Assembling a Patriotic Cheese Platter

Honor Independence Day and Bastille Day with ambassador cheeses from the U.S. and France.


Photo by Daphne Zepos

A rebellion. A deliverance from the oppressor. A celebration of Red White and Blue. The month of July. Fireworks.

Independence Day and Bastille Day share an uncanny number of similarities. I decided to merge the two national holidays into one cheese platter: a Franco- American gustative alliance. For each country, I chose three worthy ambassadors who act as national representatives in the world of cheese. I bought most of the cheeses for this platter at Murrays cheese shop in Manhattan, and picked up colorful accompaniments for the each cheese: Blue corn chips, watermelon, lovely charcoal crackers, and beets.

Instead of spreading the cheeses on one large tray, I am assembling smaller plates that are easier to carry up the stairs, and to bring back indoors in case of rain.

We are planning to celebrate the Fourth of July on our Brooklyn roof. Instead of spreading the cheeses on one large tray, I am assembling smaller plates that are easier to carry up the stairs, and to bring back indoors in case of rain.


Photo by Daphne Zepos

Epoisses: This rich, stinky cow's milk cheese comes from the town of Epoisses in France and is always washed with Burgundy Brandy during it's aging process. By painting the cheese with water-diluted Brandy right before serving, you revive the boozy nuances of the cheese and tame down the strong aroma.

Persille de Malzieu: Produced just beyond the legally protected limits of Roquefort, this blue cheese is made of sheep milk like its famous neighbor, but is more intense. Malzieu is strong and peppery, and combines perfectly with crème fraiche to make a textured blue dip for this platter. The beets add a sweet and sour tang, and the starchy tortilla chips silence the loud flavors.

Valencay: There is a legend to this little goat cheese from the Loire Valley. The Emperor Napoleon, on his return from an utterly failed campaign to conquer Egypt, caught sight of this stately pyramid and was so enraged that he drew his sword and chopped off its top. So now it remains squat and trapezoid, covered in vegetal ash, dense, lemony and mouthwatering. The accompanying crackers use the same vegetal ash for a crumbly texture and striking contrast.


Photo by Daphne Zepos

Cabot clothbound: If cheeses were allowed on the Time 100 list, Cabot clothbound would carry the accolade for the most influential cheese of the year. It seems to me that every cheese shop these days has a large wedge of Cabot Clothbound sitting prominently on the cheese counter. Ask for cheddar and the words out of a cheesemonger's mouth will be Cabot clothbound. And with reason: made at Cabot creamery, the largest Vermont cheese facility, it emerges clothbound from the cheese factory and is aged and cared for in the underground cellars of Jasper Hill Farm. Cabot clothbound is the living proof that you can transform a cheese if you age it carefully. The flavors are tangy, slightly sharp and delicious.

Humboldt Fog: Pioneering cheesemaker Mary Keehn has created an American classic, a bloomy rind goat's milk cheese recognizable by the thin line of black ash running through the bright white middle of each wheel. Made in Humboldt county, CA, this is one of the most popular American cheeses and has managed to keep its delicious flavors as its production has grown to accommodate nationwide demand. A cheesemonger's trick is to use a cheese wire to cut the cheese slices very cleanly.

Little Adelle: Made by Ancient Heritage Farm in Oregon, this farmstead cheese combines cow and sheep milks to make a delicately rinded, fresh, tumbler sized cheese with mild and creamy flavors. Ancient Heritage farm sells most of its cheese Iocally, but I was happy to see it so well preserved in the cheese case at Murrays.

The milky, slightly sour tones pair up with the sweet crunch of watermelon.