Who doesn’t love cheeses? If it weren’t for their high caloric count, I could live quite nicely on them for a daily diet of protein. However, a recent front page article in the lifestyle section of The Wall Street Journal, as well as two new cheese locations in town (Newport Wine Cellar & Gourmet and Aquidneck Meat & Provisions) have made me re-think this topic. I see a trend coming on!
Easter lunch gave me just the opportunity to add a cheese tasting preamble to the menu; I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun food shopping — temptations galore! And as one attendee wrote in the guest book — “Lamb? What lamb? I only ate cheese and cheese and …”
So…you now have another great reason to host a casual, or fancy, party — complete with accompaniments and accessories. Another idea? Your local cheese shop may just welcome the opportunity to conduct an official cheese tasting at your home.
Here you go, it’s as easy as A to Z!
Cheese Chart. Print out The Wall Street Journal’s for reference or make up your own chart with your favorites. Be sure to include great ideas, too, for cheese tasting combos and appropriate fun twists.
Depending on how serious you wish to be about this, you can use an entire dining table to create a buffet spread of selections — but I think for most of us, part of a table or a large tray is a good starting point.
Labeling each cheese is much appreciated. Our cheese shop, Aquidneck Meat and Provisions, creates these as a favor but they can easily be done on your computer.
You can’t have a cheese party without the crackers. The selections and variety that are available today are almost as seductive as the cheese choices…flavors, shapes and sizes galore; in their own way the crackers add an immeasurable bonus to this whole experience.
NOTE. Consider saving the balsa wood boxes that some cheeses come in; they add character to the overall presentation as well as attractively containing multiple slices of a French baguette.
Accessories are not a word one usually associates with cheeses, but it’s all a part of this trend ( another reason to go shopping). I love the paper leaves; they not only “dress” a tray, but can serve to distinguish each individual cheese.
Just when you thought you had enough cheese knives…now, like wine glasses, there’s a knife for almost every type of cheese; i.e. small “cleaver” for hard cheeses; different sizes of spreaders for soft, creamy cheeses; a “peeler” for large, hard wedges and conversation starter knives brought back from your travels (my favorite is one from Taxco, Mexico that I picked up as a young teen).
I love that Aquidneck Meat and Provisions’ bread maker creates sourdough loaves that resemble gnarly logs.
Accompaniments are a great opportunity to bring in another taste; pairing with the proper cheese can turn into an education unto itself. Some favorites…jams, etc. (fig jam, quince paste, sage jelly), local honeys, nuts (Marcona almonds are a great choice), fruit (grapes, of course, and dried apricots or figs) and pickled onions (adding a hint of acidity to hard, rich cheeses).
And here you are, just home from your cheese shop with the makings for a fun and festive occasion. While you were there, I hope you picked up a small individual cheese board. They come in very handy!