The Spring Cheese Board

Spring is here, at least we hope so. I live in Annapolis, MD and the rain lingers over us but, thankfully, the weather is beginning to warm. That means we start to explore the outside – think picnics in the park, a glass of wine on the patio or an afternoon by the bay.IMG_6857How can anyone resist a lovely cheese display? A gorgeous cheese board is sure to please every guest and the spring cheeses will liven up any party.  Cheese is a living thing and follows the rhythm of the seasons. Spring is a time for birth: Plants bloom and the farm animals (sheep, goats and cows) produce their calves. This means milk is plentiful and the fresh cheese arrives at the market.IMG_6590It is no secret that I’m a fan of Whole Foods. They have an incredible array of cheeses and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Luckily they have a friendly and helpful staff, knowledgeable about each and every cheese. They are supervised and trained by Mia Jones, who heads up the specialty department and is a Certified Cheese Professional (CCP) for the American Cheese Society (ACS). Once you meet Mia it’s easy to see her passion for the cheeses and the specialty items to pair with them.IMG_6684Mia was so helpful in selecting the cheeses to showcase spring. Her recommendations were not limited to cheese – she helped me seek out the perfect crackers and condiments. The specialty shop carries the most amazing Toschi Cherries, orange blossom honey, biscuits, etc.  Insiders tip:  If you come by any Saturday in May from 12- 4 the Taste of Whole Foods Market will feature samplings of cheeses, specialty items and much more!IMG_6909One of the great things about Whole Foods is that  Bin 201 is located just across the street. When I carted my cheeses over there, they recommended the perfect wines. Now I have everything I need for an easy and elegant way to dazzle guests.IMG_6570Shall we take a look at the cheese selections?  I would like to point out that Cherry Glen is a local producer in Maryland with excellent products.  Each Whole Foods market supports local producers and the selection may vary by location.IMG_6584

Cherry Glen Chevre

Farmstead hand dipped pasteurized goat’s milk fresh cheese

Delicious on its own or with the addition of fresh herbs or a drizzle of honey

Recommended Wine:

Château Reynon “Cuvée de Louis” Bordeaux Blanc 2014, France $15.99

This traditional Bordeaux is 100% Sauvignon Blanc that shows off aromas of lemon curd, tarragon, and minerals that give way to white grapefruit, honey, and spices on a light, crisp body.

IMG_6535Herve Mons St. Nuage

Triple cream, soft ripened pasteurized cow’s milk cheese

Whole Foods exclusive

Mild, buttery and rich, milky, and a little tangy

Delicious on a baguette with some fresh fruit

Recommended Wine:

LILBERT Brut Blanc de Blanc NV Grand Cru Champagne: $67.99

A real old-fashioned charmer, this Champagne is rich,nutty and vibrant. Lilbert is composed entirely of Chardonnay sourced from Grand Cru sites around three villages. Notes of honeysuckle and pear on the nose are followed by citrus on the palate and a round, toasty finish.

IMG_6556Napoleon

Unpasteurized sheep’s milk cheese

Semi firm creamy texture with a buttery flavor

Delicious on its own or served with a mild salami and fresh fruit 

Recommended Wine:

Les GRANGES PAQUENESSES Cremant de Jura Extra Brut NV: $22.99

Made from 100% Chardonnay, this sports  a classic Jura nose of brioche, underbrush and a subtle hint of earthiness. The palate offers flavors of lemon, pear and a distinct rustic charm. A clean hint of minerals on the finish makes this unique sparkler a perfect foil for rich, buttery cheese.

IMG_6884Spring Goat Medallio

Capricho de Cabra rolled in orange blossom honey and dried flower

Beautiful, unique addition to any spring cheese platter

Serve with a sweet cracker and an additional drizzle of honey

Recommended Wine:

LAIL “Blueprint” Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Napa Valley: $49.99

The fruit comes from three vineyards in Napa Valley and is fermented in French oak barrels, of which one-third were new. It’s a delicious Sauvignon exhibiting lots of fig, melon, honeysuckle and caramelized grapefruit. The finish is long and clean with hints of fresh flowers.IMG_6568Cherry Glen Goat Cheese with Chipotle

Soft-ripened half-pound cylindrical shaped cheese with a white mold exterior

It’s more tangy and flavorful than most Brie but ripens to a similar creamy internal consistency

Comes on smoky and follows through with a wonderfully spicy finish

Recommended Wine:

Hugel “Gentil” 2013, Alsace, France $16.99

A traditional blend from an established house in France’s picturesque Alsace region, “Gentil” combines Pinot Gris, Riesling, Muscat, Sylvaner and Gewürztraminer. Fresh aromas of herbs and peaches are followed by flavors of quince, pears and crushed minerals. Sheer and bright with good length, it’s a great compliment to spicy fare. 

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Tips to put together a Cheese Board:

The creamy cheeses look spectacular on a dark board of slate, wood or a metal tray draped with a napkin. Get creative with the presentation. Take a look around your house and think out of the box. Find a couple – put the cheese on one and bread, crackers, etc on the other. There are no rules…Have fun with it!

The spring cheese is perfectly accented with a light, floral Orange Blossom Honey  and the Toschi Cherries you see here.  Compliment your cheese tray with fresh fruit, spreads and jams.  You can find a wide variety in the specialty department at Whole Foods.

Serve the cheeses with an assortment of breads and crackers.  Mia suggested a few cracker varieties that work well with the cheeses to create a stunning display.

Is there anything better than wine and cheese?  They go together hand in hand…need I say more? Once I purchased the cheeses at Whole Foods I headed across the street to Bin 201 for wine recommendations.

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Stop by on Thursday to see the continuation of The Spring Cheese Board – we will explore some wonderful options for dessert cheeses!

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I am grateful for the Annapolis Whole Foods who provided all of the amazing cheese for the creation of this post. I’m a devoted Whole Foods shopper but any opinions or findings you read here are solely my own.  Many thanks to Pete and the staff at Bin 201 for the perfect pairings.

As always, I am most grateful for you, my community and will always do my best to serve you in introducing products that you will find the most useful, amazing, helpful, to keep you sane in the kitchen, at home and on the streets.

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