“On ne peut pas acheter le bonheur. On peut cependant acheter du fromage,
c’est presque pareil.”
One cannot buy happiness. One can, however, buy cheese,
which is nearly the same thing.
Cheese! Is there anything better in this world? Very few things, from our perspective.
We’ve learned to build a cheese tray from the French and we have a few tips if you’re looking to do it in a traditionally French way. The custom in France is to serve an odd number of cheeses (often 3, 5 or 7).
First rule, take the cheeses out of the fridge 1.5 hours before serving. The flavors develop fully at room temperature. Soft cheeses with a bloomy rind need warmer air to unfold. Harder cheeses yield their essence when at room temperature.
When building a cheese platter, a classic approach is variety. It is lovely to include the three types of milk: cow, sheep and goat and to provide a variety of tastes - pressed, soft and blue…from mild to strong and more or less refined. Cheeses shouldn’t touch on the tray and there should be a bit of space for cutting them.
Cheese should be arranged clockwise and eaten in increasing order of intensity. The cheese board here is set up that way, from the mildest cheese - Fleur du Maquis - around the tray to the most intense - the Bleu de Queyras.
1. Fleur du Maquis | Sheep | Corsica
2. La Tomme aux Fleurs | Cow | Charentes
3. Satonnay Citron-Curry | Goat | Hurigny
4. Comté réservation (aged 32 months) | Cow | Doubs
5. Bethmale de Chevre | Goat | Pyrénées
6. Brebis Espelette | Sheep | Pays Basque
7. Bleu de Queyras | Cow | Queyras
If you are building a small cheese tray, it is also traditional to select 3 cheeses from the same region. In this way, it is a deep dive into a specific terroir - or part of the country. 3 cheeses from the same region such as the Savoie: an Abondance AOP Pochat & Fils, a Reblochon de Savoie AOP Pochat & Fils and a Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage AOP. You can’t go wrong pairing these cheeses with a good wine from the same region - a very typical choice by the French.
The designation “AOP” in France is an important one. L’Appellation d’origine protégée (AOP) is essentially a protected designation of origin. It guarantees that the production of the cheese (in this instance, although the same applies to wine and other products) has been supervised and was carried out according to a specific savoir-faire from that geographic area. It applies to the process of how the cheese is made, all the way to the name of the cheese itself. Names of great wine and cheese in France are all regional - for the places they hail from.
And while the cheese is the most important element of a platter, make sure you have some lovely crusty bread to serve along with it.