The cheese plate is a must when entertaining, a party show-stopper. Some say a perfect platter can only be obtained by adhering to strict standards. Tips include arranging from the mildest flavor to the strongest, choosing a variety of textures and serving at least one familiar cheese. But for Michel Baudouin — who serves an all-local cheese plate at his Asheville restaurant, Bouchon (62 N. Lexington Ave. http://ashevillebouchon.com) — there are really only two guidelines: “Enjoy with a glass of good wine and nice, locally made, crunchy bread.”
“The reason cheese and wine is a popular combination is very simple,” Baudouin says. “It’s a natural chemistry balance that happens in your mouth. Fat likes acidity and acidity likes fat. Cheese is a fat, and wine has acidity — it’s a party!”
While he acknowledges that some cheeses do mix better with certain wines and with each other on a platter, he still doesn’t suggest heading to a rule book for pairing or grouping. “Do your own matching; discover your favorites.”
At Bouchon, chef Baudouin opts for a trio that includes a soft goat cheese, a cow’s milk brie and a seasonal selection from Three Graces Dairy in Marshall. Three Graces cheesemakers produce a wide selection of fresh chevre — their spring-ramp chevre is a favorite of tailgate-market shoppers — along with a variety of aged cheeses, from gouda to manchego.
Why local cheese? “It’s here, it’s good, and it supports our local economy,” says Baudouin. To further show his support of area farmers and local food, Baudouin will donate a portion of proceeds from cheese plate sales each Thursday in March to ASAP.
Chefs of fellow Asheville Appalachian Grown-partner restaurants (ASAP’s branding-and-certification program) feel the same way, choosing local cheese whenever possible. In fact, The Market Place has also gone local when it comes to its cheese-plate choices. Chef and owner William Dissen keeps his plate fresh by changing cheeses weekly, even daily. The regular cast of characters comes from Three Graces, along with Spinning Spider Creamery in Marshall, Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview, Locust Grove in Knoxville, Tenn. and Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia.
Posana Cafe’s menu also features local cheese selections. The downtown Asheville restaurant serves a local-kale salad with Three Graces Dairy’s manchego or citrus-roasted beets with fresh chevre from Looking Glass Creamery.
Appalachian Grown restaurant menus won’t serve all of their local cheese naked this March. The cheese plate at Bouchon features honey from Haw Creek Honey and local apples in a spiced chutney that goes perfectly with cheeses of the goat, cow or sheep variety. (Recipe in sidebar).
Find a complete list of local-cheese producers and restaurants featuring their products, and learn more about the farmers mentioned here, in ASAP’s Local Food Guide, online at buyappalachian.org. Learn more about Get Local (including next month’s featured food) at asapconnections.org.
Still Thinking Trout?
Although February is officially trout month in our Get Local program, you can enjoy local trout at area restaurants and find it on the shelves of area grocery stores and co-ops year-round.
If you’re a true trout lover, and live or work near Transylvania County, consider trying a CSA from Wayback Farms in the Balsam Grove community. The trout farm offers a unique farm share. Members can choose weekly from all of their production options, which (in addition to trout) includes honey, eggs, fresh herbs and more. Late winter/early spring is the perfect time to sign up for a CSA farm-share subscription. Stay tuned to this column next month for more information on CSAs and ASAP’s second annual CSA Fair, to be held from 3 to 6 p.m. March 29 at the Grove Arcade in Asheville.
For information about Wayback Farms and other area trout producers, as well as restaurants continuing to feature the fish on their menus, browse ASAP’s Local Food Guide online at buyappalachian.org.
— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (asapconnections.org). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.