Since Anna has embraced the dairy and made the switch from vegan to vegetarian, we've been trying to become a little more knowledgeable about the intricacies of cheese... so that maybe we'd have a vocabulary for tasting a little more sophisticated than "Mmmmm cheese" when we eat it. To that end we've started ordering cheese plates when we go out for nice dinners and interrogating our poor waiters on the selected pairings. We've also gotten some cheese guides from the library and even enrolled in a famous cheese making course... but we've never tried to do any kind of cheese tasting at home. At least not until our friends Lauren and Jaime got us a cheese plate for Christmas (thanks guys!). So this Saturday we headed up to Formaggio Kitchen and basically just asked one of their cheese experts what we should get for a newb cheese plate for two. They told us you generally want to hit all three types of milk... cow, sheep, and goat... and you also want a range of hardness. So after a few samples we ended up with a hard sheep's milk cheese (Paglierino - picture, description), a semi-firm cow's milk cheese (Gorwydd Caerphilly - picture, description), and a soft goat's milk cheese (Mothaise Sur Feuille - picture, description). We also asked for some advice on what we might serve with the cheese, and were steered in the not terribly surprising direction of wine, bread, fruit, nuts, and honey. What was surprising was the suggestion of mostarda: an Italian condiment of preserved fruit in a mustard based sauce. I know that probably sounds a bit weird, but it was a really amazing flavor combination and quite unlike anything I've had with cheese.... heartily recommended.
I won't bore you with any neophyte attempts to talk like a cheese expert, but all the cheeses were excellent. Though my favorite was the goat cheese spread on a piece of bread and topped with some mostarda. Man, that sounds delicious just typing it out... good thing we still have some left over. But like I said, they were all great, and it was pretty intriguing how having a cheese with honey and nuts accented quite different flavors than say... a grape... or some mostardo. I'd definitely advise having a few different condiments to try with any cheese.
Anyway, it was a really fun experience and a solid "date night" at home... and with no cooking required, so that's a nice bonus. Perhaps a good Valentine's Day idea?