notes from maggie's farm
Building the Perfect Cheese Plate
I was thoroughly charmed by the movie, Hugo.
In celebration of my birthday last December, and the last exam of the semester having passed, I hunkered down in my theater seat, a bucket of popcorn the size of my head resting in my lap, and my uber cool 3D glasses wrapped around my own.....I was the epitome of a nerd, but without a care in the world; it was a matinee at a small-town movie theater and I owned the entire place. No one, NO ONE, else was there. So I wedged my heels between the two seats in front of me, propped my sneakered-feet upon the armrests, and settled in to be delighted. And I was not to be disappointed.
Now I want to live in a Parisian train station!
Much like our own major airports, the train stations, like Gare de Lyon are massive hubs, bustling with activity, offering all types of foods and shops Located within Gare de Lyon, Le Train Bleu, below, serves small plates, a light bite, or a leisurely prix fixe repast to hungry travelers, or those who come just for the food, with no departure to rush towards. Please visit their website, elect to play the music, visit the photo gallery, and let your imagination take you to Paris for a brief, but lovely moment, today.
|Le Train Bleu Restaurant courtesy of Wikipedia|
I was surprised to find what I was looking for, the cheese plate(!), was one of the least expensive plates on the menu, at 16 euros. And, though we may only have Paris in our imaginations today, we can have that cheese plate ANY day.
Building the Perfect Cheese Plate
a few guidelines
1. The odds: As in decorating, the cheese plate is a great place to employ the odd number rule. Offer 3 or 5 types, or even consider one large serving of a favorite, notable cheese.
2. You got served: If just one of several elements of an appetizer 'buffet', serve 1-2 ounces per cheese per person. For example, if there are 16 people to be served, build a cheese plate with one pound (16 ounces) of each cheese, whether 1 cheese, 3 cheeses, 5 cheeses, or more. If served as a dessert plate, or as the sole appetizer, begin with 4-6 ounces per person, per cheese.
3. Stick with a theme: This is less a guideline as it is a help for the host or hostess in choosing among thousands of options. Country of origin, milk types, aging processes, producer, texture, wine pairing, are all good places to start.
4. Arrange cheeses from mildest to strongest, with large sections of rinds pointed in (so cheese can be accessed for serving).
5. Consider accompaniments carefully. I prefer breads to crackers, and love a fruit and nut bread for some cheeses. Crackers are perfectly acceptable, of course, but be certain to choose a cracker that doesn't interfere with flavor, while having enough body to stand up to the cheese. Fruits, nuts, olives, chutney's, mostardo's, quince paste or fruit 'cheeses' are all popular and interesting additions, served on the plate, or on the side.
5. Serve cheese at room temperature, removing from refrigeration at least one hour prior to serving, and allow each cheese it's own serving knife or utensil.
6. Find a reliable cheesemonger. This last step is one of the most important, as a helpful cheesemonger will help you with all of the steps above. They should be well informed, and you will find them passionate about cheeses, knowledgeable about the best pairings of food and drink, and will educate you in the best ways to serve, and store, each variety. A gourmet grocery store is a good place to start, but if you're as lucky as we are in the Austin area, you'll have a favorite and friendly neighborhood cheese shop. The folks from Antonelli's Cheese Shop can't be beat for selection, knowledge, and service. Whether you're a local, or simply a cheese lover, visit their website for a 'taste' of what they have to offer, and as a valuable cheese-knowledge resource.