For your next party, give your cheese plate a spring update by adding honey to the mix. It’s a combo made in culinary heaven. “It’s really, really hard to make a bad honey-and-cheese pairing, because you’re ultimately just doing salty and sweet,” assures cheese expert Louise Geller of New York’s famous Murray’s Cheese. Follow her tips to set up a honey-and-cheese plate that’ll have your guests swarming.
For a party, Geller recommends serving three to five pairings. “Make sure all of your honeys are different,” she says. One way to tell different honey intensities is by the color. “A darker color is generally going to be a more intense flavor. If you’re putting out three honeys, choose one that is almost translucent, one that’s verging on brown, and one that’s almost opaque, like buckwheat honey,” she says.
As far as the cheeses: “Make sure you have different styles too, and look for cheeses from the different milk types.” Geller recommends putting out a combination of a fresh cheese, an aged cheese, a blue cheese and a bloomy rind, such as a brie or camembert.
“Fresh goat cheese is at its best this time of year because all the goats are having babies, which means they’re milking,” says Geller. “Pair fresh goat cheese with a light honey like spring honey — it’s a slam dunk every time.”
Always go blue
“Even if you’re iffy about it, blue cheese and honey is such a good pairing that I would always include a blue,” says Geller. If you’re really squeamish about blue, she suggests choosing a mild variety, such as Fourme d’Ambert, or Cashel, an Irish blue cheese. “I call them gateway blues,” says Geller. The best honeys to pair with a blue are the lighter varieties. “You would think you want to pair a blue cheese with a really dark honey, but they compete a little too much,” she says. Dark, more intense honeys pair well with fresh cheeses, like ricotta.
Be open to experiment
“Be inventive,” says Geller. The two classic cheeses to pair with honey are a fresh cheese, like a goat or a ricotta, and a blue. But then have fun with your third pick, she says. Your cheesemonger can recommend something a little out of the ordinary. Most importantly, says Geller, taste your pairing before guests do. “Not only is it fun and you get your fair share, but also you want to make sure everything tastes really good.”
Louise Geller of New York’s famous Murray’s Cheese picks her favorite honey and cheese pairings:
Ricotta with Buckwheat Honey: Normally I wouldn't advise pairing such a dark honey with a light cheese, but this combo always makes me think of comfort foods like noodle kugel.
Fresh Chevre with Spring Honey: These are both so light and fresh, it's like eating the springtime.
La Tur with Honeycomb: This pairing has everything: tang, decadence, syrupy sweetness, and five different textures.
Marieke Gouda with Lavender Honey: Lavender honey has the intensity to hold its own beside a strongly-flavored gouda, and the sweetness of the two marries them together beautifully.
Stilton with Cherry Honey: Blue cheese begs to be tamed by sweetness, and the fruity finish of a cherry honey makes for a natural partnership.
Follow Tina Chadha on Twitter at @TinaatMetro.