HOW TO ASSEMBLE A FESTIVE CHEESE PLATTER + AN INTERVIEW WITH CHEESE EXPERT FRANCOIS ROBIN

festive cheese platter

It’s the festive season, and if you’re anything like me then you’ve probably got a calendar packed full of cocktail parties to go to, and dinner parties to host. One of my go-to things to make—and I use the word “make” loosely here—is a nice, festive cheese platter. I like it because all it requires is a few moments of assembling things, and it’s stress-free. All you need is a visit to your local cheese counter, and a well-stocked pantry. And though they require little effort, when done properly cheese platters can look very impressive. Also: who doesn’t like cheese?

I was lucky enough to meet Meilleur Ouvrier de France Francois Robin last week, and I asked him all about what it takes to be an award-winning cheese monger, and which cheeses he loves to include in his festive platters.

I’ll also show you what my cheese platter looks like, and tell you all about the things I love to include.

S: Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?

FR: My name is Francois Robin, and I am a cheese monger. That is, my job is to select, age, and sell cheeses. I’m sort of like a sommelier, but for cheese instead of wine.

S: That sounds very cool. How does somebody get to have a job like yours?

FR: Well, in France, there is a school for that. It’s part hands-on and part theoretical. It takes a year to become a regular cheese monger, five years to become a good one, and ten years to become a really, really good one.

S: You’ve probably tasted hundreds, if not thousands, of cheeses. Do you have a favorite?

FR: Hundreds, not thousands! And I never answer that question because I tend to eat cheese according to my mood. Sometimes I want something punchy and salty, because I want to be woken up. Other times I’ll be at home and I’ll want something comforting and familiar, so I’ll pick something different. I also pick cheese according to the season. So, in short, my favorite cheese depends on my mood at a certain moment, and the season.

S: That’s a great answer! Right now it’s the festive season, and people are entertaining a lot more than usual. Do you have any tips or guidelines for putting together a great festive cheese platter?

FR: My top three tips are:

(1) Take your cheeses out of the fridge 20 minutes before eating them.

(2) Try to have the mildest cheese first, and the strongest cheese last, so you can really taste and enjoy each one.

(3) If you want to have a milder, or more varied experience with cheese, pair it with bread or fruit.

S: What is the ideal number of cheeses to make a good cheese platter?

FR: It really depends on how many people there are, and what you’re trying to achieve. As a rule of thumb, I’d say 5-6 cheeses for 8-10 people, and 3-4 cheeses for 4-5 people. But sometimes you might have just three people that will devour ten cheeses, so it really depends!

S: What kinds of cheeses would you put on a platter?

FR: I’d put one each of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, and goat’s milk cheeses, because it’s classic to do so. I would also vary the texture, so I’d try to pick a runny cheese, a crumbly one, and a hard cheese. If I had to choose three specific types, I’d probably go for Sainte-Maure de Touraine, Vacherin Mont d’Or, and Roquefort. They’re generally easy to find and work really well on a platter.

S: Thank you for your time, and I hope you have a lovely holiday season!

Francois Robin Using Francois’ tips, here’s what I used for my cheese platter, pictured above (clockwise, from the top):

Chabichou du Poitou (goat’s cheese; soft and creamy)

Tomme de Savoie (cow’s cheese; semi-firm)

Roquefort (sheep’s cheese; crumbly, blue)

To complete my cheese platter, I added fig crackers, mini oat cakes, dried cranberries, raisins, dried figs and apricots, grapes, dates, and hazelnuts.

I’d love to know what some of your favourite cheeses are, so please let me know in the comments below.

I hope you have a wonderful festive season!

xo

-S

        

HOW I PREP FOR THE FARMER’S MARKET

I am happiest in the kitchen when the farmer’s market is up and running from mid-November to mid-April. I love waking up early on the weekends and going to the market to pick out fresh, organic produce directly from the farmers. I love grabbing a coffee and a sandwich (or pastry) and sitting in the warm Dubai-winter sun. What I love the most is having delicious, fresh produce to cook with—it’s a welcome change from a lot of the limp supermarket offerings during the summer. Here’s what I do to get ready so that I ca ... Read More
farmer's market prep
        

BITS & PIECES | 13.07.15

I thought I’d ease back into blogging with a quick Bits & Pieces post to give you a glimpse of what I’ve been up to this past week. Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I’m in Italy for the summer, which has been unbelievably hot so far. This past week has been slightly less eventful than most; all my friends who were visiting have left, and I’ve been settling back into a more leisurely routine and catching up on work. Here are snapshots of happy moments from the past few days. {si ... Read More
spaghetti al pomodoro - bits and pieces
        

MY COPENHAGEN FOOD GUIDE – MARCH 2015

Grey skies, old brick buildings, bicycles whizzing past you, and the smell of warm cinnamon rolls wafting through the air as you approach a giant golden pretzel suspended almost mid-air—a symbol that tells you there’s a bakery right underneath. Copenhagen, you stole my heart. Two months ago I traveled to Copenhagen for the first time. It was my stop-over choice on a more adventurous trip to Iceland. I’d always wanted to go to Denmark, largely because of Noma*, but also because I’d heard and read things about the ... Read More
Copenhagen
        

BEETROOT HUMMUS + ZA’ATAR PITA CHIPS

  I really wanted to have an awesome little anecdote for you today, but I don’t. I was going to start this post by telling you about the weather (getting warmer), and how amazing the farmer’s market is right now (so, so great), but you’ve heard all of that before, and I resort to small-talk when writing my posts far too often. So today I’ll just offer up a recipe for this slightly smoky jewel-toned beetroot hummus and tell you a tiny but about why you should go make it now. Here goes:   This beetroot hummu ... Read More
beetroot hummus-2
        
1 2 3 4 5 ... 24 »