Summer picnics are an easy means to while away a sweltering afternoon, especially when you can linger over a cheese plate.. To strike the right balance between pleasing the crowd and impressing the fromage aficionado in your party, check out these picnic faves, recommended by some of our favorite experts in the field.
While most of the cheeses sold in New York are brought into the city’s food markets by their farmers on a weekly basis, the Flatiron Cheese at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese brings a new level of locavore selection as it is produced in the company’s store on Broadway and 20th Street. This soft rind cheese was developed in the store by cheesemaker Dan Utano, and pairs well with a dry Riesling.
For a milder option, the Mettowee goat cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm is only available in the summer months as the goats have access to rich, green grass in their Vermont fields. They have stands in the Greenmarkets four days a week and proudly boast of their inclusion in the famed Murray’s Cheese Book, which lists the world’s best 300 cheeses. The creaminess of the chevre works well in salads and its flavor is accentuated when paired with juicy fruits like strawberries or crisp green vegetables.
The Shushan Snow camembert-style cheese from Three Corner Field Farm is made from pasteurized milk and the varying textures in the cheese- from the harder exterior that protects the creamy center after aging- make it a key choice for anyone who really appreciates full flavors. The intertwined hints of mushrooms and cream pair well with hard ciders.
Pecorino cheese is a crowd-pleasing option and the Dancing Ewe Farm in Granville has a few varieties that they sell weekly at the Union Square Greenmarket. Their Fresco pecorino is the most seasonal, as it is only aged for two months before being sold. The sheeps milk cheese holds a firm texture and is great for adding on top of green or bean salads. Its makers–the husband and wife team of Jody and Luisa Somers–recommend pairing it with a fruity white wine like Vermentino or Ansonica.
The farmers at Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey created a cow milk-based cheese with microbrews in mind. Their More Beer cheese is formed into a wheel with a line of vegetable ash in the center, which adds an earthy undertone to the cheese. They sell More Beer in their market stalls around the city and in their Park Slope storefront. They are also planning on opening a second store in New York based largely around this cheese and culling a special selection of microbrews to go alongside it.