A good cheese plate can be a thing of beauty. You know, a plate containing one sheep, one goat, and one cow’s milk cheese (a hard, a soft, and a semisoft), plus a fruity counterpoint, maybe a few nuts, and some bread. A cheese cart rolled to your table-side? That’s even better. But what about the elusive composed cheese plate? A dish where the chef creates something even bigger around a specific cheese or cheeses.
It’s not often that chef-curated plates of cheese sit aside sweets on the dessert menu. There are plenty of places with create-your-own platters, usually high-end restaurants or wine bars. However, a couple of restaurants have recently created dessert dishes that put the cheese center stage.
When Zak Pelaccio brought his Brooklyn barbecue concept, Fatty ‘Cue, into Manhattan, one of the first things that reviewers mentioned was the addition of the composed cheese plate. Crisp chunks of toasted brioche are scattered over blue cheese (originally it was Shaker Blue, now they’re using Big Boy Blue), brown butter powder and solids, honey vinegar jelly, and jackfruit parfait. The result hits all of the right notes — buttery from the bread, sharp from the cheese, and exotically fruity. There’s also a less talked about Spring Brook Tarentaise with cured tomato and Chinese mustard.
Another new restaurant that boasts a cheese-driven dessert is the Upper West Side’s Gastroarte. Order the Dreaming With Cheesecake and you’ll be presented with a large plate covered in orbs of varying sizes. Each holds a different flavored “cheesecake.” The largest, a tennis-ball-sized white chocolate ball, holds a blue cheese and mascarpone mousse. The smaller ones hold mascarpone and fruit combinations. There are swirls of fruity sauces to compliment the cheese. The whole thing looks like a fifth-grade project on the solar system.
Perhaps the chef-curated cheese plate is a thing that will carry into the future. Perhaps with the decline in interest of molecular gastronomy it will fall by the wayside. Whichever way it goes, its certainly a cheesy way to top off a meal right now.