Pictured (clockwise from top right): Chateau du Bourgogne (French triple creme), Le Marechal (Swiss Alpine style), Fuoco (Quebec buffalo milk washed rind), Piave Vecchio (Italian firm), Landana gouda with tomatoes and olives (Dutch semi-firm).
I have worked with cheese for 10 years. I have learned about making cheese and the science behind it. I have discovered and tasted at least 500 types, each revealing their own unique intricacies as they are tasted repeatedly at various stages of their lives. I know about the subtle craft of pairing cheese with wine, spirits, beer, tea, coffee, your entire meal, and dessert through experimentation and conversation with friends. I have a stronger grasp of geography, chemistry, gastronomy, and storytelling because of being a cheesemonger. I started working in a cheese shop in high school. At the time it was a summer job, then a job throughout university, and then I moved to Vancouver, BC with my husband. After the course of a year I began anew at les amis du FROMAGE, where I would say my most valuable learning experiences began.
In light of all that, I have to say that my absolute favourite cheese related activity is building a beautiful cheese board. Unfortunately, I find that people can be very intimidated by this potentially enjoyable task, as cheese plates apparently come with set of preconceived rules which must not be deviated from. My approach is far gentler; pick out the cheeses that YOU like and that YOU think are interesting. What do YOU think would be delicious? If you love the idea of soft, unctuous cheeses then choose 2 or 3 that call out to you from the cheese case. Are you like me, with a preference for aged cheeses? These cheeses vary wildly in their complexities, tasting and smelling of everything from sharp barnyard to granular fruitiness. You can do this for any category you’d like; goat, sheep, washed rind, fresh, even a vibrant blue board served with sweet fortified wines or hard ciders is appropriate if you’re sure of your audience. As for accompaniments, I am a strong advocate of something that will highlight the cheese rather than smother it and from there on in I think it’s entirely a matter of what you think will taste good. In the case of the platter above, I made this last weekend for a group of friends whose tastes ran the gamut from safe to adventurous and each person was able to enjoy at least 3 cheeses and the accompanying fruit and charcuterie (Bertoia spicy salami). I’m working on a detailed entry about building the perfect cheese plate with lots of photos and advice, but in the meantime I wanted to let you all know how simple and fun it can be to pick out foods you love and serve them to your friends and loved ones.