The Family Cheese Plate

March 15th, 2011 · 13 Comments · Entertaining, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

Before kids we were mushroom-stuffers and tomato-scoopers. Before kids we weren’t afraid of the adjective “hot” before the word “appetizer.” I think when we lived in Brooklyn — when the girls were as distant on the horizon as the suburbs were — we might have even served a chilled avocado and cucumber soup as an amuse bouche for our friends Jeni and Ben. We don’t do the amuse bouche anymore when we are entertaining. In fact, we don’t use the word “entertain” anymore. These days, it’s more like we have friends over or we have what you might just call “giant family playdates.” All of which is to say that the cheese plate has never been more vital a move in the married-with-children culinary repertoire. Cause when you’re at the point that we’re at, you just want to buy a bunch of crowdpleasers — cheeses that are somewhere between Kraft twisted bi-color sticks and aged Stilton, things you don’t have to cook or carve or stick toothpicks into — and then be done with it.

Crowdpleaser Cheese Plate
You can find most of these at Murrays, Dean & DeLuca, or Whole Foods.

La Tur (pictured, above) This is an airy, mild cow-milk-goat blend — probably too mild for hardcore cheese afficionados, but kids will eat it like it’s cream cheese.
Point Reyes Blue – Award-winning blue from the family-run northern California dairy farm. For the kids, it’s a good introduction to stinky. For the grown-ups, it’s just plain good.
Humboldt Fog – The bougie staple. It’s a tangy, but not too tangy goat that’s chalky in the middle and creamy around the rind.  I don’t think I’ve been to a party in the last decade where this wasn’t on the cheese board. The kids love it because little layer of ash down the middle makes it look like a piece of cake.
Trader Joe’s Cheese Twists (not pictured, sorry!) Not the actual sticks made of cheese, but the sharp cheddar baked twists, which I usually shove in a jam jar to give the plate some height.
Aged Manchego Aged is operative word. You want something with some bite. My friend Joyce was the first one to tell me to go ahead and pair it with fig or quince paste on a baguette slice. PER.FECT.
Quince or Fig Jam Such an easy way to elevate the spread. And did I mention so delicious with aged Manchego or Parm?
Baguette, preferably fresh, preferably skinny, cut into thin slices. No need to toast.
Halved pomegranate Purely decorative unless my 7-year-old attends your party — she will decimate it in about 3 seconds.

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13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tara // Mar 15, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Great suggestions. This is a fabulous non-traditional way to think about dinner. Sometimes lots of little bites is the best way to get your kids to eat a complete meal and try something new. It sounds like our traditional Sunday night supper. A quick stop at our favorite local spot for great food and we have a super easy supper of several cheeses (the kids are on a Spanish kick presently and have been loving Manchego and Patacabra along with something mild, French and spreadable like D’Affinois), baguette, roasted veggies, olives, fruit. The kids easily eat more at this meal than any other we serve them. And the left over roasted veggies make a great topping for Monday night pizza, at least for the grown ups. The kids are still pizza purists, sauce and cheese only need apply.

  • 2 Jan @ Family Bites // Mar 15, 2011 at 11:56 am

    We used to have family treat night every Friday. We would head to the store and buy, or make, goodies for our movie night. But we’re all cheese fanatics so now we have cheese night every Friday. We try a new variety each week and keep a record of our favorites.

  • 3 mek // Mar 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    We are huge fans of the family cheese plate – we often add fruit and cold cuts and call it a snacky dinner. Though I admit to a bit of woe when our daughter discovered other cheeses were as delicious to her as cheddar and began pillaging “our” side of the cheese plate.

    Alas, we now live in a town without a good cheese market or a Whole Foods, and a good variety of cheese is hard to come by.

  • 4 my name is ish // Mar 15, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Love this! We love the cheese plates. Fig jam is a must. Eating La Tur is a dream of ours (so expensive!), as is buying/eating anything from Cowgirl Creamery. Humbolt Fog is our present favorite. Our kids go crazy for creamy St. Andre, goat, and any kind of blue. We’ve also been into Boursin of late. And yes, Tara, olives!

  • 5 Molly // Mar 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Oh how I love cheese for dinner! I’m a bit of a comte addict, myself. And it’s totally true about Humbolt Fog being a bougie cheese. I had it for the first time at a beer and cheese (yup!) party. The guy who drives the Volvo brought it. :-P

  • 6 Lucy DeCoded // Mar 15, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    We love to have a cheese and meats plate for dinner at least once a month. We like to couple dry sausage or other cured meats to go with our stinky cheese.

  • 7 Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds // Mar 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Gorgeous – really lovely blog.

  • 8 Maria // Mar 16, 2011 at 6:05 am

    Yum, I will definitely have to add some of these to my shopping list in the future. I have to agree about the appeal of the cheese/snack plate as an alternative for supper. We often do this on Sunday nights (after having a larger “Sunday dinner” that leaves me not wanting to cook anymore for the day). My kids’ favorite times are when I bring several plates of cut up nibbles down to our TV room and we watch a movie or have a family Wii tournament.

    We are never as fancy as you all are (most of the cheese I serve is easily pronouced by my 4 year olds! though my 9 year old is a big fan of brie). Still, I have found that the appeal of any food is increased when it is cut up and served with crackers and/or toothpicks. I include veggies, fruits, meat (even cut up hotdogs if I have just a couple–ie. not enough to go around for lunch). Add pickles, olives, etc and you have a feast!

  • 9 dayle // Mar 16, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    my favourite thing in the world! a family cheese plate…delicious. dayle

  • 10 Sharon // Mar 18, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    Along these lines, a friend mentioned a fabulous event her 7 yr old daughter attended. As part of a school or scouting international day, they were pretending to be at a cheese tasting in France. There were 8 cheeses and each girl had a clipboard where they were encouraged to describe each cheese in detail (for a 7 yr old) and then pick their favorites. To make it a meal I think they had bread and fruit, but she said the girls did an incredible job and perhaps tried stuff they wouldn’t otherwise.

  • 11 Weezy // Mar 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    parrano and gruyere…….my 6 yr old loves expensive cheese

  • 12 Briar // Mar 18, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I love the idea of having cheese & fruit for a meal, especially as the weather warms up a bit. La Tur is one of my all-time favorite cheeses, it’s charm lies in its gorgeous texture and sweetness – almost like eating cheesecake!

  • 13 melanie // Mar 24, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I’m thinking of moving to a lighter dinner once a week(cheese, fruit, bread) and this would kick it up for sure. Yum.

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