Happy Endings, Prima Donnas, and Midnight Moon: A Cheesemonger Creates Perfect Plates
|The Cheese Course|
Given all this complexity, we asked Denyse Gervasoni, the head cheesemonger at the Cheese Course, for a little advice on creating the perfect cheese plate.
Gervasoni ran a restaurant in the UK for ten years before moving stateside and working with Whole Foods to develop a cheese program. She made fresh cheeses such as hand-pulled mozzarella and ricotta to round out the market's assortment before joining the Cheese Course in 2004. During her years as head cheesemonger, Gervasoni has helped guide the store's quick growth.
We challenged her with three unique cheese-plate-related issues: What to serve to a crowd, what to serve for dessert, and what to serve to a connoisseur. Get ready for cheesy bliss.
Cocktail Party - serving a selection of wines and mixed cocktails to a crowd with different tastes
1. Prima Donna: This cow's-milk cheese is a blended creation of two cheese cultures, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gouda. Wonderfully assertive, it complements just about any libation.
2. Ossau Iraty: A sheep's-milk variety from the French Pyrenees mountains, it's creamy, nutty, and well rounded for almost any wine or cocktail.
3. Comte: This brilliantly crafted raw cow's-milk cheese from the Alpine Franche-Comté region of France is a perfect example of an excellent accompaniment for both red and white wines and most cocktails.
4. Midnight Moon: Aged goat's-milk Gouda from the Netherlands is rich and smooth, with a creamy, nutty finish.
1. La Tur: A mousse-like cake of a cheese, this whipped concoction of three blended milks -- sheep, goat, and cow -- in a slightly aged soft-ripened three-inch drum shape, oozes with creamy goodness. Serve with a large chunk of whole honeycomb right on top and honey drizzling down the sides.
2. Bellwether fresh ricotta: Handmade, hand-ladled fresh cow's-milk ricotta is delicate and fluffy, but rich and creamy. Especially tasty when served with a spoonful or two of blueberry compote.
3. Brillat-Savarin with blueberry: This cheese "confection" has hot, rich cream added to its milk to reach a high butterfat content and then is smothered with tiny wild blueberries. An outrageously authentic cheesecake.
4. Stilton blue: Flown in direct from Neal's Yard Dairy in London, Colson Basset Stilton is the best on the market, with peppery blue veining and creamy golden paste. Cut into a thin slice, sprinkle with caramelized walnuts, and drizzle with raspberry sauce and honey.
Cheese Connoisseur - impressing a tough customer who has a lot of cheese know-how
1. L' Amuse signature Gouda: This stone-hard golden treasure, made from the highest quality cow's milk and aged two years before being released, produces a tremendous flavor profile of deep butterscotch with a rich, salty caramel finish.
2. Epoisses: Washed in the French spirit Marc de Bourgogne, this cheese is delightfully smelly and possesses a delicate burnt-orange rind. It includes huge flavor combinations, with a savory interior melting into a buttery finish. Serve with a dab of balsamic onion jam on a wedge of black pumpernickel rye.
3. Humboldt Fog: This soft-ripened, bloomy-rind variety incorporates slightly aged goat's-milk cheese from California's Humboldt County. It's rolled in vegetable ash and made into a two-layer cake separated by a lightning bolt of ash through the center. The cheese is gooey close to the rind, but is firm in the center, with a characteristic tang of fresh goat's milk. Often served with fig marmalade.
4. Pleasant Ridge Reserve: A raw cow's-milk Alpine-style cheese, it has a deep and complex flavor profile of sweet grass, smooth caramel, and nuts, with a fruity finish. Add a smear of sun-dried tomato pesto and you have a match made in heaven.
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