Here are what I believe to be great components of any cheese plate:
- Aged cheese like cheddar or gouda. I used some Cabot cheddar from our trip to Vermont a few months ago. Cheddar also adds a familiar component to the plate for those whose cheese palates aren't too adventurous.
-Soft cheese. I usually like a high-quality goat cheese, but all I had on hand was a cheaper version that is more of a spread than a main attraction which is why it is pictured in the accompaniments category in the picture above. Camembert or brie would also work in this category.
- Firm cheese. I used parmigiano-reggiano and pecorino. These are slightly similar and can be salty, so be sure to have something on the plate to balance it out.
-Blue cheese. I didn't use any for the plate above, but blue cheese adds a flavor variation that is nice to have. If you think you don't like blue cheese go to the cheese counter and just try them out! I'm a Stilton fan.
-Cheese garnishes and other accompaniments. Some cheeses just lend themselves to being garnished. Have you tried blue cheese with honey? Yum! In this case I dressed the pecorino with two garnishes that we picked up in Italy. One is a truffle honey (I'm a self-proclaimed truffle fiend) and the other is vin santo --or Holy wine-- jelly.
Other accompaniments I love include pickled veggies, roasted red peppers, or caramelized onions. I used a fig jam but also love a good fruit chutney.
-Meat. Just as a good charcuterie plate is made better with a few cheeses, a good cheese plate is made better with some charcuterie. But that's just one foodies opinion. If you're a purist, stick to one or the other. I went to the cheese counter at my local Whole Foods and the very knowledgeable butcher helped me with the cured meat, let me sample, and I walked out of there with a 78 cent serving for two. Yes, 78 cents bought me enough for this plate and it was plenty!
-Bread. Honestly, nothing is complete without bread to me. I used some sliced ciabatta bread that I had on hand. The combo of the fig jam and goat cheese on the bread was incredible! Top that with a slice of the bresaola (cured beef) that I had chosen and it was perfection.
What are your cheese plate must-haves? Or better yet, any restaurants serving a cheese plate or charcuterie that I simply can't miss?