Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cheese at Reading Terminal Market - as recommended by the experts!

We assembled our own "flight" of cheeses from merchants at the Reading Terminal Market
What's a cheese condiment?  It's a food that plays a valuable supporting role on your cheese plate.  It includes chutneys, pastes, preserves, fresh or dried fruit, nuts - you name it, use your imagination.  The sensational cheese plate we enjoyed at Talula's Garden (see previous post) tipped us off to how these food pairings enhance one's appreciation of cheese.  We also stumbled upon a learned website, appropriately enough called The Nibble:  Great Food Finds which explains in detail the pseudo-science behind this food combining.  Interesting to note, that no-one mentions crackers anywhere...

To reproduce the visual and epicurean feast we enjoyed last month at Talula's Garden, we nipped into the Reading Terminal Market and interviewed the cheese merchants there; both Downtown Cheese and Salumeria were especially helpful. 

We also loved the labelling at Fairfood Farmstand - you felt like you were on first name terms with the cow that made the cheese by the time you'd read the label. 

Blue Suede Moo Cheese from FairFoods
And, most impressively, Fairfood Farmstand does all the work for you by recommending not only the condiments best suited to accompany that particular cheese, but even suggests the type of beer or wine that will bring out the best in that cheese.

Our own cheese plate featured, amongst others Cherry Glen Crottin; Uncle Joe's from Clover Creek Creamery; Bichrun Blue Raw Cow (these last two came from FairFood and have comprehensive 'tasting notes') and best of all a near liquid soft cheese called Delice de Bourgogne from Downtown Cheese.  This cheese is quite soft straight from the fridge; imagine it when served at room temperature!  It turned positively gloopy and was unanimously voted the star cheese on our cheese plate this weekend.  Try it, do.

The following cheese and condiment pairings were suggested by Aimee Olexy, owner and Maitre d' at Talula's.

  1. Parmesan with olives (a dry, crumbly cheese works well paired with juicy olives).
  2. Gouda cheese, which is quite oily and rich, served with caramel provides an unexpected contrast.
  3. Cheddar for good reason is traditionally served with something tart like an apple slice or a quince paste (membrillo is the Spanish name for this conconction).
  4. A fresh local (PA) farm cheese like ricotta or mozzarella is lifted to even greater heights by the addition of sweet - now in season - cherry tomatoes.
Other vendors worth visiting at the Market to source exotic condiments include gourmet grocer Jonathon Best (for marcona almonds and preserves); Salumeria for a wide selection of olives and the Pennsylvania Dutch for preserves and fruit chutneys.

Rhubarb compote, a wonderful flavor foil to cheese, and it beautifies the presentation with its gorgeous color.

Check out the olives at Salumeria.  Ummm.

We also tried this unusual fig bread, a compressed block of figs, which you slice thinly before serving.  This version from Downtown Cheese provides an interesting talking point because it includes chocolate, which we'd never seen before....

So what's your crowd-pleasing combo?

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