Tuesday, August 13, 2013

From Rachel's Kitchen: The Art of the Cheeseboard

No one takes cheeseboards more seriously than me.
I think, in another life, I was meant to be a mouse -
because I just can't get enough of the stuff.

Since its not good for the caboose 
(I'm sorry- I hate to be the bearer of bad news,
but as much as I love it, it IS fattening!)
I have definitely cut back on my intake of the stuff
and limit it to special occasions.
Like date night. And wine night.
And all days ending in "Y".
(Just kidding)

So, I want to teach you the 'art' of the cheese plate 
or platter, if you will - because you want to 
not only make it look good,
but include items that mesh well and 
compliment eachother! 

First you need a wood cutting board
to serve as your platter or base.
Sure, you can use any serving platter,
but I tend to think wood is the nicest presentation.
It makes all your fruit, cheese, bread, nuts, 
and accompaniments pop.
You can find some nice ones here:

Next, you'll need to locate your local cheese shop,
and drop by for a tasting (or three).
I am a frequent visitor of the Babylon Cheese Cellar,
 but if you don't have one local, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods
also have a wonderful selection.

Some of my favorite cheese cheeses
are the sharp ones that pair well with red wine.

Check out:
* parmesan reggiano
* creamy Italian toscano cheese
(Trader Joe's has amazing ones 
dipped in cinnamon, syrah, or cracked black pepper,
depending on your mood!)
* aged gouda (Try 'Midnight Moon')

You'll want a selection of 2-4 cheeses, depending on how 
many guests you're having and your board size.
Obviously you don't want all cheese,
so if your board or gathering is smaller,
opt for 1-2 cheeses, maybe one soft and one hard.
Or one mild and one pungent. 
The key here is variety,
so there is something for everyone.

If you stop in to the Babylon Cheese Cellar,
tell my favorite cheeseman Anthony,
Rachel says hi! I am a VIP customer.

Don't forget some meat,
which most cheese shops offer!
Favorites are: prosciutto, salami, soppressata, and speck.
My favorite place to buy is the Crushed Olive in Huntington
or the Babylon Cheese Cellar in Babylon,
which stocks fabulous selections of
cheese, Italian meats, crackers, dips, balsamic + olive oil.
ONE STOP SHOP, baby! :)

Next, you'll want some fruit to compliment your cheese.
I love anything crisp - so apples are my favorite.
Usually the green, Granny Smith ones
 work because they are tart.
However, you can use anything you want.
Grapes, dried apricots, and mixed berries
are fan favorites.
Mix berries are nice if you are going to drizzle
a syrupy balsamic syrup on top

You'll also want some crusty bread
or crackers. I love thinly sliced
fresh Italian bread, but you can use any
crackers or bread you like. 
Remember, you'll want something basic 
so you don't have too many flavors going on. 
I love this Kalamata Olive bread from Gemelli's in town,
but I steer away from it with my cheeseboard.
Depending on your cheeses, 
the flavors might not gel well, 
so the more basic - the better.
That way people can mix and match.

I also always throw nuts on the chopping block
(ha ha, well -- I'll let you run with that!)
Candied walnuts and pecans are my favorite,
but salted nuts can be just as appropriate.
Marcona Almonds are very popular
on charcuteries, and go nicely with honey.
Lots of meat +  cheese shops sell them -
they are my favorite!

Which brings me to my final items-
dips, garnishes, and such.
I love honey and jams on my board in
small, white little serving dishes (see photo above).
However, I once bought a roasted red pepper dip
that people raved over from the 
The Crushed Olive in Huntington.
If you are local,
I highly recommend stopping in there 
to try some of their delicious 
flavored balsamic vinegars and olive oils.
To. Die. For.

presentation is key.
So keep everything in their respective sections
and feel free to buy labels like the ones
below so that your guests can see what
they are tasting!
that are inexpensive and I use for everything! :)

Pair with your favorite reds and whites.
Buon Appetite!

Check out some of my favorite little 
Wine + Cheese contraptions for Joss & Main:

And ofcourse a cheese & wine pairing book,

Hope you get as much pleasure
out of entertaining and throwing 
a little wine soiree as much as I do...
if not, wait to be invited. :)


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