Local cheese love for my Oscar party cheese plate

(Mostly) local cheese plate | southjerseylocavore

Every year my friend Challey has friends over to watch the red carpet entrances and as much of the actual Academy Awards that we can all stay for until we begin to say, “I have to go. I have to get up in the morning.” I think that I’ve stayed till the final award just once over the years, but that’s okay. The fun part is being with friends, seeing all the glamorous gowns, and sharing good food and drink. Since it’s the Oscars, Challey always serves bubbly – there was both Champagne and Prosecco. And I always bring a cheese plate because well, cheese.

Three of the four cheeses on my plate this year came from the market side of Farm and Fisherman Tavern & Market in Cherry Hill, my new home away from home. The market’s selection of local cheeses is slowly growing and while it’s not immense, it has a variety of wedges from local dairy farms. As far as I know, there’s no other market in South Jersey with this type of local selection. I tasted several of the cheeses in the case, and I choose three for my plate.

Cherry Grove Farm Buttercup Brie (bottom left) – I didn’t need to sample this cheese to know it would make the cut. This brie from Lawrenceville, NJ has long been one of my favorites. In the summer, I’ve been known to take Buttercup Brie, a local wildflower honey, and crusty bread with me on Friday night to the pool to share with friends (along with the contents of a bottle of Sharrott Winery’s Pinot Grigio cleverly hidden in a large Sigg bottle, shhhhhh…….). This sweet, buttery cow’s milk brie is always a hit wherever I take it, and Sunday night’s party was no exception. Challey’s teenage daughter and her friends went gaga over it. I could have taken an entire wheel and it would have been gone before Jared Leto gave his acceptance speech.

Yellow Springs Farm Nutcracker (bottom right) – My mouth is watering thinking about this semi-soft goat cheese that’s spent 60 days immersed in spent walnut fruits, leftover from making Nocino, an Italian liqueur. It was nutty and tangy and salty. This absolute new favorite of mine comes from Chester Springs, PA.

Valley Shepherd Trioche – (top right) –  A lovely mutt of a cheese – 55% cow’s milk, 25% goat’s milk, and 20% sheep’s milk, made in Long Valley, NJ. Nutty and buttery, this cheese was beautiful on it’s own. I have the desire to buy more, though, to melt in a grilled cheese sandwich or make it into a cheese sauce – there was just something about it that told me it would be wonderful melted.

Maytag Blue – (top left) – One of the things missing from Farm and Fishersman’s cheese selection is a stinky cheese, something they told me they’re planning on rectifying. So I went with a wedge of the crowd-pleasing Maytag Blue – a creamy, mildly stinky, very approachable blue cheese. Made in Iowa, this cheese is widely available – I picked it up at Shoprite.

Of course, when you create a cheese plate, there must be crackers and accompaniments. For this selection, here’s what I added.

  • 34 Degrees Crisps – The cracked pepper and whole grain varieties
  • Di Bruno Bros. Olive Oil Crostini 
  • Sliced pear and green apple
  • Quince boiled in a spice syrup from Farm and Fisherman – It was so good with the brie
  • Shredded fermented cabbage (I think) from Farm and Fisherman – I’m still trying to find out exactly what it was that was so amazing paired with the Nutcracker. I think it was shredded cabbage, which I know is sauerkraut, but I hate sauerkraut and I loved this.

Over the past couple of years I’ve made several cheese plates, and they’re always good because cheese is always the star. This is the best one I’ve put together so far.

I know you’re a supporter of local foods because you’re reading this blog. If you haven’t made your way into Farm and Fisherman Tavern & Market yet for a meal or to take home foods from the market, put it on your to-do-really-soon list. The food in the tavern is excellent, the selection in the market will thrill you, and I can’t say enough good things about the entire staff.

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