Local Cheese Platter
Local Cheese Platter:
How to Create a lovely presentation
You don’t have to run a B&B to serve a local cheese platter. When I entertain friends, I often have a cheese board as a centerpiece, and it is always popular. Whether a casual barbeque in the backyard, or a fancy engagement party, there is always room for cheese, and if you mix it up with a few other flavors, even better!
I serve a sampling of local cheeses on a large wooden cutting board or, for bigger events, a fancy mirror. Dairy farms have struggled in the state of Vermont, and the cheese products certainly help maintain the industry. Of course, our cheeses win international awards consistently and taste the best, most of them produced in small batches for a unique flavor.
Three to five cheeses is a good number. I try to include a variety of cow, sheep, and goat cheeses, aged and fresh, mild and sharp, hard and creamy, and there is always room for a ripe offering.
Usually there will be a cheddar, an aged clothbound is one of my favorites, made in the old-time tradition. Sometimes I offer a smoked cheddar, but I don’t usually offer the flavored ones such as sage or horseradish. They are not among my favorites since I think they obscure the true flavor of the cheese itself, but if you like them, go for it! This is all about an expression of your own taste!
I love some of the new brie- and Camembert-style cheeses, soft-ripened, that our farmers are producing here, such as Willow Hill Farms ‘La Fleurie’ and Blythdale Farms ‘Vermont Brie.’ They’ve improved greatly, and some of the new blue cheese varieties are among the best I’ve had, ‘Bailey Hazen Blue’ being our house favorite.
One of the favorite cheeses in our area of Vermont is the Vermont Shepherd cave aged sheep cheese. It is an international award winner, and deserves the distinction. It becomes scarce as summer heats up and this year’s supply has not aged to perfection yet, but this only adds to the anticipation for when the new batch will be ready once the sheep start grazing again and the new cheese has time to age.
For fresh cheeses, the Maple Brook Farms in Bennington has a variety of fresh mozzarella cheeses, and they are popular, as is the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company’s goat cheese logs, particularly the herbed variety.
Cheese varieties in Vermont have exploded! The state even prints a ‘Cheese Trail’ for folks to follow who are visiting our lovely state!
I serve the cheese platter with cut up mild fruit such as an apple or pear, some cherries perhaps, whatever is fresh and delightful at the market. Figs pair nicely with cheese, as does melon.
There has to be some plain locally baked crackers to cleanse the palate between samplings, and a little something else salty, such as nuts, is also a nice addition.
If you want to get a little fancier, add some Vermont Smoke & Cure summer sausage or pepperoni (or whatever you can find locally), sliced thin, and perhaps a little Blake Hill Farms tequila and lime marmalade, or marmalade of your choice.
The bitter adds another nice flavor note. Top it all off with a little bowl of sour pickles, and you have a feast!