Monsieur Fromage likes to joke that nothing makes me happier than a well-stocked pantry, and it’s true. I like to create a cheese board at a moment’s notice. Keeping a stash of nuts and olives on hand makes pairing easy, but it's fun to expand one's repertoire, n'est-ce pas? Here are a few of my loveliest pairing essentials for the cheese lover's lazy susan:
Yes, that is actual honeycomb, beeswax and all. Texturally, it's wonderful, but if you're wax averse, you can just suck out the honey (hopefully you have a long beak). Pair with salty blues, like Point Reyes, or fresh goat cheese. Just cut the honeycomb into hunks and set it out on your cheese board, along with toasted almonds and dried fruit. Note: hunks of honeycomb are also delicious alongside fried chicken.
No joke, this smoky shmear turns an ordinary egg-and-cheese sandwich into 9 a.m. manna. If you have a jar on hand, you'll find it very convenient when a mad horde of vegetarians descends and you want to impress them with canapes. Baconnaise is...uhm...vegetarian. Forget what's in it, and use it to gussy up deviled eggs, a cheese sandwich, or a cardboard veggie burger.
Walnut Oat Crackers
You know I don’t believe in eating cheese with crackers, but in my book these are oat "biscuits," okay? If you have a cheese lover in your life who needs to graduate from Ritz or Saltines, ween the pour soul onto these. They're made by the Fine Cheese Co. in England, which makes an array of life-altering crackers. These are crisp, nutty, gorgeous for decking out goat cheese. You can bet that the Blue Cheese Brit will find this in his stocking.
Harvest Song Preserved Walnuts
These just might be my favorite discovery of the year -- the walnuts are whole, and they're preserved in a delicate syrup that is not too sweet. Pair these with an Alpine cheese, like Gruyere or Comte, and prepare to have your mind fizz. Harvest Song walnuts look like glistening black rocks. Serve them sliced so you don't alienate your neighbors. Exquisite. They're the new escargot.
This citrusy sprinkle from the Middle-East is great for dressing up soft cheeses, like feta or ricotta. It’s also purple, which is strangely appealing. That's because it contains sumac -- you remember those trees from the playground? The purple berries are ground up to make this blend, which also contains thyme, salt, and sesame seeds. Give Zatar a little shake, and you've got fairy garnish. I also put it on hummus and steamed veggies.
Anything from Tait Farm
I am still dreaming about the time I ate Tait Farm’s red raspberry jam with Lazy Lady goat cheese. I haven't been able to return to Smuckers -- I mean, Smuckers and I are done. As you will note, this is actually a jar of chocolate sour-cherry sauce. I will probably eat it unadorned (well, I might wear pearls), but as soon as I finish it, I will run out and buy the red raspberry jam again and a big wedge of triple creme. This jam turns Delice de Bourgogne into a whispering angel.
Boyajian Pure Lemon Oil
I don't actually serve this with cheese, but in the summer I like to add a few drops to a pitcher of water when I host big shots. This is pure lemon oil, which is great for baking. You can also use it to freshen up marinated olives when life is too hinky to get to the store. If you are hosting a tasting of stinkers, you can pass around the bottle for sniffs -- it is quite refreshing.
Gustare Flavored Oils and Vinegars
A friend introduced me to these oils after she visited the Gustare store in Massachusetts. I loved how light and fresh the grapefruit balsamic tasted when she mixed it with taragon olive oil. It was the perfect backdrop to a green salad with fresh goat cheese. If you are in a salad-dressing rut, this will help you renew your vow to eat more spinach.
Two Gander Farm Buckwheat Honey
I am a big drizzler. I like to spoon honey over a hunk of real Parmesan while I am cooking in the kitchen, and I love to serve goat cheese with toasted pine nuts or almonds and buckwheat honey. For an easy appetizer, toast some goat cheese on a slice of baguette, then add a sprinkle of fresh thyme, a few slices of dried fig, and a little Two Gander buckwheat honey. Now you know all my secrets.