Happy Endings, Prima Donnas, and Midnight Moon: A Cheesemonger Creates Perfect Plates

The Cheese Course, which recently expanded its empire with the opening of a new location in Pinecrest, dominates the local landscape when it comes to fromage. Although other gourmet groceries carry wedges and wheels, the Cheese Course digs deep to import a wide array of unusual and diverse products.

Given all this complexity, we asked Denyse Gervasoni, the head cheesemonger at the Cheese Course, for a little advice on creating the perfect cheese plate.

Gervasoni ran a restaurant in the UK for ten years before moving stateside and

working with Whole Foods to develop a cheese program. She made

fresh cheeses such as hand-pulled mozzarella and ricotta to round out

the market's assortment before joining the Cheese Course in 2004. During her years as head cheesemonger, Gervasoni has helped guide the store's quick growth.

We challenged her with three unique cheese-plate-related issues: What to serve to a crowd, what to serve for dessert, and what to serve to a connoisseur. Get ready for cheesy bliss. 

Cocktail Party
 - serving a selection of wines and mixed cocktails to a crowd with different tastes

1. Prima Donna: This cow's-milk cheese is a blended creation of two cheese cultures, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gouda. Wonderfully assertive, it complements just about any libation. 

2. Ossau Iraty: A sheep's-milk variety from the French Pyrenees mountains, it's creamy, nutty, and well rounded for almost any wine or cocktail. 

3. Comte: This brilliantly crafted raw cow's-milk cheese from the Alpine Franche-Comté region of France is a perfect example of an excellent accompaniment for both red and white wines and most cocktails. 

4. Midnight Moon: Aged goat's-milk Gouda from the Netherlands is rich and smooth, with a creamy, nutty finish. 

Happy Ending - cheese for dessert!

1. La Tur: A mousse-like cake of a cheese, this whipped concoction of three

blended milks -- sheep, goat, and cow -- in a slightly aged soft-ripened three-inch drum shape, oozes with creamy goodness. Serve with a large

chunk of whole honeycomb right on top and honey drizzling down the


2. Bellwether fresh ricotta: Handmade, hand-ladled fresh cow's-milk

ricotta is delicate and fluffy, but rich and creamy. Especially tasty when served

with a spoonful or two of blueberry compote.

3. Brillat-Savarin with blueberry: This cheese "confection" has

hot, rich cream added to its milk to reach a high butterfat content and then is smothered with tiny wild blueberries. An outrageously authentic


4. Stilton blue: Flown in direct from Neal's Yard Dairy in London, Colson Basset Stilton is the best on the market, with peppery blue

veining and creamy golden paste. Cut into a thin slice, sprinkle with

caramelized walnuts, and drizzle with raspberry sauce and honey.

Cheese Connoisseur
- impressing a tough customer

who has a lot of cheese know-how

1. L' Amuse signature Gouda: This stone-hard golden treasure, made

from the highest quality cow's milk and aged two years before being

released, produces a tremendous flavor profile of deep butterscotch with

a rich, salty caramel finish.

2. Epoisses: Washed in the French spirit Marc de Bourgogne, this cheese is delightfully smelly

and possesses a delicate burnt-orange rind. It includes huge flavor combinations, with a savory interior melting into a buttery finish. Serve with a dab of

balsamic onion jam on a wedge of black pumpernickel rye.

3. Humboldt Fog: This soft-ripened, bloomy-rind variety incorporates slightly aged

goat's-milk cheese from California's Humboldt County. It's rolled in

vegetable ash and made into a two-layer cake separated by a lightning

bolt of ash through the center. The cheese is gooey close to the rind, but is  firm in the center, with a characteristic tang of fresh goat's milk.

Often served with fig marmalade.

4. Pleasant Ridge Reserve: A raw cow's-milk Alpine-style cheese, it has a

deep and complex flavor profile of sweet grass, smooth caramel, and nuts, with a  fruity finish. Add a smear of sun-dried tomato pesto and you have a

match made in heaven. 

5. Cacio di Bosco: This aged seasonal pecorino from Tuscany is rubbed with

olive oil and infused with shards of truffle.

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Lesley Elliott
Contact: Lesley Elliott