Saturday, May 10

The (Home) Cheese Course

Today we finally meandered over to Kensington Market in Toronto, in search of cheese, produce, and a belt. We were two for three, but in lieu of a belt we found food products galore. Purple potatoes, ripe avocados at $1 each, habaneros, tomatillos, Ataulfo mangoes, and fresh chives; muesli baguette, rum balls, and cannoli; and at the cheese store, for the win, smoked gouda from Holland, Chamblie from France (raw goat's milk, wrapped in bark!), and a semi-hard goat cheese from Italy (whose name I can neither procure online nor remember offhand).

Nimoy excels at creating really beautiful snack spreads. This is something I wish I did, but when I snack I tend to wander through the kitchen, discontentedly sifting through the contents of the cupboards and refrigerator and grazing on bits here and there. The process is massively unsatisfying, both for my hunger as well as that innate snacking drive that seems so rarely satiated. I wish I were the type to sit down for tea and cookies, or wine and cheese, or beer and veggie dips, every afternoon around 3-4pm...but when I'm eating alone that sort of organization seems so formal and time-consuming.

So, it's a real treat when I visit Toronto and Nimoy/Allison inspires me to Do It Right. Every time I visit we manage to gather an incredible array of fruits, cheeses, breads, and spreads, and this trip we may have hit a new best. We sliced apples and pears, shaved off pieces of mango, arranged a pleasant mound of peeled almonds, opened the jar of tangelo marmalade I brought (recipe courtesy of VeganYumYum, although I added about 1/3 cup of brandy, a bit more sugar, and a generous tablespoon of fruit pectin), set out the last of the honey, laid out grape tomatoes and cubed avocados, sliced the baguette, and opened our cheese parcels.

Really, a good cheese plate simply requires cheese, bread or crackers, and honey. Nuts and fruit are the natural extension, and if you're feeling creative a variety of spreads or jams can also be quite pleasant. The trick is to choose accompaniments that compliment, rather than overwhelm, the cheese selections. Mustard is a natural pairing with cheddars; I find that salty, savory spreads like tapenade or pesto work quite well with goat cheeses; candied nuts are fantastic with aged Goudas; in life and in food, blues love chocolate; and harder Italian varieties work nicely with sweet sides like honey or fruit jams.

The other goal, in my opinion, is to choose a good variety of cheeses that excite without overwhelming. I like something soft, something firm, something hard, and maybe something stinky or blue. You can decide whether you want to focus on a particular geographic region (e.g. an assortment of Italian cheeses -- you have plenty to choose from), compare similar styles from different regions (e.g. a goat cheese from the Loire and a goat cheese from Northern California), pick similar types of cheese (e.g. an array of the creamiest, most luscious cheeses you can find) or choose contrasting iconic cheeses (e.g. Dutch Gouda and Spanish Manchego). Pairing beverages is the next step, but that's a separate post (in the meantime, try this guide from MBA Wine Club).

Our favorite combinations from the day:
+ Muesli baguette, the aged goat cheese, and honey
+ Chamblie, pear, and honey
+ Chamblie and marmalade
+ Aged goat cheese and avocado

The gouda was a bit rubbery, so we saved most of it to be baked into the purple potatoes and Gala apples later in the evening. My beverage of choice, for those who are curious, was a blend of bourbon and iced citrus green tea, which sounds pretty awful but tasted quite lovely, and worked surprisingly well with the cheese. Cheese is the perfect snack! And also, I find, an ideal dessert. Go eat cheese.


Allison said...

Yum yum yum.
That's what I have to say about that.
Seriously excellent cheese.

Gina Marie said...

One of the best things to have with a good spread of cheese is sliced or crushed almonds in honey. It works like the tastiest jam alternative EVER!


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