A Conscious Feast by Nicole Aloni

The Conscious Food Chain: Recipes. News. Travel.

The Cheese Course

October 29th, 2009  |  Published in Appetizer Recipes, Cheese Recipes, Entertaining

photo: Manny Rodriguez

photo: Manny Rodriguez

Along with my co-hosts, Jamie Peha and Anne Nisbet, I just taped the premier show of our new radio program, TableTalk: Radio That Tastes Good. In the future we will be live the first Monday of each month interviewing tastemakers, talking about the best food, wine, restaurants and events around Seattle. If it has to do with great food and a good time, we will be telling you all about it.

I will be doing a Conscious Feast segment on each show and this time, especially since Kurt Dammeier of Beecher’s cheese was a guest, I focused on the essentials of a great cheese board.  What follows is more or less what I talked about on the air.

Bon Appetit and please join us starting Nov.2, from 8-9 am on KKNW, 1150AM.

Recipe for a Great Cheese Course

With a little informed shopping, a cheese course is sooo easy to throw together and one of the most universally popular treats—no matter where it appears in the progress of the meal.  You can offer a beautiful cheese board  as an appetizer, after the entrée, or as a dessert.

In Italy, cheese is often served as an hors d’oeuvre along side cured meats like prosciutto, roasted peppers and cured olives. In France, the cheese course is often served after the dessert to extend the pleasure of the meal—you gotta love the French style—complemented by fresh fruits and berries as well as dried fruits and fruit pastes.  Late harvest wines and sauternes are often served.

If you are a cheese lover like me, you know how lucky we are to live in Seattle. Between shops like Beecher’s, De Laurenti’s, Metropolitan Markets and Whole Foods, we have easy access to a stunning selection of cheeses that let you create a cheese board with all of the complexity you could desire.

I recommend you sample lots of different types and styles of cheeses to figure out which flavors, textures, aromas and shapes you prefer.  There is such a broad range of choices available to us these days that you can truly make this into a signature of your home entertaining style.

Creating a Great Cheeseboard

  • Allow for about an ounce to an ounce and a half of cheese per guest.
  • A cheese board should consist of a selection of at least three and up to seven or eight cheeses with varying textures, flavors and colors.  When planning also keep in mind the balance of soft and mild to hard and sharp.
  • Aged cheese (like cheddar) should be removed from the refrigerator an hour ahead of time.  Fresh cheeses (like chevre) should be kept cold until serving.
  • The presentation can be either rustic or formal. Cheeses may be served on granite or marble platters, wooden or wicker trays, or other interesting flat surfaces.
  • The accompaniments  could be  fresh grapes, toasted walnuts, quince paste or proscuitto (see below for some great suggestion combinations).
  • I usually decorate my cheese tray with fresh herbs or French paper cheese leaves, fig or lemon leaves and edible flowers.
  • A separate knife or spreader should be provided for each cheese selection.  Serve with at least the basic of warm, crusty bread or crackers and wine.
  • If the cheese course offers an assortment of cheeses with strong flavors, several types of wine might be offered.

Cheese Board Menus

As an appetizer:

Mozzarella di bufala

Fontina (semi-soft cheese)

Gorgonzola (a blue veined cheese)

Parmigiano Reggiano

Accompaniments: hard salami, assorted olives, and roasted red peppers

Wine:  Chianti

As an appetizer:

Teleme

Asiago

Maytag Blue

Beecher’s Flagship reserve, an aged Cheddar

Accompaniment: crackers, sliced pears, toasted walnuts

Wine: McCrea Grenache

As an appetizer:

Cotija

Manchego

Cabrales

Accompaniments:  sliced Spanish chorizo or serrano ham, olives

Wine: Rioja

As a transitional course:

Brie

Stilton

Cheshire (sharp English cheddar)

Accompaniments: roasted almonds

Wine:  Port

As a dessert:

Bel Paese

Roquefort

Gruyere

Accompaniments: figs, quince paste, toasted hazelnuts

Wine:  Late harvest Riesling or sauterne

As a dessert:

Brillat-Savarin

Comte

Fontina

Raclette

Accompaniments:  peaches, pears, raspberries

photo:Manny Rodriguez

photo:Manny Rodriguez

Wine:  Sancerre or Champagne

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