Monday, December 6, 2010

The Vegas Showgirl of Cheese Plates

Farmhouse Platter, Southwark

No, this is not a feather headpiece. It’s Southwark’s Farmhouse Platter, the second stop on my Tour of Philadelphia Cheese Plates, sponsored by Philly Homegrown. (I sniff out the cheese, and PH picks up the bill.)

Southwark, 701 S. 4th Street, excels at presentation. This homey South Philly restaurant is known for its beautiful mahogany bar, perfect cocktails, and stunning farm-to-table menus. One menu staple: the Farmhouse Platter. 

For $15, this snack plate may be the best deal in the city. You get to sample four artisanal cheeses, an array of house-made charcuterie, plus a hefty helping of olives, fruit, and toasted nuts (filberts, almonds, and pine nuts). With a beer and an appetizer from the main menu, you can make a meal of it.

A pint of Allagash White pairs perfectly – this was the recommendation of Chef Nick Macri, who spirited this work of art to my table last Sunday when I stopped in for a nibble and sip. 

Cheese Plate Blue Prints

Cheeses: Doe Run’s Seven Sisters (PA), Pennsylvania Noble (PA), Anton’s Red Love (Germany), Point Reyes Blue (CA)

Housemade Charcuterie: lomo, duck prosciutto, and rabbit paté with coarse mustard and rustic bread made from locally milled wheat

This is a remarkable cheese plate, and here’s why: the cheeses are perfectly presented at room temperature, and the selections are eclectic. Although flavors collide on this jam-packed platter, you can move from mellow to pungent and snack on palate-cleansing apple fans between bites.

Doe Run's Seven Sisters is buttery and mild, a perfect place to begin. This is a new local cheese presented by Urban Outfitters moghul Richard Hayne, a fashion man turned country landowner who just launched his own dairy.

Pennsylvania Noble, from Green Valley Dairy in Lancaster County, is the state’s most promising clothbound cheddar. It’s crackin’ sharp -- one of my ready steadies whenever I want to impress a British cheese lover.

Anton’s Red Love, well, the name says it all. This Bavarian stinker was a great cuddle partner for the meaty nuts and olives on the plate. If you like Taleggio, this is your next love affair.

Point Reyes Blue is the ice wine of blue cheeses -- bracingly fresh. This was a great final bite after the dreamy lomo and rabit paté. The paté is exquisite, by the way -- carroty and mild. I could eat it every day for lunch.

An Appetizer Not to Be Missed

For a final hurrah, Monsieur Fromage and I tried the warm Shellbark Crottin de Chevre, a pungent cake of goat cheese from Chester County’s Pete Demchur. Demchur, a mechanic-by-day/cheesemaker-by-night, knows how to bring out the pepper. 

This cheese is so intense it will make your eyes water, but it is tamed by preserved plums, roasted radishes, and Chef Macri's bresaola. If you like robust goat cheese – and, honey, I do – this is a must-try item on your next cheese-seeking mission.

Baked Shellbark Crottin de Chevre

And Now...A Giveaway

On Friday, I'm co-hosting a Yuletide Fete of Local Cheese at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market from 6:30-8 p.m. Leave a comment on my blog before 7 p.m. EST on December 7, 2010 and you'll have the chance to win a ticket ($35). I'll draw a random number and announce the winner that evening.


  1. That platter is a piece of art worthy of the finest museum. It's also got me drooling on the keyboard @ 9:15 AM- nice pics.

  2. Well, maybe Tupper Cooks will win cuz I already bought my ticket. I think Paul was tickled (or slightly alarmed) by my enthusiasm or maybe the fact that I labeled myself your cheese stalker. Haha!!

  3. It's a deal at $15. What an amazing collection of beautiful foods.

  4. Man I'd love to win- and I love to visit Philly for about a dozen food related reasons, but distance precludes my attendance! Philly needs to be closer!

  5. Ooh - I'm in Australia but I know a few Aussies in Philly that would be keen to go if I won a ticket for them! Besides - that cheese platter presentation with the fanned apple looks a little like the Sydney Opera House!

  6. From Urban Outfitters to cheese.... that man is making his mark in Philadelphia.

    Lovely cheese plate.

  7. The dices have been rolled. Winner of the free ticket to the Yuletide Cheese Tasting this Friday goes to Salvatore! Thanks for the comments, folks.