Many people have heard me describe myself as a "big mouse". This isn't because I am small, or even quiet for that matter, but because I have a secret love affair with one thing; cheese. My love affair started at an early age. Le Petit Quebec cheddar was a staple in the Lavallée home. Next came the cheese curds; those squeaky and salty bits that I would always purchase at Maple Dale Cheese (outside of Tweed, Ontario) when going on any car trip to satisfy my need for cheese. As I grew up, so did my taste buds. When going out for dinner with my parents, instead of ordering the usual cream puff or chocolate cake for dessert, I, a fourteen year old, would opt for a cheese plate. During my first year away from home, my diet consisted of saltines and any number of cheeses; Smoked Cheddar, Brie, Bleu, and my old time favorite, extra old cheddar. Needless to say, those were the tastiest years of my life!
Now, you might think that I am exaggerating about my love affair, but believe me, I am not. My husband can attest that one of the first things he remembers about me is when he took me to the Halifax Farmers' Market and brought me over to "That Dutchman's" cheese booth so I could purchase a piece of Extra Old Growler. Once I had that piece of cheese in my hands, I tore off the plastic cover, placed it in it's brown paper bag and started sniffing it. Ah, the sweet aroma of a piece of aged gouda! Now, my husband did find this a little peculiar, but he admits that it's one of the reasons he married me!
One of the great things about living in Canada is the insane amount of great Canadian cheese we have! From British Columbia, to Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canadian cheese is a crowd pleaser.
At home, we are never without a few of these cheeses; havarti from Fox Hill Cheese House, and gouda from That Dutchman's Farm, just to mention some of the local cheeses. The only downfall from my cheese buying, is that I have one drawer in my fridge that is dedicated to cheese, and is often full of cheese "nubbins" (all those little bits that tend to never be eaten).
I have the great job of being able to taste, cook and create with some amazing Canadian cheese for the next few months thanks to the Dairy Farmers of Canada and their "Simple Pleasures" campaign. Want to know what cheeses to try or which our my favourites? Check out their page "All You Need Is Cheese". Also, make sure to check out more of my pictures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Now that you have all this cheese knowledge, how about offering a cheese platter the next time you have guests? I know that a lot of people find it daunting to put together a cheese plate, but it is as easy as pie! Here are a few tips for creating a memorable cheese plate:
- Make sure to buy cheese that you are familiar with, or have tried at the store. (nothing worse than buying something "new" and getting it home to find that you think it's awful!). Also, make sure to look for the "blue cow" 100% Canadian Milk symbol when buying Canadian cheese.
- Keep it simple! I cannot stress how important it is to keep things simple and not try to over do it. I have seen first hand how horrendous a cheese plate can look and taste when someone has tried too hard to impress.
- Try to have a theme. Whether you are going all Canadian, all local, all blue or all soft/hard, make sure that your cheeses have a theme or at least are compatible with one another.
- Make sure to have some great accompaniments! Fresh figs or beautiful Medjool dates go well with cheese, as do grapes, pears, nuts and apples. Try to be creative and add some preserves or jellies (red pepper jelly is great with brie!) or even some honey drizzled on top of an extra old cheddar. You also want some crackers or bread; a fruit bread like a honey-apricot or even toasted raisin bread impresses the guests.