Living on the east coast and frequenting the multitude of cheese shops there has spoiled me. Here in Phoenix we don't have that luxury; cheese shops are few and far between. So when I was looking to create a slightly different kind of cheese plate and needed to talk with someone who knew their product I headed to Whole Foods Market.
I wanted a few cheeses that could all stand alone, no crackers, bread or meat needed. Maybe a breadstick for a little crunch and a jam for a little sweetness. The cheese man at Whole Foods steered me immediately toward the Drunken Goat. A crowd pleaser for sure is how he described it. A semi-firm goat cheese cured in wine it had a mildly fruity flavor; both sweet and sharp at the same time.
The 2nd cheese he suggested was the Lamb Chopper, a Dutch Gouda made from sheep milk. I found this one to be very mild in flavor...buttery would be how I'd describe it. The Lamb Chopper paired nicely with the warm marinated olives (recipe below) we served along side.
The last cheese he recommended was both the most expensive and the most delicious. Gabietou is a semi-soft French cheese made from a combination of sheep and cows milk. It has a melt in your mouth texture that leaves hints of nuts on your palate.
To this mix I added my longtime favorite cheese; provolone, some herb roasted mixed nuts, sea salt bread sticks, fudge and an Adriatic fig spread. I loved the spread and can picture so many uses for it; like layered with fontina to make a grilled sandwich or as a dip for apple slices.
I was really happy with the way the plate turned out and thankful to have Whole Foods Market as a place to shop for cheese in my area.
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1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 fresh bay leaf
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups mixed olives
Combine the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf and pepper flakes in a skillet. Cook gently over low to moderately low heat for about 5 minutes to release the flavor of the seasonings; do not let the garlic color.
Add the olives and cook gently until they are hot throughout, about 5 minutes. Let cool until they are just a little warm, then serve.
Olives are best served slightly warm.