I have always loved cheese. But it wasn’t until culinary school that my appreciation and knowledge for cheese deepened considerably. The spectrum of cheese varieties never ceases to amaze me. Textures range from soft, semi-soft, semi firm and firm. Milk derivatives range from cow, sheep, goat and buffalo. Then there are the many ways to process cheese. According to the International Dairy Federation, there are over 500 varieties globally!
Another reason I love cheese is its versatility. It represents comfort food in dishes like macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s a rich indulgence as the main ingredient in cheesecake and fondue. And, to bring instant sophistication to any occasion, serve a cheese plate.
For me, a cheese plate is about combining an array of complementary flavors and textures to create a perfectly balanced and unique experience. Start with three to five cheeses made from different types of milk. Three of my favorites include: sheep milk-based Manchego, cow milk-based brie, and goat milk-based gouda.
Next, aim to enhance the individuality of each cheese with complementary flavors. With soft or semi soft cheeses, it’s best to serve compotes or jams because the cooked fruit flavor goes well with the tanginess of most soft cheeses. In the summer, I love to pair brie with a local and seasonal fruit compote, taking advantage of the season’s sweet berries or juicy peaches. Semi firm cheeses are good with nuts and bread –– nothing too strong because semi firm cheese tends to be more subtle. Hard cheeses, usually aged the longest, are good with fresh fruits and honey because they tend to be salty.
Keeping these few basic principles of the perfect cheese plate in mind opens up a world of endless combinations and complementary flavors. Enjoy!