For a fast hors d’oeuvre, nothing is tastier, easier or prettier than a cheese board assembled from a few great cheeses, some fresh bread and seasonal garnishes.
Recently, I wrote an article for 225 Magazine on “Goat Lady” Wanda Barras, the farmstead cheese maker from St. Martinville, Louisiana, who sells her award-winning Belle Ecorce goat’s milk cheeses at the Red Stick Farmers Market in Baton Rouge. Barras’ cheeses are officially “farmstead,” as opposed to “artisan,” because she uses milk from her resident herd of Nubian and La Mancha goats instead of milk purchased from an outside source. Her cheeses are absolutely delicious. I picked some up this past weekend after doing a cooking demo at the Saturday market.
Recently, Barras added a few Jersey cows to the mix, and now she’s also producing delicious aged cow’s milk cheeses. She has at least three regular varieties of bleu and the Camembert (pictured here), which is vibrant and punchy. Its flavor profile and texture is so much more complex than the garden variety Camemberts in the supermarket. I’ve also got a few of her flavored chevres here, including the cracked pepper and red pepper-topped Parisian. They’re creamy and sublime.
I like to serve cheese with toasted slices of a fresh whole grain baguette, and I love to throw in some quince paste (membrillo), which goes nicely with a salty cheese like Manchego, its traditional mate, or even good Parmesan.
Don’t sweat the food styling. Thankfully, expectations for arranging a cheese board have become increasingly relaxed. Over-the-top Martha Stewart is out. The more natural and loose the platter looks, the better.