Fall is the perfect season to make a great cheese plate. Well, okay, it’s always a great time to make a cheese plate, but this time of year it’s all about warm spices and flavors —think cinnamon, pumpkin, maple —that pair phenomenally with the freshness, sharpness or richness of paired cheeses. Fruit flavors should be cozier and warmer too, like figs and baked apples. And always keep some room on the plate for tart —cranberries, grapes, even green olives from Whole Foods Market’s olive bar. Come on in, hang your coat over there and get ready to build a fall cheese plate.
First things first. How much cheese should you buy? A good rule of thumb when buying cheeses is 2 ounces per guest.
These cheeses have been aged a few weeks at most —you can taste the youthfulness in the bright tangy cream and the soft, spreadable texture. The tart zing of fresh goat cheese spread onto a cracker with a dollop of warmly sweet Dalmatia Fig Spread is cheese plate heaven. Wellspring Creamery’s Pumpkin Goat Cheese builds flavors of fall warmth right into the cheese —it’s great on its own, spread onto a slice of rustic bread or a thin cracker, and you can only find it here.
From color to texture to rich, sharp flavor, cheddars are the poster cheeses of fall. Black Creek Vintage Cheddar is tangy and earthy, finishing with just a hint of sweetness. Take a bite, then have a red grape —yum! The near-crumble texture is great with the juicy richness of charcuterie like Prosciutto di San Daniele or a thin, savory slice of porchetta. (An idea to keep in your back pocket: grilled cheese sandwich.) Henning’s Cranberry Cheddar is dotted with sweet, tart cranberries and also perfect with red grapes or ripe fig. Henning’s is a multiple award-winning producer — one taste and you’ll see why. And it’s only available here.
More Cheeses to Consider
Cheeses with rich, nutty flavors work especially well on a fall cheese plate. Isigny Sainte-Mère Mimolette shows a striking orange interior with a tough, craggy, tan-colored rind —the whole cheese looks like a cantaloupe! Firm and savory with a rich, nutty finish —take a trip to the olive bar for this cheese. Marinated olives work well, especially savory, tender Castelvetrano olives.
Accompaniments and Crackers
Look for ways to create warm sweetness on your cheese plate. Fruits of autumn like red apples, red grapes, pomegranate and fig are perfect here. And think chocolate. Madécasse Chocolate Discs are made from bean to bar at the origin –in this case the origin is Madagascar. These dark chocolate discs are rich and lush with notes of berries.
Crackers should be thin and crisp, flavored enough to complement but not overpower. Lesley Stowe produces both Raincoast Veggie Flats and Butternut Squash & Canadian Maple Syrup flatbreads, the latter of which brings a balanced sweetness to that slice of cheddar. Lovely with a blue or triple-crème too. 34° Cinnamon Crisps (from Sydney, Australia on the 34th parallel, hence the name) are feather-light and thin, subtly hinting at sweet and cinnamon. Pairs so well with cheddars, soft ripened cheeses (like brie or fresh goat cheeses) and fruits alike. A great savory cracker option is Rustic Bakery’s Rosemary & Olive Oil flatbread. Dried rosemary is kneaded into these thins, making them appealingly aromatic. Yes to sharp cheeses.