Photo by Daphne Zepos
Cravings are seasonal. When I picture a summer platter of cheeses, I imagine it full of herbs, raw vegetables, and fruit. They build a symphony of primary colors around the cheeses. This picture stands in contrast to winter, when I crave fatty, gooey, glorious cheeses. The winter platter is lit in candlelight, a play of sepia tones in light and shadow.
In the summer, there is something very sad about rich, soft cheeses sweating in the heat. The selection has to be sparkly, with simple, contrasting flavors. Strong cheeses are interspersed with salad and ripe fruit. And mild, milky cheeses enrich the summer's clean flavors. The cheeses have to stand up to the accompanying drinks, which are fizzy and cold. Glasses bead with condensation, ice cubes chill the palate, and therefore the cheese selection needs some grand flavors to awaken the chilled tongue.
A summer platter should include cheeses that are made in warmer climates. These cheeses have been made for hundreds of years in hot conditions and were designed to withstand the heat. Take as an example the bold peppery flavors of a pecorino from Sardinia, or a kefalotyri from Greece, even a manchego from Spain: they have all benefited from a touch of warm weather during their ripening phase.