A Summer Cheese Plate with Rosé

Confession: we spend a surprising percentage of our grocery budget at the cheese shop!  Once our interest in wine at the dinner table started to grow, we found that artisan cheeses were a natural partner before or after the meal.

A summer afternoon treat

A proper cheese plate features a variety of textures and flavors.  You usually try to provide both hard and soft cheeses, and mix goat, sheep, and cow’s milk.  It’s a good idea to go from soft and simple to more strongly flavored cheeses as you progress through the plate.

A good cheese plate offers a variety of tastes and textures

Here’s what we had today (clockwise from the top):

  • Pave de Jadis – a nice mild ash-coated goat’s milk cheese.  It’s fresh and light, a little lemony.  Don’t worry about the ash coating, it doesn’t have any flavor, it just looks nice.  We love to smear a little honey on our goat cheese.  For honey, we love honeycomb.  The texture from the comb adds something, just a little soft crunch – if that makes any sense.  My favorite place to get honeycomb is from Dale Wolf of Wolf Honey Farm.  You can find Dale at the St. Paul Farmers Market – he usually is wearing he bee hat – you can’t miss him!
  • Morcella – a new sheep’s milk bloomy rind cheese from a local Minnesota creamery we really like: Shepherd’s Way Farm.  We have had several of their cheeses and are big fans.  This is a new one.  It’s basically a sheep’s milk brie, with morel mushrooms mixed in.  And, they find the morel mushrooms right on the farm!  It’s soft and creamy, but with a wonderful earthy mushroom flavor that infuses every bite.
  • Dorset – a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont.  If you haven’t tried a washed rind cheese, you should add one to your next cheese plate!  Washed rind cheeses are stinky!  Some are really stinky, like shovelling out the barn stinky.  Some remind you of a wet dog in the back seat of your car.  Sometimes, you have to double wrap them to keep them from smelling up your refrigerator.   But, once you taste one, you will understand why they are so loved.  Rich, smooth, and so tasty, you will look forward to the smell.  Really!
  • Cabot clothbound cheddar – a recent favorite of ours.  Bears no resemblance to the cheddar you might find at your grocery store.  Firm, rich, a bit grainy and crumbly, and salty too.  When we serve this cheese at a party, it is usually the first one to be finished.  Almost everyone loves this cheese!
  • Duck country pate´ – a nice rough textured pate.
  • Gooseberries and currants – from a local produce vendor at Fulton Farmers Market
  • Calamata olives
  • Thin sliced french loaf – we like the loaves from Rustica

The cheeses, olives and pate are from the cheese shop at Surdyk’s.  There are a number of cheese shops and grocery stores that offer nice cheese selections in the Twin Cities, but I am really partial to Surdyk’s.  The cheesemongers there are really knowledgeable and really nice.  You can sample most cheeses, which is a huge benefit!  You can ask for their advice and they’re only too happy to help.

Rose’s are lovely summer wines, especially for red wine drinkers

We drink white and red wines all year, but we really look forward to summer and rosé.  Most rosés are bone dry and offer a variety of really fresh fruit aromas and flavors.  Chilled, they are really refreshing to drink on a hot summer’s day.  This Coteaux du Vendomois offered up a bit of grapefruit and some mineral undertones along with fresh strawberries.  It was a nice match for the cheeses, especially the Cabot clothbound cheddar.  Solo Vino in St. Paul has one of the best selections of Rose’s I have seen anywhere.  Chuck Kanski  pointed this one out to me and suggested to pair with a stronger flavored cheese like the cheddar.  He was so right, thanks Chuck!

You feel like you are on vacation with an afternoon treat like this!

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