Dessert may be your most challenging course to sell. Too many people completely skip the menu and go straight to the bill. By expanding your dessert menu, you’ll be able to entice a more diverse array of snackers—not just those with a sweet tooth!
One of the most popular dessert expansions comes from our friends in France. The French would never consider a meal finished without the final cheese course. While cheese may seem like an odd choice for a dessert menu, we’re willing to bet many of your customers will stay in their seats a little longer with a well-plated, carefully chosen cheese board following their meal.
Choosing Your Cheeses
Offering a cheese course is a wonderful bridge between a delicious, savory meal and a rich, sweet dessert. Offering savory cheeses paired with some sweet additions can prolong the enjoyment of the sweet meal and prepare the palate for the more sugary dessert. If you’ve decided to add a cheese course to your menu, begin with some research.
Do you want to offer cheeses individually or would you rather offer a trio? Which cheeses will be best for your clientele and for your chefs? There are literally thousands of cheeses from which to choose. Below, we have some popular choices for a strong cheese course.
- Roquefort: One of the best-known cheeses, Roquefort is a bleu cheese made from sheep’s milk. It is moist and crumbles easily. Good quality Roquefort has a sharp, salty taste with a creamy texture.
- Reblochon: If you love Brie cheese, you have to try its close cousin, Reblochon. Reblochon is made from cow’s milk and has a similar mild, creamy taste and velvety rind as Brie, but it is often said to be even milder and enjoyable.
- Emmental: Emmental is a hard, cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland. It features large holes produced during a difficult fermentation process. It usually has a fruity flavor with some acidity, so it pairs well with white wines.
- Brillat-Savarin: One of the more rich cheeses available, Brillat-Savarin is made by adding cream to whole milk. It is classified as a triple-cream cheese and is served strictly as a dessert cheese. The flavor of the cream comes through in the mature cheese, and it usually also has hints of mushrooms and truffles.
- Camembert: Camembert is another cheese with hundreds of different production methods. Cheeses made in the traditional style with unpasteurized cow’s milk are called Camembert Normandie, while other methods can only use the name Camembert. The cheese has very different textures and flavors at the varying degrees of maturity. Most are familiar with the smooth texture and white rind of a mature Camembert. The flavor is supple and sweet.
- Chevre: The term “chevre” encompasses any cheese made with goat’s milk, so the chevre cheeses are an incredibly diverse array of flavors. Most chevre cheeses feature a very creamy texture and tart flavor. Chevre is also a lower fat option than most cow or sheep’s milk cheeses.
The most popular presentation is a trio of cheeses and, while you can put any three cheeses on a plate together, there are some traditional pairing ideas that will serve as an excellent guide.
- A hard, a soft, and a semi-soft
- A goat, a cow, and a sheep
- A creamy, a hard, and a bleu
In addition to these pairings, also take the flavors of the cheeses into consideration. You don’t want to pair a very strong cheese with a mild, almost bland cheese. Choose flavor profiles that will complement each other and not overpower one another.
You should also put some thought into what else will go on the tray. Traditionally, you will want to offer a bread or cracker. Sliced baguette is wonderful, but an artisanal bread that complements the flavors of the cheeses can be the perfect touch.
You also want to include some side items to enhance the cheese. A sweet fruit jam or local honey is great with almost any cheese. Cheeses that have a nuttier flavor profile can be served with some pecans, almonds, or walnuts. Dried fruits such as cherries, apricots, or cranberries are also a great pairing.
You can also boost your wine and cordial sales by offering pairing ideas with those, as well. Offer a sweet or dry Riesling, which will pair well with any dessert cheese platter. The sweet sherries and brandies are also great to enjoy with a mild cheese platter. Nearly every cheese has a wine that is ideally suited to its flavor, so do a little research to offer thoughtful pairings that your guests will love.
Storage and Prep
Though each cheese has its own ideal storage method, there are some important, universal guidelines to keep in mind. Plastic zipper bags are quick and easy but will not keep your cheese fresh for as long and can compromise the flavor.
Instead, use a good quality plastic wrap that will cling to itself and provide a good seal. Use a fresh wrapper every time you re-wrap a cheese after use. For hard cheeses, wrap it in a layer of wax paper and then seal with plastic wrap.
To preserve your other cheeses from a particularly stinky cheese, you can use a resealable plastic container to contain the smell. Also, a good general rule is that hard, sharp cheeses can be stored longer than the soft, moister cheeses.
Cheese platters really require minimal prep, especially if you don’t pre-cut the cheese into single serve slices. It is easy enough to quickly cut a block of each cheese as the platter is ordered. Make sure your kitchen has a high-quality cheese cutter wire to make slicing fast and hassle free.
Store your dried fruit or nuts in a plastic container to easily pour them out onto the tray. You can serve a cheese platter on a nice wooden cutting board or even on a sealed slice of tree trunk. If you want a more sophisticated look, consider a piece of slate. Also, remember to stock up on some cheese knives to ensure your customers have the right tools to serve themselves.
Adding a cheese course can really pump up your menu and your sales with very minimal investment. It also requires very little extra staff training so you can implement the new course quickly. With just a little research and maybe some personal taste tests, you can choose the perfect wines, cordials, and cocktails to pair with any cheese you decide to place on the menu. Maximize your revenue by offering the one thing no one can refuse—a good cheese.
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