Cheese Plates – Easy and Impressive!

So, y’all know that I’m pretty laid back. I mean, I wear pajamas twenty-three hours and thirty-two minutes a day. Those remaining twenty-eight minutes are when I run to the grocery store for a bag of flour or a pound of butter. The rest of my life? Pajamas.

Anyway, I’m not fancy. At all.

Cheese plates? They’ve always been a little scary to me.

How do you pair things together in a way that makes sense? How do you choose the perfect cheeses? How do you arrange it all so artfully? Scared. Terrified. Frightened. That was me. Cheese plates are just too fancy.

Then I traveled to Chicago, met the fabulous folks at Cracker Barrel, and was presented with 18,302 different cheese plates. I’m not even exaggerating. Much.

Trivia Fact Of The Day: Cracker Barrel was named for the iconic fixtures found in country stores where people would gather to chat.

I think that it’s such a perfect name for a cheese company, because what do you do when there is a big ol’ plate of cheese at a party? Dump it all in your purse and run home to eat it all. Oh, wait. That’s just me. Normal people gather around the cheese and chat. Cheese can draw in a crowd, man.

mike

Chef Mike

Not only was I presented with all of these cheese plates, I was told by one of the Cracker Barrel chefs (shout out to Mike!) that any pairing works if it tastes good. Stop being intimidated by a block of cheese! There is no wrong way to pair cheese, unless it makes you want to barf.

I’m totally paraphrasing. I can assure you that Mike did not, would not, and could not use the word barf in a sentence.

Weren’t we talking about being fancy? Riiiiiight.

Let’s talk about some easy, no-fuss cheese pairings that are perfect for spring! Nothing to be intimidated about here. Don’t run and hide. Just sit down, take a deep breath, and prepare to eat some cheese.

strawbery cheese plate

My absolute favorite cheese plate from the weekend was this gorgeous tray full of fresh strawberries, white chocolate, basil, balsamic glaze, black pepper crackers, and Vermont sharp-white.

I stayed far away from the white chocolate, because it’s generally not something I’m fond of, but Courtney insisted that I try a piece of the chocolate with the cheese. After I stopped staring at her like she was insane, I took a little nibble.

You guys. White chocolate and cheese. Doooooooo it.

The balsamic glaze was just perfect with the cheese and berries, too. You could mix and match this any which way and come out a happy camper, which makes this cheese plate a winner.

3 Aaaaaaand, another mix of chocolate and cheese. Weirdly delicious.

This plate is full of Aged Reserve (the 2012 gold medal winner!), dried cherries, almonds, and chocolate wafers! Sweet, fresh cherries are perfect for this, but if they aren’t in season yet, just grab some dried cherries! It’s all good!

I think one of my favorite things about Cracker Barrel is that their cheese is accessible (no special trip to a fancy cheese shop), easy on the budget compared to other cheese of this quality, and tastes the same each and every time you eat it (no surprises!). They start with the same heirloom cultures they did back in 1954. This means that every block has the same, rich full flavor of perfect cheddar. The brand was founded on a love of quality cheese and a passion for the cheddar cheese making heritage. I love that these are the two things that still define the brand today.

pairing

They left me alone to play for a few minutes and I created this little bite of heaven. Crackers, sharp cheddar, cherry tomatoes, super sweet peppers, and micro greens. It’s so pretty!

What are your favorite cheese pairings? Do you like to experiment or have you been a bit of a chicken like me? Oh, and please forgive all the iPhone snaps. I took my good camera with me, but I kept getting so absorbed in what was happening that I’d forget to drag it out. Also, I might have gotten some crumbs on it. I did eat an awful lot, after all.