Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
The most exciting thing happened recently – they opened a DiBruno Brothers cheese shop in my neighborhood. Literally, I can drive there in 6 minutes. Maybe 5 if I run the reds. This is seriously the most excited I’ve been in a long time, and as I write these words I’m fully aware of how crazy I sound. So, if you aren’t local to the Philadelphia area, let me enlighten you about DiBruno Brothers. They are the OG South Philly cheese shop. The original store opened in 1939 in the Italian Market area of South Philadelphia. They carried cheeses that you just couldn’t find anywhere else. Not only that, but going there was an experience.
You could walk in and say, “I’m making fish for dinner” or “I have a really good bottle of red that I want to open tonight”, and their cheesemongers would know right away which cheeses to pair with it. They’d enthusiastically describe the flavor, texture and aroma of the cheeses as they’d offer a slice to try. You could fill your belly just standing at the counter, trying the different cheeses they’d bring. My new friend, Devon, helped me choose just the right cheeses for this Spring Cheese Board with all the vigor, knowledge and enthusiasm of those old school guys in South Philly.
Where should you shop for spring cheeses?
Now, all of the cheeses on this Spring Cheese Board don’t have to be purchased at a specialty shop like DiBrunos. Some can be found at your local supermarket. For the more special ones, I’ll give you some backup ideas in case you can’t locate something or simply don’t have the willingness that I have to spend a million dollars on cheese. Regardless of where you find the cheese, you’ll have the best time putting this Spring Cheese Board together. It’s so festive and full of so many fun flavors and textures. I can’t think of a better way to kick off the al fresco dining season. So let’s get into this, cheese nerds!
Soft and Fresh Cheeses
Did you know that cheese is seasonal? Although fall is generally accepted as the cheese season, spring has some really spectacular offerings of its own. Spring is the perfect time for soft, spreadable, bloomy-rind cheeses like brie, fresh goat’s milk cheeses and milder blues. The brie you see on this board is the American-made Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. I love Jasper Hill cheeses. You can find them at the fancy stores but also in many supermarkets. The Harbison is a soft-ripened cheese that feels more rustic and structured than a traditional French brie. Spread it onto a cracker or baguette and top with a few fresh berries. Divine.
Next up is probably the most controversial cheese on our Spring Cheese Board – blue. Or if we’re being fancy, bleu. But we’re not, cause I used the gorgeous Bay Blue from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company here. To all the blue cheese haters out there, let me tell you that this is not a stinky blue. I love stinky blues. Just not in the spring. This Bay Blue is mild, mellow and supremely delicious when paired with honey or a sweet jam like the yuzu marmalade you see on this board. Milder blue cheeses make me feel bad for blue cheese haters who think that all blue cheeses are created equal. Check out a mild blue and watch it change your life. Most blues have some sort of descriptive language on their labels to say they’re mild or more pungent, so you’ll be in good hands just reading the labels.
The final soft cheese I’ve included on our Spring Cheese Board is, by far, my favorite. This is the cheese that shows up over and over on Friday nights, when we entertain, and if we are taking it to a friend’s house. In fact, it’s become a cult favorite in our group of friends. Before we all get together, a group text goes out asking, “Who’s bringing the goat cheese?” I’m talking about the marinated goat cheese from Meredith Dairy in Australia.
These soft, tangy, spreadable cubes of heaven come in a jar of olive oil, thyme and peppercorns, just begging to be spread onto a crusty baguette and devoured. The great news is, if you want to buy this cheese in a fancy store you can! But if you don’t, you won’t have to! I found it at DiBrunos, Whole Foods and my local Wegmans. Good thing too, because I would have to take a second mortgage out on my house if I could only buy Meredith Dairy goat cheese at a specialty store.
Firm and Semi-Firm Cheese
Firm cheeses don’t have to be sharp cheeses, which I think is a common misconception. I have a few favorite firm and semi-firm cheeses that simply scream springtime. The first is the least expensive cheese on the board, yet the first to disappear. The Castello Creamy Havarti is my guilty pleasure – a veritable imposter on a fancy cheese board, you’ll always be able to find it at your local supermarket. And honestly? It’s the cheese everyone wants. Mild in flavor yet rich and creamy in texture, slice it and enjoy it on buttery crackers with slightly acidic green grapes.
Speaking of rich and creamy, but slightly more firm, I’m a huge fan of a newly-discovered cheese, thanks to my aforementioned friend Devon at DiBrunos. It’s an aged goat cheese called Pantaleo. See, I wanted to include lemon curd on this Spring Cheese Board, so I asked Devon to find me a cheese that would pair well with that citrusy, sweet-tart flavor. The best word to describe Pantaleo is peppery. A slight bite that hits you on the back end, it’s the perfect canvas for lemon curd or citrusy jams. This is a special cheese for sure.
If you can’t locate Pantaleo in your area, be sure to grab another kind of aged goat cheese for your board. Most of the time, when people think about goat cheese, they think light, mild, crumbly. And aged goat cheese is a different story. An aged goat is firmer and more complex, and it can’t be crumbled the way a fresh goat can, and therefore it tastes like a totally different cheese. I’m currently in love with Beemster’s Aged Goat Gouda. It’s pretty accessible and you can find it in supermarkets as well as cheese shops.
Choosing the accoutrements for the Spring Cheese Board
The accoutrements on any cheese board are a great opportunity to showcase whatever season you’re in. Sometimes, before I even select the cheeses, I’ll go to the farmer’s market and check out the fresh fruits and vegetables. Then I kind of work backwards from there. Since lemons and blueberries are so well-loved in springtime baking, I like incorporating them into a Spring Cheese Board, along with other citrus and berries. Throw some nuts and different kinds of crackers and flatbreads on there and you’re off to the races.
Above all, just pick what you like, what’s in season and have fun with it. And If I can help you in putting together your very own Spring Cheese Board, please message me! Enjoy!
Spring Cheese Board
- Creamy Havarti or other mild semi-firm cheese
- Aged Goat cheese Pantaleo and Beemster are good options
- Fresh and/or marinated goat cheese
- Brie or other bloomy-rind soft cheese
- Mild blue cheese
- Seasonal fruits and berries
- Citrus and/or berry jams and marmalades
- Cashews and/or marcona almonds
- Assorted crackers flatbreads and baguettes
- Anchor the cheeses on the board first.
- Fill in the remaining space with crackers and accoutrements.