Cheese is good for all occasions

EASY APPS: 6 tips for the perfect plate

sue.kidd@thenewstribune.comNovember 14, 2012 

We’ve all been the cook in the kitchen when hungry guests sneak through, looking for a pre-dinner nibble to grab. Surly cooks may opt for a wooden spoon to stop the pre-dinner heist, but a cheese plate is a friendlier option.

Kris Blondin, owner of Stink, a cheese-and-meat store with an attached cafe in the St. Helens neighborhood in Tacoma, is a fan of a cheese course or a pre-dinner cheese plate. She shared her tips and recommendations for both.

Color: Said Blondin, “A good cheese plate needs color, balance and texture, but it also needs to be appealing to the eye.” That means, don’t buy all blue cheeses; mix it up with pale yellow or darker amber cheeses.

Appeal to all: Just because it’s a cheese plate doesn’t mean it has to be full of high falutin’ cheeses that are likely to scare off Uncle Al who only eats good ol’ American. Advised Blondin, “Be sure to have one or two more common types like cheddar or jack just in case the washed rind cheese you chose is too stinky for their taste.”

Go odd: No, that’s not an invitation to open nothing but oozing, stinky blues. Instead, go for groupings in odd numbers. Said Blondin, “Three or five cheeses work best in a group. For three cheeses, go with a washed rind stinky cheese like camembert (French), a blue like stilton (British) or valdeon (Spanish) and for a firmer style, try mimolette or Beecher’s Flagship. For a selection of five, throw in some goat-like patacabra, an aged Spanish goat cheese or chvre. For something fun, toss in a local cheese to the mix like a wedge of Backcountry Creamery Camp Chego or Mt. Townsend Creamery Campfire Smoked Jack.”

Let it rest: Cold cheese may be a good name for a band, but it’s a bad idea for the flavor of cheese. Take the cheese out of the fridge and let it come close to room temperature before you serve. It’ll taste better.

But what to serve it with? Well, crackers and crusty bread or crostini are a natural, but how about something nutty and a little sweet. Said Blondin, “You always want to have some fruit like grapes or figs, and since figs aren’t in season, we make fig bread at Stink that is extremely complimentary to most cheese. And because we are nearing Thanksgiving, some dried cranberries are an excellent seasonal alternative to fresh fruit. Nuts of some kind are also a great addition. I prefer lightly caramelized nuts with just a hint of cayenne pepper.”

Easy appetizer: Blondin likes serving a baked cheese wheel with an interesting twist. She slices a wheel of brie or camembert lengthwise in half, then spoons cranberry sauce and chopped pecans on top of half the wheel, then sandwiches with the other half of the wheel. Then, she wraps the cheese wheel in a sheet of defrosted puffed pastry (find it in the freezer section of the supermarket). Bake in a 350 degree oven until pastry is lightly browned and cheese is melted.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270

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