How to Make a Smashing Holiday Cheese Platter - Plus Wine Accompaniments
December 14, 2010 - Linda Grasso
My friend Barrie Lynn is a cheese whiz…literally. Known to fans across the country as The Cheese Impresario, she’s our "go-to gal" for any and all things cheese. Below are Barrie’s favorite “cheese experiences” for holiday entertaining.
Wisconsin Cheddar with Pistachios and Dried Hibiscus
Cut some wedges of young cheddar (aged 3 or 6 months) and stand them upright together. Make a "sea" of unsalted, roasted pistachio kernels and dried hibiscus blossoms (available at Trader Joe's) or dried California figs around the base. "It looks like ice bergs floating on an ocean of pistachios and dried fruit."
Wine: A mild Chardonnay.
All Cheddar Plate
Pick 3 cheddars of different ages. Get a young cheddar like a 3 or 6 month old, and a middle-aged 5 or 6 year old. Finally, get a rare, 10 year old, like one made by Hooks’. “Hook's Ten Year Aged Cheddar is a delightful surprise because it’s not dry or hard. It’s smooth, creamy and nutty.”
Fill in platter with dried, California figs and a handful of unsalted cashews or unsalted, roasted pistachios by the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company.
Serve with all kinds of breads – from baguette to pumpernickel.
Wine: California Cabernet.
Classic Cheese Plate
Get cheeses from all three types of milk: cow, sheep and goat. Start with a goat Brie, like one made by Woolwich Dairy and found at most grocery stores. “It’s a triple Cream – so that makes it even more luscious. Plus, it really keeps it's shape - so when you serve it, it looks picture perfect.”
Wine: Sauvignon Blanc.
Sheep’s cheese: Manchego available at Trader Joe’s and Costco. Serve with small bowl of Spanish olive oil and bread. "You can dip the bread in the oil and combine with a piece of cheese. Or, just drizzle the oil over the bread."
Wine: Chianti Classico or Rioja.
Cow’s cheese: artisan Cheddar or Gouda. "I love the raw milk Gouda made by Marieke Penterman from Hollands Family Farms. She also has a nice choice of beautifully flavored Goudas. I adore her foenegreek raw milk Gouda. She spells foenegreek a bit differently than some, probably from her Dutch heritage. The contrast between the big rich cow’s milk flavors of the raw milk Gouda with the sweet almost maple syrup flavors of the foenegreek seeds is one that makes my guests go mad with pleasure. I also adore her burning nettle mellange Gouda ( think she now calls this cheese Burning Mellange). The name scares some people but it is amazing. Chef Neal Fraser from Grace Restaurant turned me onto the unique taste of burning nettles. Nettles, by the way, are a very high nutrition green plant."
In addition to the suggestions above, for cheese, hit Joan’s on Third, the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Froma on Melrose and Andrews Cheese Shop on Montana in Santa Monica.
For serving pieces, Barrie suggests ordering some of the items from an on-line company called Viva Terra. "Many of their pieces are made from reclaimed wood and it's just so important to protect and preserve our environment. Plus, I love the natural shade of the wood. It just blends so beautifully with the cheese, bread, nuts and dried fruit." Barrie particularly loves the wooden baskets pictured above. "I use them for bread and for larger entertaining, I use the medium baskets to serve my nut mixes in. Put an artisan made serving spoon in and you've got something beautiful and
functional on your holiday table."
Buy 1 ounce of each piece of artisanal cheese per person. “Artisanal cheese is so flavorful you really don’t need a lot.” And, finally, pull your cheese out of fridge one hour before guests arrive. “If you don’t serve it at room temperature, you’re losing half the flavor.”
For more on Barrie Lynn, who teaches me something wonderful everytime we speak , check out her website. The site's tagline alone is brilliant: Cheese is the New Black!
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