By Chef Peter Webster of Bouquet Garni Catering
I was visiting my family in northern Ontario last week. I had prepared a “Cocktail Dinatoire” for supper. A Cocktail Dinatoire is simply an offering of hot and cold hors d’oeuvre served instead of a sit down meal.
We started off with a selection of cheeses and a variety of crackers. The purchase of cheese comprised 5 types. My favourite is Roquefort – a blue cheese from France. Not everyone is fond of the smell – some refer to the smell in the same sentence as dirty sweat socks! The texture is creamy and smooth and the taste, in my opinion, is divine.
Another favourite is smoked cheddar. There was no dispute about this one. It is a firm cheese, pale yellow with a golden edible rind. The aroma and taste of the smokiness is irresistible.
The third cheese we served was St Andre. This is a soft white cheese with a creamy buttery texture with a light flavour. What is so good about this cheese is the silky feeling on the tongue – it melts in your mouth.
We also had a wedge of Havarti Cheese. This is a firm cheese that can have many flavour additives from plain to fine herb and our favourite – Jalapeño! The plain is ok but if you add a little zip to the flavour, then you have my vote.
The last cheese we served was a marbled cheddar, flavoured with Guinness beer. The look of this cheese is outstanding. It has a brown exterior and a brown and pale marbling. The taste is mild and you can’t really taste the beer. They also make a red wine cheese, with red marbling, if you prefer.
The cheeses were spread out on a cutting board with a selection of crackers. The brand names of the crackers were Stone Wheat Thins, Vinta and Rice Crackers. The reason we chose these crackers is because they don’t break when you try to spread a cheese on them. I do not like a cracker crumbling when I try to put something on top of it.
What surprised me the most about serving the cheese platter before dinner was the positive reaction it received. Most people serve it after the meal and it sometimes goes virtually untouched. We enjoyed a lot of conversation about the selection and attributes of each cheese. The Roquefort got verbally beat up but it left a lot more of the cheese for those that liked it!
There are so many cheeses available these days. There are some specialty cheese shops out there but the larger grocery stores are now stocking a large selection of cheeses. Pick up a few with a couple of boxes of crackers and have a party. It was a lot of fun.