Summer picnics should be relaxing and fun and as far from fussy as possible.
If you’re looking for ideas for a summer picnic, you might not automatically consider gourmet cheese platter ideas since the words gourmet cheese plate might conjure images of the fancy: white tablecloths, sommeliers, maybe a butler or two. Cheese in and of itself is divine comfort food, but fancy it need not be. Really, it’s just a platter of different cheeses — what could be simpler than that?
Whether you head to a park, the lake, the beach, or your own backyard, balcony, or porch, the best cheese for a cheese plate in the summer will be something light and seasonal. The summer is the best time to try out different kinds of cheeses since the animals whose milk makes these cheeses have been feasting on grass all spring and summer long, so the cheese winds up with the best flavor. Some suggestions for summer cheese platters include:
- Fresh mozzarella
Stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes are good places to find cheese platter ideas. These stores carry unique items, too, like Cambozola (Camembert married to Gorgonzola), smoked scamorza, imported Greek feta, goat gouda, and cow’s milk ricotta. If you’re lucky enough to have a specialty cheese shop in your area, look for sheep’s milk ricotta. Most communities have a nearby farmers market, so enjoy a morning market trip and ask around about fresh goat cheese.
Go for the best cheese board presentation by making sure to include a variety of cheeses. At the very least, include a hard cheese or two to balance the softness of the other three. Serve each cheese with its own knife or spreader so the flavors don’t cross over on the knife.
Making a cheese board for a summer picnic can go beyond your basic cheese and cracker tray ideas, but it doesn’t have to. Still, the summer is the best time of year to have a plethora of fresh fruits! Pack a bunch of berries, cubed watermelon or cantaloupe, and some peaches or whatever grows locally in your area. To balance out the sweet, add a few salty bites (think olives, pretzels, or nuts) — don’t forget bread for spreading soft cheeses and some crackers for the hard cheeses!
Beyond the basics, a summer cheese board is a blank canvas, a giant taste test, if you will. Experiment with different textures and flavor profiles, but remember to keep it simple. With the addition of a few flowers from your garden, an everyday cutting board can be transformed into a platform for a simple gourmet meal.