Do you like the idea of a cheese plate to serve to guests with wine before dinner or even for dessert? Do you find yourself staring blankly in the cheese department, overwhelmed by the choices and the prices? Don’t be shy. I’ve seen you there right beside me with eyes glazing over.
Never fear, “Taste Arkansas” is here to help you compose a cheese plate that’s delicious without breaking the bank.
- Simplify and limit. Think of everything as either aged, soft, firm or blue. Choose one from each of these categories creating a variety of textures and flavors. Still overwhelmed? I sometimes like to go with a theme, like different milk types or an array of Italian cheeses to calm the cheese counter chaos.
- The odds and ends bin is your friend. Many gourmet grocers package smaller bits of cheese in an odds and ends bin. Priced around $1 to $3, this is a great way to sample something at the top of your price range or shop for a smaller cheese plate.
- Bread or crackers? I say both. A sliced baguette is my go-to bread, but there are also many options of denser breads with dried fruit or nuts you might try. Always have crackers available.
- Serve at room temperature. Make sure to plate the cheeses an hour before serving. That way, the soft cheeses will slice and smear like butter.
- Simple spreads and accompaniments. Fruit, which amplifies a cheese’s sweetness, is a must. Go for dried (cranberries, dates, cherries or figs), fresh (sliced apples, pears, plums, apricots or melon) or both.
- Tools of the trade. Do you lack the proper cheese tools? No worries. Just set out a separate knife for each cheese — something sharper for the harder options and a butter knife for creamier options. Cut a few pieces of each (wedges for rounds, slices for everything else) to get guests started. Your friends will not mind. They’ll be too busy eating the delicious cheeses.
- The cheese tip that will ruin the party. Keep anything really pungent separate, so as not to overwhelm the other offerings. So, stinky cheese separate. Got it?
Delicious Arkansas spread. Photo and produce courtesy of Kent Walker Artisan Cheese, Geek Eats hummus, Barnhill strawberries, and Sun Harvey honey, yum!
Want to learn more about cheese? Check out Kent Walker Artisan Cheese. Produced in downtown Little Rock, they pride themselves on making delicious cheese with old-world, handmade methods from all Arkansas ingredients. You can follow their Facebook page for tasting opportunities, and they’ll soon open a tasting room in the old Diamond Bear Brewery in little Rock.
Stephanie, aka The Park Wife, is a tribe builder. She is the founder of Arkansas Women Bloggers (ARWB), an online community designed to gather, grow, and connect social media influencers in our state. Considered an old-timer in the blog world, since 2005 she has written what she hopes is a love letter to her children on her lifestyle blog, The Park Wife. Raised in the debutante world of Mississippi, she married a hunky park ranger and moved to Arkansas 15 years ago and has fallen in love with the state. She loves gardening, porch swings, a beautifully set table, a delicious meal surrounded by great conversations, their cabin in the woods and monograming everything that is not nailed down. She is a devoted wife and fun-loving, homeschool mom to two extraordinarily cool little gentlemen and is fortunate enough to live on one of Arkansas’s premier state parks.