Story last updated at 10/17/2012 - 1:57 pm
A benefit of my "day" job is getting to go to different cities for training. For example, this week I went to Cleveland, Ohio. Some may think Cleveland? What's in Cleveland? It's a beautiful city that takes after my heart. Cleveland is a foodie paradise. There are bistros, pubs, fine dining and food trucks everywhere. I was in heaven.
Cleveland is also known for their perogies. I made it my personal mission to introduce my new friend Pete to perogies and to other edible delights such as chocolate martinis. Cleveland also provided me with the opportunity to check off one of my bucket list items - to eat at an iron chef restaurant. If you're not familiar with Iron Chef, it's a cooking competition on the Food Network. The participants are some of the most celebrated chefs to grace a kitchen. Michael Symon is such a chef and to my excitement he has a restaurant, Lola Bistro, located in Cleveland.
I can honestly say that I was so excited to dine there I was positively quivering with the thought. My dinner menu consisted of beef cheek perogies, seared sea scallops with heirloom carrots, apple and country ham. A spin on the bacon wrapped scallop. For dessert I opted for the cheese plate rather than something sweet. Paired with a rich Cabernet it was the perfect meal.
Cheese plates for dessert are very European and end a meal with a wonderful earthiness. Choosing cheeses can be a lot of fun and, for a few, overwhelming. The presentation is what makes it so special - that and a good wine. If you prefer not to drink wine I encourage you to try a sparking cider, robust beer or another festive drink to enhance the cheeses.
When I put together a cheese plate I always have a minimum of three. A hard one like a cheddar, one soft, such as a Brie or goat cheese, and one unique like a good bleu. The accompaniments include fruit (fresh and dried) nuts, crostini and usually a jam or fruit spread. I also include olives to enhance the salty favors of the cheeses.
An interesting thing about cheese is that flavors can become rich and change based upon a drink or other food. For example, I have always found that red wine brings out a peppery flavor in bleu cheeses. Likewise a dried apricot paired with a good Parmesan is incredible. Fresh strawberry slices and Brie served on a toasted buttered crostini is out of this world.
I encourage you to try new flavors and pairings. Invite a few friends over to bring a wine and cheese and have a tasting party.
Or surprise your next dinner guests with a cheese plate for dessert. To get you started, below is a list of items for a simple cheese plate. I have also included a recipe for blackberry red wine jam.
Until next time...
Eat and enjoy,
SIMPLE CHEESE PLATE
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz Parmesan or Spanish Manchego
2 oz goat cheese
2 oz Stilton
2 oz glazed pecans or roasted almonds
2 oz dried apricots
Sliced green apple
Choice of crackers
BLACKBERRY RED WINE JAM
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
½ cup merlot wine
3/8 cup beef broth
2½ tablespoons sugar
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 25 minutes until sauce has reduced and is broth is consistency of syrup. Allow to cool before serving. Store in refrigerator for a week.
Kelly Moore, a.k.a. Midgi, writes and cooks from Juneau. She may be reached at midgi@ mealswithmidgi.com.