Cheese - So many choices

Montreal Times - - News - By Chef Peter Web­ster

Iwas vis­it­ing my fam­ily in north­ern On­tario last week. I had pre­pared a “Cock­tail Di­na­toire” for sup­per. A Cock­tail Di­na­toire is sim­ply an of­fer­ing of hot and cold hors d’oeu­vre served in­stead of a sit down meal.

We started off with a se­lec­tion of cheeses and a va­ri­ety of crack­ers. The pur­chase of cheese com­prised 5 types. My favourite is Roque­fort – a blue cheese from France. Not ev­ery­one is fond of the smell – some re­fer to the smell in the same sen­tence as dirty sweat socks! The tex­ture is creamy and smooth and the taste, in my opin­ion, is di­vine.

An­other favourite is smoked ched­dar. There was no dis­pute about this one. It is a firm cheese, pale yel­low with a golden ed­i­ble rind. The aroma and taste of the smok­i­ness is ir­re­sistible.

The third cheese we served was St An­dre. This is a soft white cheese with a creamy but­tery tex­ture with a light flavour. What is so good about this cheese is the silky feel­ing on the tongue – it melts in your mouth.

We also had a wedge of Havarti Cheese. This is a firm cheese that can have many flavour ad­di­tives from plain to fine herb and our favourite – Jalapeño! The plain is ok but if you add a lit­tle zip to the flavour, then you have my vote.

The last cheese we served was a mar­bled ched­dar, flavoured with Guin­ness beer. The look of this cheese is out­stand­ing. It has a brown ex­te­rior and a brown and pale mar­bling. The taste is mild and you can’t re­ally taste the beer.They also make a red wine cheese, with red mar­bling, if you pre­fer.

The cheeses were spread out on a cut­ting board with a se­lec­tion of crack­ers. The brand names of the crack­ers were Stone Wheat Thins, Vinta and Rice Crack­ers. The rea­son we chose these crack­ers is be­cause they don’t break when you try to spread a cheese on them. I do not like a cracker crum­bling when I try to put some­thing on top of it.

What sur­prised me the most about serv­ing the cheese plat­ter be­fore din­ner was the pos­i­tive re­ac­tion it re­ceived. Most peo­ple serve it after the meal and it some­times goes vir­tu­ally un­touched. We en­joyed a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about the se­lec­tion and at­tributes of each cheese. The Roque­fort got ver­bally beat up but it left a lot more of the cheese for those that liked it!

There are so many cheeses avail­able these days. There are some spe­cialty cheese shops out there but the larger gro­cery stores are now stocking a large se­lec­tion of cheeses. Pick up a few with a cou­ple of boxes of crack­ers and have a party. It was a lot of fun.

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