5 Elements of a Fabulous Cheese Board

5 Elements of a Fabulous Cheese Board

“Cheese,” wrote Clifton Fadiman, “is milk’s leap toward immortality.” A cheese board celebrates this wondrous transformation — and is always the center of any celebration. Here’s how to make a cheese board that will make your guests cheer.

Different Cheese on a BoardCheese
Be sure to include a variety of tastes, textures, and aromas. Martha Stewart’s excellent advice for choosing cheeses: Just eyeball it. If cheeses look different, they taste different. At Market Table, we pair rich Irish Tipperary Cheddar, creamy Stone Hollow Goat Cheese and sharp, crumbly Blue Cheese. Also, let the cheese sit a bit before serving. It’s best at room temperature.

 

Smooth cheese with spread

Salt

A cheese plate is made great by a variety of tastes. Give your guests something salty to play off sweeter cheeses. At Market Table, we use cornichons. These pickles are made from gherkin cucumbers picked before they’re ripe, creating their very tart taste. Their crunch contrasts beautifully with soft cheeses. You can also pair cheese with salty counterpoints from the same region. Chef Michael Chiarello recommends matching Serrano Ham with mild-to-sharp Spanish Manchego.

Sweets
What’s any meal without something a little sweet? We love the subtle addition of dried fruit and delicate Marcona almonds. Ina Garten suggests pairing green grapes, dried figs and apricots with strong cheeses like Roquefort and Sharp Cheddar. Seasonal fresh fruits offer an endless variety of pairings. For instance, stone fruits and apples make the perfect accompaniment to Brie. Mozzarella finds its match in peaches and nectarines. Ricotta and mango get along beautifully, especially with a pinch of salt and chili powder. If you’re feeling adventurous, try grilled Fresh and dried fruit with cheesepineapple and Blue Cheese.

 

Crunch
Crackers and bread slices not only serve as the perfect vehicle for soft and spreadable cheeses. They’ll also provide the perfect compliment to their texture. Plus, different kinds of crackers create different taste combinations. For example, the sweetness of oat crackers pairs beautifully with creamy Goat Cheese. With crispy, thin water crackers, all attention goes to the cheese. Rachael Ray prefers crusty baguette slices and crunchy smoked almonds. Our personal favorite? Crostini, toasted or even grilled.

Honeycomb on a cheese plate

Condiments
For Ree Drummond, TV’s Pioneer Woman, honey makes the perfect pairing for tart, acidic cheeses. If you’re lucky enough to know a beekeeper or live by a farmers market, try using a honeycomb. The honey has a bright, pure floral flavor. And, as a bonus, the comb creates an intriguing texture (we promise, it doesn’t taste like wax). If honey isn’t your thing, try chutney, equal parts sweet, tart, and savory. We’re especially fond of Alecia’s Peach Chutney, perfect for Pecorino Romano, and Tomato Chutney, especially flavorful with Fontina and Stilton. For a spicy twist, try sweet pepper jelly over Brie and Camembert.

 

Of course, in the stress of event-planning, you might not have time to put together the perfect cheese board. Market Table is here for you. Our catering menu features large and small cheese plates, heaped high with fine cheeses and sweet and salty accompaniments sure to please even the pickiest party guest.

 

Food in Focus: What Are Grits?

Food in Focus: What Are Grits?

An age-old staple, grits aren’t just simple food stuffs. They’ve become a symbol of the Southern United State’s history, traditions and hospitality. But if you are from anywhere else in the world, being served this strange entrée can cause confusion. Knowing how grits are made — and which dishes seem made for grits — will help you enjoy this down-home delight!

The History of Grits
Many think that grits come from the Southern gentry. Actually, grits are a Native American creation. Native Americans ground corn kernels using millstones. Then, they’d sift the finer parts. Any cornmeal too coarse to pass through the screen would be called grits.

How To Make Grits
Basically, grits come from the part inside of corn kernels called hominy. This hominy is then ground down and left to dry until it is a cornmeal-like consistency. Then, add six parts water and one part salt. Next, boil for twenty to forty-five minutes. And voila! You have grits. Salt, pepper and cheese are popular additions to this simple recipe. These days, you can also buy grits in instant packs. Or, you can even buy cans of quick-cook grits. For the best tasting grits, though, it’s best to stick with the traditional approach.

What To Serve With Grits
Grits are a Southern breakfast staple. Often, they’re served with sausages, eggs and country ham. Grits have also been used as a side dish during dinner. For example, shrimp and grits, a very popular South Carolina Lowcountry dish, creates a delicious combination of creamy and chewy.

Why Do Southerners Love Grits?
It’s true: grits, by themselves, are bland. But grits offer endless possibilities that rely on how far a cook wants to take them. Through creative use of spice and choice of entrée, grits’ taste and texture can serve to supplement a delicious dish morning, noon, or night. Market Table’s Pimento Cheese Grits make a scrumptious dinner side and a hearty breakfast dish. You can also use our pre-made grits to save some serious time when making Lowcountry classics like shrimp and grits — or, for the vegetarians, Grits with Seasonal Roasted Mushrooms.

 

Text by Jonathon Page