On average, in Ontario, the frost-free season starts somewhere around the 23rd of March and ends on the 31st of October. In its window of 161 days, the flurry of life outside most Canadian homes is in sync with the season, ripping the benefits of a warmer sun, flower beauty and much-needed positive energy.
Part of the fun of enjoying the outdoors is eating outside. I firmly believe that food generally tastes better if it’s presented right, and with an outdoor setting, you’re halfway there. Restaurants stand as the perfect example. With their carefully choreographed patios and appetizingly composed dishes, they offer delight within a 2-hour cap. Nowadays, any leisure-related business focuses on the value of “experience.” We are faced with vast opportunities to adopt some of their beautiful moves and bring them into the home.
Having grown up in a foodie family, this is somewhat of a natural progression: I’ve been acclimatized since youth to the pleasure of simple and beautiful table settings and the enticing casualness of homemade meals. Arranged in gracious formation, dishes can feed your visual appetite as much as your stomach.
Everything from scratch, everything for the soul.
So why cheese? Because cheese is easy to dress your dining table up or down with and because it’s a taste- enriching additive to many other dishes.
Planning it all ahead
What you want is something that can be prepared ahead and more manageable than a cheeseboard. What you want is something that you can cover up in foil and store in the fridge until the guests arrive or until dinner time in general. It does not need to be for guests only; in fact, it is more fun if it’s for just your regular daily dinner. A few hours in the fridge tightly sealed with saran wrap will not alter taste or freshness. Cheeseboards, on the other hand, you have to prepare right before you eat and, with alfresco dining, I find a bit more cumbersome.
First step: ditch the cheeseboards and grab your Martini glasses
One of the hottest tricks for the perfect table setting is mixing the heights. If you raise a few of your displays, the table instantly looks richer. The simplest way to do that is by arranging some of the hors d’oeuvres in glasses instead of plates. Martini glasses are perfect for that. They are wider at the top, almost like a bowl, making them great containers for cheese and other small bites. Plus, you can put saran wrap on top without messing up the arrangement as you would if you try it with a typical cheeseboard.
Crack it up with fruits, nuts and herbs
From an aesthetic point of view, the light and natural colour of most cheese bode well with absolutely anything. You can add contrast with nuts or tomatoes or display it with tonal variations by adding pears and peaches. You can have any kind of cheese mix, from a Caprese salad, with the typical mozzarella bocconcini balls, cherry tomatoes and basil, to parmesan-style cheese with grissini and chives.
Scale is also significant: the cheese cuts have to be bite-size and as you do it up, vary the scale of the add-on ingredients together with the colour.
How to arrange them on the table
Consider how many guests you have and try to arrange enough glasses such that you can “pepper” them over the whole table. Because they are small and light, they can easily be passed along. This is helpful in the case of a larger crowd because you don’t really need to have each type at each end of the table.
Bon Appetit, and welcome to the alfresco season!
Outdoor Table and Chairs Crate and Barrell
All ingredients are organic