Think you know your Raclette from your Roquefort?
When it comes to wowing guests at a dinner party, the secret ingredient is always cheese.
Whether you’re having friends over or meeting the parents at their place, a cheese platter is always well received.
When it comes to piecing together a cheese platter, there is no right or wrong way to go about the task, but according to Peter Gross, Queensland’s premier expert on all things cheese and founder of Black Pearl Epicure, as long as you love it, include it.
While summer is for entertaining, in Autumn we begin to slow things down as we shift into the cooler months and this is the
perfect time to strip back your usual cheese offering for the seasonal change.
“All over the world, Autumn has always been the best time of year to produce cheese as it is the time where the last flush of grass, the contented cows and the weary cheese maker combine to make the best possible cheese.” says Peter.
When asked what the essentials for any cheese platter are, Peter explains that there is much debate on the subject as there is so much diversity when it comes to cheese. If building a cheese platter is unfamiliar territory, “just keep to the ones you love and you can make it the hero cheese on the platter. But it must be good and well aged.”
“A really well-aged full wheel of d’Affinois that has virtually liquefied inside would be a great example of this,” he says.
But for some, cheese platters and grazing tables aren’t just about the cheese and crackers. According to the founder of Brisbane’s popular catering company My Alter Ego, Emmanuel Diacos, “it’s all about the accompaniments”.
“Different accompaniments bring out different aspects of each cheese on offer. Everything must have a balance and depending on how many cheeses you have on offer, will ultimately decide what else you have on the platter.” Says Emmanuel.
When asked what the essentials for any cheese platter are, Emmanuel explains that platter must-haves “are of course cheeses like double brie, pecorino and any blue cheese to go with cured meats like prosciutto and coppa.”
“An assortment of fruit like grapes, strawberries, figs and raspberries are great for that sweet balance. Dips, Kalamata and Sicilian olives, marinated artichoke and sundried tomatoes paired with water crackers or grissini and of course adding some dried fruits and nuts will ensure you have a fab cheese platter.” He says.
Typically, in the warmer summer months, softer cheeses like bocconcini, fetta and burrata are a popular option. But according to Emmanuel, during Autumn we start to move towards stronger cheeses.
“In Autumn we transition to cheeses like peppered pecorino, Roquefort, goats cheese chevre and smoked manchego. These cheeses are stronger and are more comforting, unlike the fresher, vibrant summer options.” Says Emmanuel.
There is no question that in recent years there’s been a significant rise in large-scale cheese platters and grazing tables. But when it comes to setting new trends and adding interest to your board or table, Emmanuel explains that choosing a theme can always help.
“The most common trends we have noticed recently is the use of gold and mirrors within a board. We often ask our clients what type of theme they would like us to incorporate as a base for their boards. Having the flexibility to add a white, gold, industrial, modern or rustic theme allows us to offer a unique service to our customers and ensures that their event is a memorable one.” He says.
Favourite cheese in cooler months?
Marcel Petite Comte from France was made last Autumn and it’s now 12 months old and ready to eat. It has all the soft tones of late summer and is a firm cheese but has a sweet nutty
complexity. This is one of my favourite cheeses in the world.
What should we never see on a cheese platter?
Apple should never be on a cheese platter. It is full of Malic Acid, as is your mouth and the tannins in red wine. The three paired together will make any wine a disaster. Also, dried
apricots should never feature as a cheese accompaniment.
Best cheese advice?
When choosing a Brie or Camembert, look at the cut face. If it has a lot of holes in the middle, it isn’t ripe.
Best styling advice?
My philosophy when designing platters is to make sure that at any 1 point (whether standing or sitting), my guest needs to have access to some cheese, crackers, dips and something else to accompany it. You don’t want to reach over the platter to grab a cracker while there are 3 other people trying to do the same thing. Practicality is essential too!
Favourite cheese in cooler months?
Um, how bout every cheese? But seriously, how can you choose! Personally I am a huge fan of any blue cheese, gorgonzola or Roquefort. Pair that with some guava or fig jam with a sprinkle of honey, and you couldn’t pry me away from that platter with a crowbar!
#1 rule to remember when putting together an Autumn platter?
One big no-no for us are fruit and vegetables that are out of season. Do not let visual presentation take over from quality of goods. There’s no point having something look nice if it’s not in season as it will influence the taste of other things on the platter in a negative way.
Feature Image: My Alter Ego Catering
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