It’s that time of year. All the cooking mags are getting you ready for your holiday spread. They’re telling you what to buy, how to prepare it and how much you’ll enjoy it. And that’s great. But I can’t help but feel bossed around by those kind of publications. There are too many primers, too many prescriptions for success.
I was just flipping through one (which shall remain nameless) and stumbled upon the perfect formula for a cheese plate. I’ve seen this for years, and it bugs me. One blue, one hard, one soft … the rules continue for several paragraphs. So you’re supposed to provide variety. Great. I get that. But why can’t you do a cheese tasting like you do a wine tasting? Instead of just having a bunch of incredibly different wines, often folks like to compare wines that have similar traits. In fact, in vertical wine tastings, you taste the same wine from several different years. Why should a cheese tasting be so reductive?
So let’s buck tradition. Here goes: for snack time a few nights ago I decided to embrace this similar traits approach. This cheese plate included soft and sorta stinky cheeses. No blues, no cheddars, no hard stuff. If I had had a wedge of Taleggio, it would have fit right in. But alas, I did not. Even so, it was a fun plate to sample. Left to right, in the pic, we’ve got: Brillat-Savarin, Humboldt Fog, Wabash Cannonball, Vermont Cremont and a local Brebis. Condiments (also, left to right) include Dijon and coarse mustard, gochujang (hot condiments provide a nice counterpoint to the straight fattiness of the cheese; use your imagination) and Durkee’s mustard sauce. To round out all the flavors I also included fresh raspberries and Concord grapes. And yeah, those are Ritz in the background. Don’t dis the Ritz; they’re a perfectly lovely vehicle for cheese and condiments.
In case you don’t have a slate cheeseboard and chalk, or little flags to poke into the cheese like you discovered that cheese (“In the name of Queen Isabella, I hereby claim this cheese for Spain!!!”), you can steal my super easy technique of using a dry erase marker on a white ceramic platter to label your fromage.
I think this is a fun idea. I’m going to do it more often. Maybe cheddar will be up next — there are many fascinating cheddars. Stay tuned.