Our friends over at Benton Brothers Fine Cheese (2104 West 41st Ave, Vancouver BC) have contributed a guest posting outlining their advice on creating the perfect Cheese Plate, as well as pairings for our Seasonal Confiture Collection.
Benton Brothers Fine Cheese
A simple cheese tray might just be one of the most versatile entertaining options available. It makes a perfect snack to go along with cocktails or beer, an effortless appetizer to put out while the chef is still in the kitchen, an elegant way to end a meal, or a great way to close out the night along side a glass of your favorite dessert wine.
The most important thing to keep in mind when putting together a cheese tray is that the whole point is for people to taste new things, socialize, and maybe learn a thing or two. In terms of quantity we usually like to keep it to three or four cheeses, as many more can overwhelm the palate. There are no hard and fast rules with regards to choosing cheeses, just try and keep in mind how adventurous your guests are and choose cheeses that you think they will find interesting. If you’re not sure about their tastes, since you’re the one choosing, why not just pick what you like. There is no shortage of possible themes to choose from such as French, Spanish, Canadian, Sheep’s milk cheeses, Goat’s milk cheeses, Alpine cheeses and many more. No matter what theme you choose, if any, it’s always nice to have a variety of styles and textures. On our trays we like to include a soft cheese, a semi-soft cheese, a hard cheese and a blue cheese with a couple of them being made with either sheep or goat’s milk. When putting the cheeses on your platter or cheese board we highly recommend that you avoid cubing or slicing the cheese. Putting out the pieces in larger chunks, cut in half or broken along natural fissure lines allows guests to see what the cheeses actually look like and also helps to promote a much more social atmosphere. Using larger pieces also makes for much more visually interesting and beautiful platters, while preventing the cheese from drying out.
While grapes, apples and pears are the stereotypical cheese plate accompaniment, we can’t emphasize enough how much we like dried fruit and toasted nuts with cheese. As fruit dries the sugars concentrate and the acidity drops leaving all those fruit flavors, with a slight sweetness that pairs perfectly with cheese. All of our platters leave the shop with an assortment of toasted walnuts and almonds, dried apricots, figs, apples, pears, mangoes and cherries.
The great cracker vs baguette debate is another one that is completely personal preference. While our personal preference is good French baguettes, we also love cheese with fig and anise bread, rosemary and sea salt bread, Raincoast Crisps, Gone Crackers, and many others. If you’re looking to do some serious tasting it’s best to stick with baguettes or very simple crackers, but if you’re going for a little more fun and experimental feel, there’s no shortage of interesting crackers and different styles of bread to chose from.
The Savoury Chef Confitures also make perfect accompaniments for cheese and make a beautiful addition to any cheese tray.
Here are a few of our favorite pairings:
Pear and Rosemary Jazz
w/ Beaufort D’Alpage
France : Cow : Raw
This raw milk A.O.C. cheese is made in the mountains of Haute-Savoie. Any Beaufort carrying the label “D’Alpage” must be made with spring or summer milk which means the cows are grazing on summer flowers, grasses, and herbs in pastures at elevations over 6,000 ft which are only accessible after the winter thaw. It is aged a little over one year and is simply outstanding. Due to its slightly higher butter-fat content it is rich and creamy on the palate with a strong nutty flavor.
Sage Cranberry Craze
w/ Riopelle D’Ile
Quebec : Cow : Raw
Named after the famous Quebecois abstract impressionist painter, Jean-Paul Riopelle (considered the founding father of Canadian contemporary art), this cheese is made on Ile aux Grues in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This raw cow’s milk cheese is a style called triple crème which means that whole cream is added to the milk before it’s curdled. The end result is a beautifully rich, tangy, silky cheese with a milky and slightly mushroomy flavor.
Lemon Tomato Brio
w/ Chabichou Du Poitou
France : Goat : Raw
This raw goats milk cheese is produced in the Poitou-Charentes region in the Loire Valley which is home to more than 80% of all French goat cheese. It is made by the co-operative Sèvre & Belle who have been making cheese since 1893. Chabichou is fairly mild in it’s youth, increasing in intensity with age. As it ages it becomes slightly softer under the rind with a dense and slightly chalky interior. The mottled rind is stronger than the interior and is completely edible.
Apple Thyme Tonight
w/ Quicke’s Cheddar
From Neal’s Yard Dairy in Londons’ Borough Market. This cheddar is the real deal and is a far cry from the block cheddars found on every grocery store shelf. Each truckle weighs about 20kg and is wrapped in a muslin cloth which allows it to breath during its aging period of about 2 years. This ability to breath is what helps the cheese attain its unique and complex flavor. It has a thick, chewy texture with a pronounced vegetal, earthy flavor with a strong sense of horseradish.
If you have a little more time try making some of these great canapés!
Winnipeg cream-cheese, cucumber, balsamic reduction and Sage Cranberry Craze.
Hercule De Charlevoix, Rosette De Lyon, Pear and Rosemary Jazz.
1 Year Raw Milk Manchego , Serrano Ham, Apple Thyme Tonight.
The most important thing with any cheese event is to taste new things and experiment with different accompaniments and pairings.
Jonah and Andrew Benton
Andrew Benton and Jonah Benton
2104 West 41st Ave
Ph: (604) 261-5813
Fax: (604) 261-5804
Tuesday – Friday ~ 10:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday ~ 10:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday ~ 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Monday ~ Closed
Monday-Friday ~ 10:00am – 7:00pm
Saturday ~ 10:00am – 6:00pm
Sunday ~ 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Monday December 24th ~ 9:00am – 3:00pm
December 25th, 26th ~ Closed
Monday December 31st ~ 9:00am – 5:00pm
January 1st ~ Closed