A woman with clumpy eye make up, very long fake nails and over processed hair once asked me at a party, “So what did you bring?” and I answered, “The cheese plate.” and she said, “well, that’s not very creative.” To which I replied with a pleasant smile and thought, “you should know broomhilda.”
I make a lovely cheese plate, I would even say, a thoughtful cheese plate and sometimes a very expensive cheese plate that I fashion from Whole Paycheck cheeses. The line up usually reads as: Brillat Savarin: French buttery triple cream heaven, Uniekaas aged gouda: Dutch, nutty, warm, semi hard 18 month aged goodness, Blue Bayley Hazen: US cheese from Vermont that is Nutty, earthy and delectable blue and Cotswold: Hails from England, but tastes like my white trash fantasy, a fully loaded baked potato in every bite.
That there is a nicely balanced cheese plate with a little creamy, a little nutty and little aged and a little friendly. it is probably missing a little pungent, like the slightly stinky Epoisses and a little tangy like the goat milk based Humboldt fog, but you can’t please everyone all the time.
This post is about creating cheese plate envy without breakin the bank. Here is my Trader Joes version of my kick ass cheese plate. Prices are based on the normal hunks that TJ’s sells. Double the price for the cheeses above at Whole Foods.
St. Andre: $5.89 Triple creme brie from France. It is the closest cousin to Brillat Savarin. It is dense, creamy and buttery and goes really well with Raincoast crisps or TJ’s brand, Raisin Rosemary Crisps.
1000 day aged gouda: $4.70 (This tastes exactly like it’s expensive cousin, but costs about $4.50 for a hunk instead of $8+ – just sayin)
Stilton: $4.62 I find this to be really similar in taste to the Bailey Hazen, but half the price. This pairs really well with fresh apples, pears or adriatic fig spread.
Cotswold: $4.37This here is exactly the same as Whole Foods. I can’t say that it is made by the same producer, but I have found no difference besides the price. This loaded baked potato tasting cheese pairs well with plain old crackers or potato chips when no one is looking.
FRUITS, NUTS and something SWEET
I like to serve some sliced apple or pear and not just for the gluten free people. There are certain cheeses that taste better with fruit than bread. Folks also enjoy salty and oily marcona almonds or some toasted hazelnuts with some honey drizzled over the top. I also love to serve Adriatic fig spread. It is $5.99 at WF, which is less than I have seen it for anywhere else. Quince paste or raw honey are nice too.
CUT THE CHEESE ALREADY!
If you are serving a hard cheese to your guests, don’t make them cut it on the board. It can create awkward and messy moments. Be a friend and pre-slice it. If you are working with a hard, but crumbly cheese like Vella Dry Jack or Parmigiano Reggiano, then take a little pointy knife and crumble it into edible chunks.
READ ABOUT CHEESE
If you want to read an educating and entertaining book about cheese, farming and a punk rocker who became a cheese monger, then read this: CHEESEMONGER: A Life on the Wedge.
EXPERIMENT AT HOME
I love to try new cheeses, but I don’t usually try them on other people at parties. Cheese is expensive, so if no one liked that bourbon washed goat cheese, then you are out $10 and people then think you suck at cheese.