You may think you've got time since Valentine's Day is still a couple months away but Christmas can be romantic occasion too, as can New Years Eve! One thing that I'm always a fan of us doing a plate with assorted cheeses and other items along with a favorite bottle of wine. The folks over at Whole Foods Market agreed to share some of their knowledge and hooked us up with three amazing cheese and three bottles of wine.
One of the things that I absolute love about shopping at Whole Foods Market is that their staff absolutely know their stuff. If you are afraid of picking the wrong stuff, just ask them and you'll be able to put together an amazing pairing. I find this is true not just for their wine and cheese, but for pretty much everything in the store including their butcher shop and fish market.
While it's fun to create a few different pairings like Desiree did for us, I find that works best when you have a party with several people able to take part in the tasting. However, for that special date night you might want to create a cheese plate with a variety of items and focus on a "hero" cheese and wine to define the spread and make for an awesome date night meal.
Tips For Creating a Great Cheese Plate
Pair compatible flavors and textures - for instance, I absolute loved the Six Grapes Port and the Borough Market Stilton Blue Cheese that she picked out. Both of them have big, strong, bold flavors. On the other hand, with the Sancerre wine and the Humbolt Fog goats milk cheese - both have a high minerality so they go well together.
Include a variety of textures - some cheeses will be gritty and others will be smooth. While I like to have a hero that goes well with the wine, that doesn't mean that everything has to pair perfectly. I like to explore and have something to talk about during our date night and food is a great way to interact with your partner.
Include more than cheese - yes, you may be making a "cheese plate" but I like to include olives, and some cured meats such as ham, sausage, or pancetta or even full on slices of bacon. This allows you to explore the salty side of things. Similarly, you'll want to include items such as oranges, apples, berries, and even honeycomb to balance out the salty savory flavors from the cheese and meats.
Include a few different breads - I like to make sure that I have at least one soft bread with a relatively neutral flavor and then one robust cracker or even a sourdough crostini. This helps not just to serve the cheese but also as a palate cleanser between different bites.
Don't be afraid to try combinations - part of the fun of preparing a plate like this for date night is that you get to explore something together. Recently I found that the Herve Mons Camembert with Tuffles goes incredibly well with Granny Smith apple slices.
Don't overwhelm yourself - three to five cheeses is perfect. You aren't looking to create a buffet here but rather a few selections of high-quality cheeses that stand out. The other reason here is that you don't want to overwhelm your palate by switching between different flavors constantly since after a while your taste buds will start to be confused and that's not good for your enjoyment.
Make sure to include your partner's favorites - if your partner loves goats milk cheeses then make sure to include that. If she hates artichoke hearts then by all means don't add those to the mixture. Remember, this is your chance to show how much you love her by remembering her favorites and being able to show that you've been paying attention!
How to Prepare and Arrange the Cheese Plate
Make sure to include a different cheese knife for each cheese. This is especially important for soft cheeses so you don't mix flavors.
Place strong smelling cheeses on different plates and not directly next to each other. This will help not contaminate each other and it will also allow you to better appreciate the unique odor rather than things mixing together and overpowering more delicate cheeses.
Remove the cheeses and meats from the refrigerator for at least one hour prior to serving. Just as with drinks, as it warms up you will be able to appreciate the full flavor and texture better.
Above all else, make sure to use this opportunity to get closer to your partner. Learn something about each other and remember that food can be sensual and exciting. Just remember not to go crazy or stress out. At the end of the day, it's cheese and wine and as long as you aren't dating a master sommelier or a professional chef, chances are that anything you pick she's going to love ... because you did it thinking of her.