The Art of the Cheese Plate

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Bar Covell is one of L.A.’s (and the country’s) most celebrated wine bars and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go in the early evening to meet a friend before grabbing dinner. The wine is always interesting and carefully selected and, if you’re hungry, they make a cheese plate that pretty much puts all other cheese plates to shame. I mean, look at it. It’s like the world’s most awesome clock except instead of numbers you have cheese. And not just cheese but, and this is important, little pairings of various textures, shapes, and flavors that take the cheese in totally new directions. It’s what’s separates a “just OK” cheese plate from a cheese plate that makes you go “wow.”

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Mac with Cheddar, Gruyere & Blue Cheese

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Funny, I was running on a treadmill when this wonderful gut-bomb of a recipe came into my life. Naturally, I was watching The Barefoot Contessa and she was planning a romantic weekend with Jeffrey, prepping the meal ahead so they could spend the day at Sag Harbor and have a montage of Ina laughing (what a laugh!) while Jeffery awkwardly asks, as if it’s spontaneous, “How are you going to make dinner tonight if we’ve been running around all day?” Ina winks at the camera because we know, like she knows, that the mac and cheese is already made. It’s in the refrigerator next to the lemon curd for the lemon tart. Jeffery has no idea what’s coming and the whole thing is so riveting, I’ve gone three miles and don’t want to stop. Such is the power of watching Ina at the gym.

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Cheese from Georgia

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When I was in Birmingham for Food Blog South, I met a nice guy named Mat Willey who works for a company called Sweet Grass Dairy. “We make cheese,” he explained, “in Georgia.”

Cheese from Georgia? Even though I lived in Georgia for 7 years (Atlanta, to be exact), I wasn’t particularly excited about eating cheese from The Peach State. I mean, I wasn’t against the idea, but it wasn’t causing me to hop up and down with excitement. He kindly offered to send me some cheese in the mail (a risky proposition, but there are ice packs) and I almost forgot all about it until the cheese arrived at my door.

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My Best Grilled Cheese

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This post is sponsored by Wisconsin Cheese which is hosting The 2013 Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown where you can win a $4,000 Gourmet Kitchenware Package. What really got me excited to participate was the opportunity for me to come up with the best grilled cheese I know how to make. And while I’ve made gourmet grilled cheese on my Gourmet Grilled Cheese night, I’ve never mastered the straightforward all-American grilled cheese. Until now.

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Cauliflower Gratin with Gruyère and Goat Cheese

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Call me a freak, but I get excited about cauliflower. It’s got great texture and, when cooked properly, can yield lots of big flavor. Most often I roast it in the oven or I caramelize it in a pan; not very often do I boil it, but even boiled cauliflower can hold its own.

On Sunday, I was asked to bring a “vegetable side” to Craig’s aunt and uncle’s Easter brunch. I imagine most people, when presented with this request, would make a crowd-pleaser like mashed potatoes or roasted carrots or mashed potatoes with roasted carrots mashed up in there too which actually sounds kind of good but no one really makes that. Me? I went for a cauliflower gratin.

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Casellula, Maison Kayser & Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria

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You may not be surprised to learn that when it comes to what I eat, at any given moment, I can be a bit of a control freak. In fact I have a theory that most food people are control freaks: what better way to control what goes into your body than to become an expert on the subject? It’s rare to find a food person grabbing handfuls of snack food willy-nilly off a snack cart. Give a food person the opportunity to select his or own snack from a larger selection and a careful decision will be rendered. That makes us discerning, but also kind-of obnoxious in terms of going with the flow.

So lately, I’ve been going with the flow. The other night I met my friend Lauren for dinner and when she suggested a restaurant I’d never heard of–Casellula off 9th Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen–I said “sure.” Turns out that’s the best decision I’ve made in a long time.

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Last Minute Gougères

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On Saturday night, with 45 minutes left to go before our friend Dara was due to drop by for drinks, I made a drastic decision. I decided to make gougères.

This seemed like a drastic decision because: (a) I didn’t have the right cheese in my refrigerator and (b) I’d have to dirty the kitchen and a bunch of dishes just before the arrival of a guest. Things would be messy, things might burn. This was dangerous drink-hosting and I was living right on the edge. That’s what made it all so exciting.

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The Return of CHEESE FOR DINNER (with Heidi’s Oat Soda Bread)

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You may remember May 12, 2009 as the day in history when I served cheese for dinner. I wrote a post about it called Cheese For Dinner and 47 of you left comments because you were so shocked and disturbed by the idea. Cheese for dinner? How can you eat cheese for dinner?

Actually, most of you had the opposite reaction. “I love cheese for dinner!” one of you wrote. So, last week, traipsing through Murray’s Cheese on my way back to the apartment I decided to revisit the concept. I picked up two kinds of cheese, a box of salad greens and a pear from the bodega close by and prepared myself for the return, the return of CHEESE FOR DINNER.

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