When it comes to building a cheese plate, variety is key. A range of cheeses present guests with the ability to pick and choose their favorites of the evening, and to gradually experience funkier cheeses. For a great cheese plate, the accompaniments are just as important.
While the standard go-to additions of dried, cured meats and fruit are always incredibly delicious, adding a variety of honeys to your platter is another interesting way to switch things up.
Honey, like wine, takes on the flavors of the area from which it comes, with the flowers that pollinating bees travel to making an impact on tastes, textures and nuances of the finished product. Also like wine, honey is available in varietals, in which a honey is collected from bees who travel to only one type of flower, like lavender, rose or sunflower. The associated floral notes of the honey are heightened in these cases, making them pair better with certain cheeses over others.
Photo courtesy of nebulux76 via Flickr/ccWith warm honeys like buckwheat or clover, nutty cheeses like Parmesan or alpine are divine. We love the combination of rich buckwheat honey with an unsmoked, hard gouda. The depth of flavor in the warmer honey really plays off of the nutty nuances of the cheese.
Citrus honeys are great for a range of cheeses, including everything from goat and camembert to Gruyere and brie. In our pairings, a slightly zesty orange blossom honey paired perfectly with both a creamy, buttery cow's milk cheese and a more classic spreadable goat. It also played nicely with a mild blue, cutting through some of that strength of flavor.
With a gentle varietal honey or a more basic honey made from wildflowers, ricotta salata is an excellent choice. These honeys can have more overt sweetness, so the more low key and versatile flavor profile of the ricotta salata is a great pairing.
The key to finding great cheese and honey pairings is experimentation. While we've offered some simple guidelines for pairing, the fun is in testing out all of your options! So pick up some cheeses and honey and start tasting.
For more guidelines to working with cheese, see our article on building the perfect cheese platter.