Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings, and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course

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Release Date: 
September 12, 2016
Running Press
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"Reach for Composing the Cheese Plate for guidance, ideas, and inspiration."

In Composing the Cheese Plate: Recipes, Pairings and Platings for the Inventive Cheese Course, authors Brian Keyser and Leigh Friend warmly encourage readers to broaden their cheese adventure horizons, and give them a great tool with which to do so.

Organized in a sensible and thoughtful way, each of the book’s many sections address particular aspects of pairing cheese and condiments. From talking about different cheese categories (The Five Categories of Cheese), to the professionals that help connect you with that perfect morsel (Get to Know Your Cheesemonger), to caring for your cheeses at home (How to Wrap and Store Cheese), each chapter shares stories, advice, and anecdotes that help the reader make sense of how to get the most enjoyment possible from the cheese combinations and platings. The information is accurate and useful.

Each chapter gives specific pairing examples and condiment recipes. With 70 different recipes there is something for everyone. Pairings range from delicious (bacon molasses mustard with Consider Bardwell Pawlet) to flat-out scrumptious (Roquefort with Herbes de Provence caramel corn). They include sweet and savory, easy and challenging. The range of offerings is broad, and each recipe is more inspiring than the last.

While the majority of combinations are approachable, there is the occasional pairing that may prove a bit esoteric for the average palate (spring pea and sweet onion purée with a creamy triple-crème cheese, or spicy pickled okra with Mitibleu blue cheese), but these are in the minority. On the whole, the pairing suggestions are approachable, imaginative, and most importantly, spot-on.

The brief section, The Rules of There Are No Rules, quells any concerns of feeling as though liking (or disliking) something others find enjoyable is required. For many, Brie and apples are a winning combination. For those who feel otherwise it can be a bit disconcerting to be in the vocal minority, especially if they are just beginning their pairing adventures. It is often reassuring to the nascent cheese pairing explorer to hear their opinions and tastes are valid and welcome, even if it does include (as Keyser and Friend jokingly lament) cheese and Skittles.

The list of equipment and ingredients is reasonable and full of items easily acquired by the reader if they don’t have them already. (Saucepan? Check. Vanilla beans? Yep.)

The recipes are creative and easy to follow. In the introduction, Friend notes that ingredients for each recipe are listed as they are purposefully: the order in which they are listed is the order in which they will be used. This logical flow simplifies the process, a welcome benefit for those who may be somewhat new at the recipe game or are still learning to feel comfortable in their own kitchen.

For those who like options in their pairings or want more than one suggestion, the pairing guide at the end of the book gives the reader a great deal of flexibility. Sorted by condiment, each entry offers three different ways to pair to it. In addition to specific cheese recommendations, the authors also include broader suggestions based on a cheese’s characteristics. Can’t find Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere to pair with maple roasted apples? No problem. Look for mild washed-rind cheeses in general, and you’re good to go.

Any professional wine and cheese educator would balk at yet another party where the cheese plate is swimming in figs. When it comes to pairing condiments to a cheese, there is a whole world out there. Forget the figs, people. Please. There’s a better way. 

Reach for Composing the Cheese Plate for guidance, ideas, and inspiration.