When putting together cheese plates for our classes, we pair a condiment with each cheese flight.
Not only is it fun for folks to try new things together but the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ phenomenon certainly comes into play when pairing cheeses with condiments. Classic go-tos for cheeses are honey, jam and membrillo (quince paste). We also have a range of mostardas from Italy that provide a wonderfully spicy/fruity compliment to some of our stronger cheeses. The rule of thumb (as with wine pairings) is generally to match strength to strength.
If you have a young, fresh goats’ milk cheese, for example, you would probably not want to pair it with Melata di Bosco, a unique honey made from the sap of alpine spruce trees. It tends to be quite robust and as a result would work better with a punchy blue cheese. An Acacia honey, on the other hand, would provide a nice, light, sweet juxtaposition to the lemon-y, citrus quality of a young goats’ milk cheese.
Other nibblies and decoration for your platter: personally, raisins on the vine are a favorite of mine, acting as a nice variation on the traditional cheese and grapes pairing. I am also a huge fan of Marcona almonds. A few of these sprinkled around the edge of your platter or in the center can look attractive. Some of my fellow mongers also gravitate to the skin-on hazelnuts. Definitely think about color contrast here
– dried apricots can provide a touch of brightness while complimenting the flavor of your cheeses at the same time.
Similarly, when in season, cherries (a classic pairing with brebis) or strawberries (great with triple-crèmes!) add a dash of color. In the fall, I like to use little Lady Apples on a platter, particularly when including a cheddar!