The Quintessential Cheese Plate
Assembling a nonpareil tasting of cheeses
BY MAX MCCALMAN
Of the several thousand plates of cheeses I’ve designed, I’m fairly certain I haven’t composed the same grouping of cheeses more than once — except possibly for different customers on the same day. But I do apply some fundamental “rules” when setting them together. I often see cheese “flights” designed to employ a thematic consideration, perhaps the provenances of the cheeses, such as a local plate, an Italian selection, an Iberian collection, etc. Some are species-specific, such as all goat cheeses. Other plates are based on styles, such as all washed-rind or all blue cheeses. One of my favorites is to represent several styles of cheese: one fresh, one leaf-wrapped, one bloomy rind, one pressed, etc.
A popular trend in restaurants is to design cheese and wine or beer flights. The creative element of pairing cheeses with specific beverages allows the fromager to apply his or her knowledge, experiment with the pairings and then describe the relationships to the guests. One cheese flight design we often employ at the Artisanal Cheese Center in New York City offers representations of the historical developments in the evolution of cheese.