A Beginner’s Guide to Building a Palate for
So you want to embark on a fruitful life of enjoying artisanal cheese, but your palate only wants mild, basic cheese and you don’t know where to start. When left alone and unarmed before a cheese counter, you recoil in dread and disgust. The site of a brie oozing out of it’s rind makes your cringe. Don’t worry, we all have to start somewhere. A beginner can’t just dive into a naked wedge of stinky room temperature cheese and expect to have a good time. Hopefully, you’re beginning a life long relationship with cheese, so don’t feel like you have to go balls deep right away. Take it slow, get to know the cheese, spend some time together. Discover your similarities and differences. Keep it tight and do it right with this step-by-step guide to grooming your palate for artisanal cheese.
Step 1: Start with a simple cheese
I didn’t just wake up one day next to a naked wheel of roquefort. I took my time developing a palate and hunger for more boisterous, advanced-level cheese. Start with something safe and familiar, like cheddar or gouda. Take a look at this guide for kid-friendly cheeses that are easy on the palate.
Step 2: Have your favorite pairing handy.
Find accoutrement of varying taste and texture to enjoy with the cheese, something you already know that you enjoy and are familiar with to act as a safety net. Try something sweet or acidic like jams or pickles and a crunchy carb like crackers, cookies, or crusty bread. If you’re really nervous about a particular cheese, try it with a slight chill, which will dull the flavor.
Step 3: Make it beautiful
You eat with your eyes first, so make sure you style your cheese so it’s beautiful and approachable. Cut it into long, graceful wedges, place them on a bed of seeds, use a fancy demitasse spoon with your jam, and fan out your crackers. Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable in this space. This is a safe zone.
Step 4: Pour yourself a beverage
Get yourself a favorite beverage to pair with the cheese, something that you already enjoy that also pairs well with food. If you like beer, try a malty pale ale. If wine is your thing, stick with riesling or pinot noir. Have some water to rinse your palate too.
Step 5: Start slowly
While I normally suggest trying the cheese free of accoutrement first, that’s a lot for a beginner. Begin by loading up your carb with accoutrement and just a bit of cheese. Eat it in one bite and taste the marriage of flavor. Follow with a sip of beer or wine. Concentrate on how those flavors work together. Rinse your palate with water, then try again, this time with less accoutrement and a little more cheese. Eventually, try the cheese all on its own. Just a little nibble. See? You can do this. You can do anything.
If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up hope. Just try a milder cheese, like ricotta or asiago fresco. I believe in you.
Let me know about your journey to a life of cheese in the comments below.