Two weeks ago Executive Editor Amanda Carter Gomes and Clementine contributor Paige Stoll, gathered a group of women together to kick-off what will be a year-long communication collaboration. The goal: to create a salon dinner series bringing women together to eat delicious food and to discuss various themes and topics currently high on our list of interests and priorities. From The Women's March on Washington (our inaugural dinner) to music to self care to motherhood, nothing is off limits and we think the possibilities endless.
The attendees, all well versed and passionate about the topic at hand, come together and help us achieve our purpose of cultivating inspiring conversations among women we respect and admire. For our first event, we brought together dancer and artist, a scientist and television show host, a local news anchor, a District Prosecuting Attorney, a recent college grad, and a family planning expert.
We gathered at one of our favorite local restaurants (you remember Juicebox cafe, yes?) where Paige created a delicious meal courtesy of our good friends at Metropolitan Market (another local favorite).
Together we dined on a menu of Macadamia & Pistachio Wild Salmon, Lemon & Mustard Butternut Squash Puree, Roasted Asparagus with Green Olive Gremolata, and Butter Lettuce Salad with Segmented Red Grapefruit, Fennel, and Avocado. We talked about why and who we were marching for the following Saturday. We discussed our hopes, concerns, and fears about the current state of the world, and stayed well past the official "end time" to bond over personal stories and shared causes.
The conversations from this series will inform the content we share here at Clementine Daily, and ultimately we hope they will inspire you to host a dinner of your own. Right now we are craving connection, building our circle, and making space for those we want to listen to and learn from. In that spirit, we are calling this dinner series The Fold.
To bring you further "into the fold" of our evening, we are going to share a short video of our night and a few tips for creating a no-fail, stunning cheese plate from our resident expert. Read on for those tips, and be sure to check in later this month to hear more about our February dinner!
The Perfect Cheese Plate
What is it about a cheese plate? From one perspective it can be utterly daunting – which cheeses do I get? What are pairings? Wouldn’t it be easier to open a bag of chips, pop some salsa, and call life good? But as the first thing your guests will gravitate to, this simple graze next to the chilled flutes of bubbles and the warm flicker of votive candles is an opportunity to reveal your artistry and to craft with care an alluring preview of the meal to come. In essence, this very small precursor to your dinner can actually be a most lovely highlight of the whole dining experience.
As an artist and a cheese specialist, I approach making a cheese board much in the same way I would compose a painting, starting with a blank canvas – or in this case, plate or tray or piece of slate.
Fancy Yourself an Architect
Plan your plate with varying heights and dimensions, like a city skyline. Working back-to-front or center out, give structure with the placement of ramekins or small bowls that you can fill with hummus, nuts, or olives (and a bowl for their pits). A lean Weck jar or similar shape can hold towering cheese twists or thin cut vegetables. With the form laid, everything else can snake and cascade in the in-between spaces.
A farmer’s market spectrum of fruits and vegetables will always be stunning, but this is your palette. Consider getting playful with thematic colors. I love the way secondary colors – purples, greens, and oranges – complement each other so richly. Deeply pigmented plums, globe grapes, and blackberries pulsate next to green apple, the almost vanilla-y Castelvetrano olives, asparagus and spring peas, and sunny orange segments, glowing baby carrots, and tiny heirloom tomatoes absolutely spark.
Tastes & Textures
Everything on the plate should be its most enticing. If your produce is greyed, or floppy-droopy, or flavorless it should be saved for a better season. Citrus peaks in winter, as do root vegetables, golden pears, and blushing apples. Spring and summer abound with perky cherries, English peas, and Belgian endive. Limit yourself to only the ripest, juiciest babies you can find. Your success is in quality, remembering that "a little of something great is better than a lot of something mediocre.”
Similarly with the cheese, be selective. A good rule of thumb is one cow, one sheep, one goat; and all of different ages, from harder aged to young and soft. And maybe something funky for good measure. For my vegan friends, there are extraordinary brands making nut-based cheeses like Fauxmage and Kite Hill.
A favorite and universally available pairing is a hunk of crumbly Italian cow’s milk Parmigiano Reggiano, a six-month-aged Spanish sheep’s milk Manchego, and a buttery soft French goat’s milk Florette brie or the American Humbolt Fog with its iconic ashen stripe. For fun, there is Il Truffelino which combines the smooth texture of a classic English cheddar with the heady flavor of black summer truffle, or the beloved velvety, salty Saint Agur bleu.
With everything, harmony and contrast so look for a mix of crunchy bites to balance the creamy softness of your cheeses and dips, like a few choice crackers, Marcona almonds, or stained-glass dehydrated fruit which you can easily make at home.
Final Thoughts & Finishing Touches
Your guests will appreciate if you chunk or slice some of the cheese in advance to make serving effortless. Section grapes into tiny bunches to avoid the challenge of plucking just one. And as a flourishing final touch, nestle a few fragrant sprigs of herbs like mint, basil, or lavender around the plate to make it come deliciously alive.
(P.S. Did you hear the one about the cheese factory? There was de Brie everywhere.)