How to Assemble the Perfect Cheese Platter
When it comes to assembling a cheese plate, we usually stick to the classic “one hard, one soft, one blue” rule. But after spending the day with Lydia Clarke, a woman so passionate about cheese that it makes her cry on occasion (true story), we learned that the possibilities are truly endless. Lydia, who co-owns DTLA Cheese in Grand Central Market with her sister Marnie and Chef Reed Herrick, put together six gorgeous, insanely delicious cheese plates using whatever inspired her in their impressively stocked case. There’s something for every occasion here, whether you’re serving cheese as a light supper for guests, a quick snack with drinks, or in lieu of dessert. If you can’t find the exact cheeses listed here, ask your cheesemonger for an alternative: a good one will let you taste a bunch of options until you find something you love. And because a good cheese plate is made even better with wine, we asked our wine guy, Oscar Mason, to recommend the best pairings. Also worth noting: most of the serving boards and cheese knives we used are stocked in the goop shop.
1. Everybody In
There is something on this plate for everyone to fall in love with. As a bonus palate-cleanser, we’ve added house-dehydrated fruit.
1. Olympia Provisions Salami Etna
2. Angel’s Duck Prosciutto
3. Hobb’s Bresaola
4. Saint Gil Di Albio Garrotxa (pronounced ga-ROACH-aahhh)Goat. Catalonia, Spain.
Fun Fact: this cheese almost went extinct until a group of cheesemakers revived the recipe in the 1980s.
5. Quatrro Portoni Quadrello di BufalaBuffalo. Lombadry, Italy.
This is a washed-rind cheese that can be a little funky, but buffalo milk has the highest butterfat, making it a perfect balance of cream and funk. There aren’t a lot of Buffalo milk cheeses out there; when you see it, buy it. A sound substitution would be its cousin taleggio or stateside Ameribella.
6. Andante Dairy PicoloCow. Petaluma, California.
Can’t find it? Try another bloomy rind like Delice de Bourgogne or Mt. Tam.
7. Basco-Bernaise Ossau-IratyRaw Sheep. French Basque.
If you let your cheesemonger know you’re looking for something Basque, she can point you in the right smooth direction.
2. A Perfect Bite
Pick a single cheese and find a few perfect accouterments—the simplicity makes for a surprisingly strong presentation.
1. Marcel Petite Fort St. Antoine 24-Month ComteJura, France.
Comte is France’s most widely consumed cheese. It’s melty when young (ideal for grilled cheese), and magical on its own when older— spring for 18+ months of age.
2. Da Morgada MembrilloPortugal.
Made from quince fruit, this is essentially a sliceable jelly—like fruit rollups for grownups!
3. Valerie Confections Good MixLos Angeles.
This mix has chocolate, seeds, nuts and cocoa nibs…and it’s gluten-free.
3. Tried and True
Cow, Goat, Sheep, Blue—they’re popular for a reason. Each piece of cheese should have equal rind and each cheese should have its own knife. No cross contamination!
1. Delin Brillat Savarin Triple CreamCow. France.
2. L’Amuse Brabander GoudaGoat. Holland.
100% edible and always beautiful.
4. Point Reyes Bay BlueCow. California
5. Essex Manchego 1605 FarmsteadSheep. Spain.
Having a sidecar palate cleanser plate allows guests to focus on the cheese alone and move on to the exciting flavors that compliment the cheeses when they’re ready. Use what’s already in your pantry and fridge—bust out the pickles, mustards, caperberries, olives, or marmalades to add to the spread.
Marcona almonds and cheese are the new peanut butter and jelly.
Dehydrated fruit is both an excellent break from butterfat and a fun cracker alternative.
5. One And Done
Serve one big chunk of cheese that is in its prime. Put out a whole jar of cool jam with a beautiful spoon and you’ve got an appetizer or a bomb dessert.
1. Wilde Weide Raw Cow Farmstead GoudaNetherlands.
This cheese is packed with Vitamin K and is made on a Dutch Organic Island.
2. Ines Rosales TortaSpain.
With a hint of anise, these fun pastry-like crackers can compliment either end of a meal.
3.SQIRL Blueberry/RhubarbLos Angeles.
6. The Study Group
This is for the hardcore cheeseheads who want to dig in and discuss the flavors and textures of various single-milk cheeses.
1. Soft/BloomyFour Fat Fowls St Stephan,
2. Semi-FirmBleating Heart Goldette Tommette,
3. FirmJasper Cellars Cabot Clothbound,
4. Soft/Ash- RipenedJoaquin Villaneuva Casado Veigadarte,
5. HardTomales Farmstead Creamery Assa,
6. Semi-FirmCapriole Goat Cheese Old Kentucky Tomme,
7. HARDMitica Ombra,
8. FIRMRodolphe le Meunier Tomme Brulee,
9. Soft / GeotrichumMany Fold Farm Garrett’s Ferry,
10. ButterRodolphe le Meunier Beurre de Barrate,
Oscar Mason’s Wine Pairings
It’s easy to overthink the wine pairing for a cheese plate, but the truth is there are very few combinations that don’t work. I tend to avoid bigger reds, which can taste delicious with some hard, aged cheeses, but whose tannins can clash with creamier styles. Lighter wines, with enough acid to cut through the fat, will generally allow the more subtle nuances of the cheese to shine through.
Francois Chidaine Montlouis-sur-Loire Methode Traditionelle Brut NV, $21
Sparkling Montlouis is made using the same technique as Champagne, but costs about half as much. The carbonation is the product of a second fermentation inside the bottle that also imparts slightly nutty, savory flavors, similar to those cheeses develop as they age. This wine, made from biodynamically-farmed grapes, is deceptively rich but the bubbles, and the naturally high acid of the region’s Chenin Blanc grape, keep it light on its feet, making it versatile enough to pair with anything.
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina 2015, $20
Txakolina is the traditional tipple in Basque country in northern Spain. The wines are naturally refreshing: low in alcohol and bottled with a little residual carbon dioxide from fermentation, which gives them just a hint of effervescence. Ameztoi’s vines overlook San Sebastian and the Atlantic ocean and the grapes pick up a brininess from the marine breeze that matches up with salty local sheep and goat’s milk cheeses.
Domaine de Marquiliani Gris de Marquiliani Vin de Corse Rosé 2015, $26
The island Corsica has established itself in the last few years as one of the world’s great rosé producers. Equally influenced by Italian and French conquerors over the centuries, it has developed a completely unique culture synthesizing elements of both. Marquiliani, masters of pale, delicate rosé, make this from Sciaccarellu (an obscure Italian grape) and syrah grown on steeply-terraced mountain vineyards. Tangy and herbaceous, with just a whisper of berry fruit, this is perfect with young, creamy cheeses.
Jean-Claude Lapalu Brouilly Vieilles Vignes 2014, $32
Beaujolais is great for any occasion that calls for a red wine without a lot of tannin. The traditional method of winemaking in the region, carbonic maceration, attenuates the bitter qualities of red grapes, instead bringing out flavors of fresh berries and flowers. This Brouilly, from sixty year-old vines, is great served slightly chilled with semi-firm cheeses.
Michel Gahier Vin Jaune Arbois 2007, $75
Vin Jaune can be an acquired taste. Made from the white Savagnin grape in the Jura, in the foothills of the Alps in eastern France, it spends a minimum of six years aging in barrels beneath a layer of naturally-occurring yeast before being bottled. The yeast protects the wine from oxygen, but also contributes an intensely pungent character of its own that perfectly complements the nutty richness of the region’s Comte cheese.