I made this cheese basket for a ghoulish gathering of friends last weekend. Cheeseboards and baskets are fun to make and with a little thought and creativity can easily take center stage at a buffet table. I never tire of arranging and decorating them, using the season and holidays as inspiration. For this Halloween-inspired cheese basket I picked autumnal decorations with a creepy twist. I created a border of spiky, frizzy greens with dark, purplish leaves and black, woody garnishes. The cheese selection was equally ghoulish: ash-rubbed cheese, a moldy blue, stinky and runny cheese and orange pockmarked cheese. The crisps and crackers were dark, rough and seeded, weaving through the cheese like wood in the forest.
All of the garnishes and decorations are edible and include:
Mustard greens, chicory, purple kale, frisée, miniature red pears, black radishes, burdock root, gourds and baby pumpkins, black olives, pumpkins seeds, dried currants and cranberries.
Crisps and snacks were chosen for color, shape and texture:
Corn nuts, black sesame rice crackers, cranberry hazelnut crisps, crisp flatbread, and chunks of dense fig and almond cake.
Black slate created the background and lined the basket interior, provided a sturdy surface to cut the cheese while various wooden and black vessels contained wayward runny cheese and little nibbles.
Not only did the cheeseboard look good, it featured a thoughtful selection of cheese that ranged from soft and mild to strong and aged. When you gather a selection, try to balance it in strength, texture, flavor. As a starting point I often include a blue cheese, a creamy white-molded cheese such as camembert, a goat cheese and a hard alpine cow or sheep milk cheese.
Cheese pictured in this basket includes (clockwise from top center):
1. Cowgirl Creamery Sir Francis Drake washed rind cheese with currants
2. Sharp white Cheddar with a Purple Rind – selected for color
3. Aged Gouda Saenkanter – an orange, sharp, nutty Dutch cows milk cheese
4. Adante Dairy “Nocturne” cows milk cheese with gray mold and ash
5. Seal Bay Triple Cream – mild, oozing and runny
6. Gorgonzola Mountain – crumbly and streaked with blue
7. Petit Brebiousse – a French ewe’s milk cheese with an orange rind
So have fun – enjoy all of the fabulous cheese and remember to save some for the guests. Bon appétit!