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5 Ways to Share New England Farmstead Cheese

cheese.farmsteadThere’s more than one way to get New England farmstead cheese at City Feed: cut-to-order from our cheese case, or once-a-month as a Cheese Share member!  There’s also more than one way to enjoy farmstead cheese: Try these tips from Morgan Ward, our City Feed Cheese Monger! 

5 WAYS TO SHARE

The cheese stands alone.  A cheese plate is a really easy, fun, and popular element to add to any gathering or party.  A few ideas I would share:  Pre-cutting or cubing the cheese can make it easier for your guests to enjoy.  Sometimes it is best to cut half your piece of cheese into bite sized morsels (cubes, triangles, diamonds, strips), and leave the other half on the cheese board to show off the wheel’s natural beauty.  Mixing milk types, textures, and styles (3-5 cheeses is a good number) is a reliable way to ensure there is something for everyone on the board.  Always pull your cheese from the fridge at least an hour before folks are slated to enjoy for maximum flavor expression.

Break out beyond the brie and grapes paradigm and think about some different options for pairing with your cheese.  An easy, great tasting cracker can be nothing more than day-old bread sliced thin, toasted, and tossed with olive oil, salt and spice.  Grapes are popular because they are a honeyed contrast to the rich saltiness of most cheese, so why not try little sweeties like dried fruit, homemade compote (apples and cranberries with a splash of OJ simmered gently makes a great sweet and tart accompaniment), fruit salad, candied ginger or a bowl of clementines to accompany your cheese in a memorable fashion.

cheese.share.bannerCheese before, and after.  In the rhythm of a holiday celebration, we often quaff cocktails and snack on appetizers in anticipation of the great meal, after which we may indulge in more libation, dessert, and probably coffee.  As a host, or when I bring cheeses to a party, I will often “re-plate” my cheese board after the appetizer hour has transitioned to dinner, to then present anew after the meal.  The idea is that I take all the untouched wheels, place them upon a smaller plate to maximize visual appeal, and pass the board before dessert.  This can be a great time for folks to really taste the cheese, as their palate is all warmed up from hearty holiday feasting, and often times the “strong” cheeses from the appetizer hour seem to taste “just right.”

Cheese in motion.  When it comes to great handcrafted cheese, I sometimes discourage folks from cooking with it, but that doesn’t mean that during our special holiday meals, there isn’t a call for incorporating cheese into some classic holiday dishes.  Right away, I think about potatoes gratin or aligot, where strong cheese is melted with cream into or on potatoes, adding a tangy richness to the sweet earthiness of the spud.  Another classic move is browning grated cheese under the broiler over soup (in the style of French Onion), which if done on a sheet pan in rapid succession, can be a pretty easy crowd pleaser.  Pearl onions, green beans, brussel sprouts, roasted squash, and turnips all are elevated by a turn under the broiler topped with a flavorful grated cheese.

Another option would be a salad course, where the wheels can be cubed or grated, tossed with the greens or in the dressing, or even artfully wedged and nestled atop the the dish. Blue cheese with beef and black pepper works very well for those with a taste for bold flavors, and few holiday meals are more decadent than a tenderloin roulade, stuffed with capers, blue cheese, onions and breadcrumbs, sliced on the bias and slathered in red wine gravy.

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Morgan Ward, City Feed Cheesemonger

Sweet cheese.  I believe my taste buds are pretty adventurous, but I am yet to be convinced that cheese pairs well with chocolate.  Aside from enjoying round two of the cheese plate as a ramp up for dessert or as dessert itself, I would posit that those gifted in the kitchen who care to craft a homemade cheesecake will find the quality of texture and depth of flavor is directly related to the cheese selected.  Skip the Philadelphia, and instead try making a cheesecake with ricotta, quark, creme fraiche, or mascarpone.  Or to get really local, try Cloumage (artisan cream cheese), from Barbara Hanley, Massachusetts Cheese Guild president and cheesemaker with Shy Brothers Farm.