Some people say, "Eat dessert first." I say, "Eat cheese for dessert." Imagine my joy when James Coogan, manager of New York City's Ideal Cheese, brought in a tray of five unique cheeses for today's Cooking with Emeril show. Let's just say this: I skipped lunch.
At the top of the plate, there's Quadrello di Bufala from Italy, a soft cheese similar to Tallegio but made with buffalo milk in place of of cow's milk. On the right, there's Roncal, an aged sheep cheese from Spain with a chewy texture and nutty flavor. At the bottom, there's Capra Verde Cremificato, a very creamy goat milk blue cheese that tasted like a mild gorgonzola. On the left, there's a three-and-a-half year old Comtè Marcel Petite, a hard cheese from France that had a nice hazelnut flavor. Last but not least, in the middle, there's a wheel of Stanser Rotelli, a soft and creamy reblochon-style cheese from Switzerland.
Emeril shops at Ideal Cheese often because they don't just stock excellent cheeses, they take good care of their products and their customers. James told listeners to find a good shop in their own neighborhoods by looking for cheesemongers who are knowledgable and always slice the cheese by hand at the time of sale rather then pre-wrapping in suffocating plastic. When storing cheese at home, he advised us to keep it in the vegetable crisper, wrap in either a specially made cheese paper or wax paper to allow the cheese to breathe, and change the wrapping every two days. If cheese does grow some mold, just slice it off, because it doesn't mean the cheese is bad.
James explained that a good cheese plate has a variety of textures and flavors, so his five picks (featured in the first photo) would definitely make for a nice party platter. In addition to crackers or bread, he suggested adding condiments like pear mustard or fig jam, fresh fruits (but never citrus -- it conflicts with cheese!), and crunchy nuts like these roasted pecans and salted marcona almonds. It helps to have cheese knives and forks like his Swiss set pictured here, but the most important things of all is this: Always serve cheese at room temperature, never cold from the fridge. He kept the cheese we ate today on the counter for 24 hours and it was just perfect.