheepy are technical terms. Because I said so) ...then you might want to spit, if only because you end up with a final note reminiscent of licking a wet goat. (and that comes from someone who LIKES chevre and brebis!)

                                                                                                                      For those, having fruit or nuts or similar is a nice lifeline.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        mmmm mmm mmm... licking a wet goat. now that's fine eatin'!

                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                          ain't it, though?

                                                                                                                          Fortunately, it's not an aftertaste that's difficult to get rid of...a sip of wine is usually enough.

                                                                                                                          (is there much that a sip of wine WON'T cure?)