Cheese on a Picnic
Few people can resist the pull of an afternoon in the sun accompanied by good food and friends. Picnics are the perfect place for cheese, and now that you know about all these wonderful varieties, let them join the picnic too.
Picnic baskets seem to have been made with cheese in mind. They provide just the right environment to bring your cheese to room temperature, and usually are equipped with cutting board, knives, and handy spots to pack cheese accompaniments.
The best way to pack cheese for a picnic is in a zip-top plastic storage bag. The bags keep cheeses to themselves (they are awfully generous with their aroma), and the humidity that collects in the bags is good for maintaining cheese moisture. They also make cleanup easy. If you have leftover cheese (a slim possibility), you can repack it in the same bags. If you don't have any zip-top bags handy, then wrap cheese in plastic wrap, thin foil, or wax paper.
Know you're going on a picnic today? Take an early walk to the bakery, market, or coffee shop, and pick up a fresh baguette. Pack it along with a serrated knife, and you'll have the perfect cheese partner. If you tend toward the savory, choose a sourdough baguette. If you lean toward sweet, choose a sweet baguette.
Best Cheeses for a Picnic
The easiest way to choose cheeses for a picnic is to pair them with other foods and drinks. For example, if you are having sliced ham, roast beef, and salami, you'll want three cheeses that complement these meats well. Gruyere is always great with ham, a soft sheep's-milk Brebiou will be all you need to add to roast beef, and sharp Cheddar never fails a good salami.
Picnicking with vegetarians? Then pack cheeses for eating and dips. Carrots and herbed Le Roule make a delightful match, as will fresh spring radishes and triple-cream cheese. Then add a hearty table cheese like Beaufort or Comte that can be eaten all alone. Finally, take a lesson from the monks, and pack a washed-rind cheese full of earthy pungency and goodness.
Pack ice if the day is warm, or if you're taking along a soft or semisoft cheese. And though it's always nice for each cheese to have its own knife, go a little rustic for the outdoors and let the flavors meld. After all, the very definition of picnic is simple and fun.
Wine and Cheese Kits
No discussion of picnics would be complete without mention of insulated wine and cheese kits. They are usually made of canvas, with insulation to keep wine and cheese cool and safe, and come complete with corkscrew, knife, forks, cutting board, acrylic wineglasses, plates, and napkins.
You can also make your own wine and cheese kit. Buy an insulated, zippered cooler, large enough for a bottle of wine, some cheese, and a log of salami or two. Stock it with plastic forks, napkins, and acrylic wineglasses and plates. Keep ice packs in your freezer. Then, when you are ready, put the ice packs in with the cheese and wine, and you're good to go!