Linda Falcioni, the cheese buyer at Angela’s Pasta and Cheese Shop in Manchester, and Kristy Ammann, owner and chef of Butter’s Fine Food and Wine in Concord, have a few tips for people who want to create the perfect cheese platters for holiday gatherings.
“We tell everybody, when you’re putting out a variety, [offer] something hard, something soft and something blue,” Ammann said. “Then you kind of hit everybody and please everybody.”
Both Falcioni and Ammann said dried fruits work well this time of year on a cheese plate. Include nuts, fresh fruits, dried fruits, crackers and fresh bread.
“Breads are always nice. French baguettes are, I think, delicious, especially with the soft cheeses. You can make homemade crostini,” Falcioni said. “I’m a big fan of nuts, whether they be marcona almonds and walnuts, and dried fruits are marvelous especially this time of year. Dried figs and apricots are really a nice balance. They’re very complementary.”
When it comes to selecting the cheeses, Falcioni said three or four cheeses is a good number to have for variety, but not too much variety.
“Sometimes everyone doesn’t get to taste the cheese because there’s too much variety,” she said. “Everything looks so good, and you want to have a little bit of everything.”
She recommended selecting a variety of milks, like goat’s milk, or bleu cheese and aged Parmigiano Reggiano as solid standbys.
“It’s nice to have a mixture of soft cheeses and firm cheeses just to add visual interest to the platter,” Falcioni said. “I know a lot of people are very big on color on a platter.”
“There’s really no wrong answer,” Ammann said. “I tell everybody to eat what you like and drink what you like.”
For pairing cheeses with wines, Ammann said that brie goes well with chardonnay and pinot grigio, as well as light reds like pinot noir. Sharp cheddar pairs with stronger wines like cabernet or a crisp sauvignon blanc.
Baked brie is another good option for parties. Butter’s makes baked brie with jam and puff pastry available baked and ready to go, or prepared to bake at home.
“The warmer a cheese gets, the more flavor you get out of the cheese,” Ammann said. “You’re going to get more of that creamy brie taste.”
Leaving cheddar out for even 45 minutes at room temperature can help improve the cheese, Ammann said.
As seen in the December 19th, 2013 issue of The Hippo