Cheese is more than buying a block of yellow cheese in a plastic wrapper from your local grocery store. There are so many different kinds of cheese and flavors of cheese that you need to search out the best places to buy cheese. There are specific things you can do that will help keep the freshness of your cheese and surely enhanced the unique flavors and textures of the varieties you are fond of.
When buying cheese ponder these three questions.
1) Where do I buy good cheese?
Check at any specialty grocery store or gourmet shop.
Other sources include a cheese-only market and even some restaurants specializing in cheese. Believe it or not, these restaurants will sell to you if you ask. Numerous large cities have restaurants that serve just cheese and wine.
Another idea is to buy your cheese online. http://www.CheeseSupply.com is an excellent resource for buying all kinds of cheeses.
2) How much should I buy?
Buy just what will be eaten within a few days. Flavors and fragrance of top-grade cheeses change with time in a refrigerator.
3) Characteristics of Cheese
Cheese ought to have the characteristics of that distinct type. The inside should not have cracks, mold or blemishes in any way.
Natural rind cheeses have a rind on the outside which is a side product of production. Blue or Roquefort styles all have mold and cracks; these are typical characteristics of these types of cheeses.
Have fun sampling cheeses. Choose flavors by following your pallet and that appeal to you.
Storage Guide for Gourmet Cheese
After you've bought your favorite cheese and brought it home, it's a good idea to remove it from the plastic wrap or plastic bag it was packaged in. The wrapping the cheese comes in from the store is only good for moving the cheese from the store to your home. Once at home, rewrap the cheese in either parchment paper or wax paper. This will allow circulation of air and moisture around the cheese - a process that is integral to keeping the cheese in great condition and keeping it longer and fresher.
If you are serving cheese, make sure you don't serve more than 5 varieties at a time. For interest, vary the shapes, sizes, and flavors. It's always good to use a wooden board or marble slab to serve your cheese selection. A silver tray with a wood insert is a tasteful way to add a special touch.
Try not to crowd the serving tray with your selection - it's much more appealing that way. Keep bread or fancy crackers on a separate serving dish. If the cheeses you are serving have strong individual flavors, use separate serving trays and utensils. The reason for this is that the milder flavors will pick up aromas and tastes from stronger flavored cheeses if you mix them too closely.
Cheese is great when served with fresh fruit such as pears, apples, grapes, fresh figs, melon and fresh strawberries. And try this for a twist, even thinly sliced onions are a wonderful accompaniment. Just remember to slice and cut up all of the onions, fruits and fancy breads as thinly as possible and into bite-size pieces for easy eating.
Cheese served as a dessert is not a new idea, but can be very elegant after a gourmet meal. You could also serve it as a light course after the entree and before your dessert.
Cheese can be filling, so if you are serving a selection of cheeses for an appetizer, make sure you have a light meal to follow.
How do you like your cheese?
Chilled or served at room temperature? There is no right answer as it is strictly a matter of your taste and preference. Having said that, a good rule of thumb is: cheese at room temperature has more flavor than cheese served chilled. Particularly for the Bries and Camemberts.
Another tip: if serving at room temperature, take out your cheese selection about one half hour before serving. But watch it! If the cheese starts to “sweat", you have left it out a little too long. Enjoy!
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Sara Gray is an avid lover of appetizers and has created a great website called Easy Appetizer Recipes where you can find delicious ideas for all kinds of hot and cold appetizers, raclette grilling, tapas small plates, snacks, chips and dip ideas, and appetizer soups.