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re inventing the cheese board

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
Well I am in a pickle and was looking for some input from chefs here.
Our new GM does not like the cheese board and wants to re do it totally and make it "exciting". I admit out board is fairly generic but it is not that bad. We typically do 5 cheeses with 6 kinds of dried fruits, fresh pear and apple and also grapes. We serve this with warm toasted baguette as well as a selection of crackers.

He wants a wow factor but I am having a brain fart. My thoughts were to get rid of all the fruits and treat it like a regular dish. Take the blue cheese and toast it onto a slice of baguette with some sort of fruit smear, possibly some sort of 1 oz. mini fondue.

My idea was to use the cheese in a mini dish as an ingredient with 2-3 other components I could quickly throw together and serve. We typically have a blue currently Bailey Hazen , a soft cheese like Affinoise, A hard cheese - Bobolink cheddar, a goat - truffle tremor and a whatever cheese which is currently St. Andre.

As for me, I am a pastry chef so I got the cheese job because it was dragging down Garde Manger, admittedly I know little about cheese because it down not interest me that much but would like to know more and be able to think out of the bo with this.
Anyone want to change the world 1 cheese plate at a time??
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post #2 of 10
There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to do a cheese platter. Looks like what you are considering is a huge ideological shift which might impact your menu mix dramatically. You don't talk about the kind of clientele you serve. That's important.

A traditional cheese board is a beatiful thing because of its simplicity. It should be bare bones, naked, let the cheese shine on its own. You mentioned some gorgeous cheeses; they shouldn't be messed with.

That said, it's easy to do a three cheese plate with chutneys, pickles and olives as long as you understand what works with what. Keep it clean, don't let anything touch the cheese. Simplicity again, is key. It's still a fairly traditional "cheese board".

You could do a complete shift and have a cheese course akin to a Thomas Keller "Whipped Brie de Meaux en Feuillete", etc. The problem with that firstly, you are messing with a fine cheese, and second, given the choice, your guests may not want another savoury course, and will opt for a true desert instead.

Personally, I like the rustic cheese board. Have it sitting on the bar on a fabulous wooden board, where it will entice people walking by. It will make them crave for a rough cut hunk of it later at the end of the meal. How you plate it is up to you, but let the cheese speak for itself.
post #3 of 10
I have to second what Anneke is saying. If you are serving really nice cheeses, often the bare bones approach is the best and what guests really want. How many of these do you sell? Exactly why does the GM want to revamp it? I am more apt to order a cheese course if: it is simply cheese and a few garnishes and bread, I can choose from among a selection of cheeses, and I am shown those selections from a larger cheese cart. My favorite cheese service was when I was at Gary Danko's a number of years ago. They had a great cheese cart with may be 12-15 selections. You could choose a tasting of 3, 4, or 5 cheeses. The server knew all the cheeses and even had a number of "flight" suggestions if people weren't sure. They then cut and plated the cheese right off the cart. Our server was great and I ordered a selection of the 4 "stinkiest" cheeses they had.
post #4 of 10
How many cheese plates do you serve per week or each evening?
I am a big fan of simplicity as well, but, also know the powers that
be, although they sometimes haven't a clue, want "out of the box" or
"off the chart" presentations. Three nice cheeses and, a couple of madiera soaked dates and a little honeycomb has always been more than enough for me.
post #5 of 10
Farmstead Cheeses have a lot of buzz now....ditto adding honey comb or a fortified wine jelly.....I soak French Prunes in Makers Mark (some have been soaking for a few years)....

Raincrackers are the heroin of crackers.....thin, crisp, dbl baked raisin, pecan, rosemary crisps that are phenominal with creamy rich spreadable cheese...d'affinoise, bries, triple creams.....very pricey, but if you can make them an ooooo aaaaa affect will eminate from the guests.

Robouchon has a cookbook out with bread recipes gearred toward specific cheeses....


Not sure how viable it is for a restaurant, but having accutraments that are regional with the cheeses would be a cool selling point. For example:

1) Manchengo, membrillo, marcona almonds, maybe some candied orange peel

local for me:
2) Goatsbeard Chevre, goldrush apple slices or pomona apple cider jelly, tiny toasted MO pecans......crostini.....


One of the local restaurants getting national attention has a cheese selection that's about 10 strong from all over the country priced and served by the ounce with crostini and some dried fruit. They've got Cowgirl creamery, a couple of local, some blue, etc.....last time I got a cheese plate there I was underwhelmed by the plate, the cheese was really past it's prime the crostini were thick and cold...(not stale but really not fresh).....when I pop $14+ for a fine dining cheese plate I want quality over anything else.

Chicago Four Seasons, it's been numerous years since I've eaten there......had an incredible cheese cart......apples and pear slices, fresh toast, loads of great cheeses.....the formaggia was really knowledgable

Raisins on the vine or interesting fruits (they can be preserved) is a wow too.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #6 of 10
I personally love a cheese plate no matter how's it's presented, though I personally think that a composed cheese course is a beautiful thing if it all goes together. If you're going to serve one cheese per plate I think a good idea would be to leave the cheese intact (don't turn it into a mousse or something), but part of a nice plated presentation (which I've had at various restaurants). The cheese can touch the other elements and should be the centerpiece of the plate.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #7 of 10
Rat, saw you post a few days ago and it was hanging on at the back of my mind nagging at me, "What would I do in the same sitch?"

If the big boss is all set on re-inventing the wheel, well then make square wheels-- no one said that a re-invented idea had to make sense... So I dunno, maybe a flight of 3 soft cheeses wrapped in phyllo or some kind of wierd crepes, baked off high (450-ish) and very quickly, with some kind of chutneys/ compotes on the side. Very square wheelish, but then that's what they asked for.

OTOH you could go for the "smoke and mirrors" approach. Like every one else, I prefer my cheese just to be cut and otherwise un-molested on the plate. But no one said you couldn't go apeshi* on chutneys/compotes, fruit caviers, etc, that neccesarily don't have to touch the cheese....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #8 of 10
some of the chefs in STL are doing sci fi stuff......pliable discs of sorghum....

Just got Thomas Keller's sou vide cookbook Under Pressure, he's got cheeses in the book, ok....

Forme D'Ambert, pan-roasted cauliflower, anjou pear puree, and tellicherry pepper melba toast


Andante Dairy Acapella, compressed silverado trail strawberries and siciilian pistachio sable

Jasper Hills Winnememre croquante, confit potato, pan-roasted savoy cabbage, and blis maple syrup

salad of heirloom beets, anjou pear, mache, candied walnuts, and blue apron goat cheese coulis

Fine dining sci fi.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #9 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your thoughtfull replies, I am sort of off the hook as the chef decided to micromanage and did the new board himself with no input from me. Funny after reading Anneke's post that is exactly what the chef did. We are buying wood boards as well.

It is funny how things come full circle, initially 8 years ago when the restaurant opened, we did a cheese board with pickles and chutneys. Later we switched to a proper cheese cart (15-20 cheeses)but the servers ate more of the cheese than we sold and it became unmanageable after a while due to lack of supervision. The cart had pickles, chutneys and dried fruits as well as fresh fruit. Then we got rid of the pickles and chutneys sticking with dried fruits, fresh fruits and nuts. After that, we got rid of the cart and went to cheese boards, that didn't work so we went to plated cheese plates, now they are booring and we are not selling any cheese, maybe 8 - 10 a week.

I blame it on myself as I encourage the staff to sell cheese and mention it at staff meetings. The new GM picked up on this and hence the change.

Now we are back to the boards, LOL. After thinking about my proposal I do agree it is far to radical of a change and I am hesitant to present my ideas to the GM.
I also think cheese should be served as is. I will place more of an emphasis on the garni like Foodpump suggested.
Already started on the crackers.
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post #10 of 10
Much can be done to cheese as it is being plated. After customers have made their selection, you can artfully assemble the selection on a beautiful platter with various condiments or on slate or wood. Just because it's simple, doesn't mean it cant be high end. Good luck with the new arrangment!
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