A Cheese Plate for the Tailgate

We consult the experts for a casual yet sophisticated game-day assortment
Jodi Helm talks with customers and helps them make selections.

We spent some time in the cheese department at Dean & DeLuca this week. Jodi Helm, who works behind the counter helping customers select their cheeses of choice, guided us in creating a cheese plate for tailgating or game watching this coming Sunday when the Panthers take on the Seahawks.

Helm suggests sticking with milder, crowd-pleasing cheeses for a casual occasion such as football. But casual doesn't mean boring.

She recommends starting with a soft cheese, such as goat cheese. Pico goat cheese from France is a mild variety. For those who don't care for the goat-cheese taste, Mt Tam, an organic, triple-cream cow's milk cheese from California is an alternative.


For a second cheese, cheddar and Asiago are nice choices. The Bellavitano Espresso is rubbed with espresso on the outside, which gives it a rich, coffee flavor ideal for an early tailgate before the 1 p.m. game.

To round out cheese plates, Helm usually recommends a blue cheese. But for the tailgate, especially an earlier one, skipping the blue cheese for an aged gouda might be best. Gouda travels well and can sit out for a decent amount of time. Gouda is one of Helm's top sellers. People who don't know the name ask for the hard cheese with crunchy bits in it.

About half of Helm's customers are unfamiliar with selecting cheeses, and that's what she enjoys most about her job. She asks them what they like in a cheese and then matches those requests with something from the case. She offers samples and watches the facial expressions to gauge their reactions.


To complete the cheese plate, Helm turns to the neighboring case for some grilled, marinated artichokes, spicy-sweet Peppadews, or a mixture of olives. Crackers are also an obvious accompaniment. The stronger the cheese, the milder the cracker, Helm says. Dean & DeLuca also has a variety of boards of all shapes and sizes to present your cheese selection. The most fun might be a wooden pig.

"One woman came up and said, 'I want some cheese, but I'm not having a party,'" Helm says. "I said, 'Girl you don't have to have a party to have cheese. Cheese makes its own party.'"

Here's to your Sunday party.


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