Putting Together the Perfect Picnic Cheeseboard

It’s finally picnic season and I couldn’t be happier. Now is the perfect time to get outside and eat alfresco, while the weather is warm but not too hot yet.

I had been feeling really inspired lately to have a picnic after I received the cutest book in the mail at work (perks of the job – we get to review cookbooks) called The Picnic.

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I absolutely loved everything about it — the cover design, the recipes, and most importantly, the picnic tips. It’s packed with everything from coming up with a themed picnic menu to 99 ways to use a Mason jar to a blanket buying guide.

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I showed the book to all my friends and they loved it, too. We were looking for the perfect excuse to have a picnic when opportunity presented itself to us, tied up in a perfect little picnic basket. The Birmingham Botanical Gardens was having an event called Flicks Among the Flowers, where they show a movie outside on the lawn. People are free to pack a picnic and bring in whatever snacks or food they want.

We knew this was our chance to go all out for the first picnic of the season. My friend Lindsay made a delicious pasta salad with homemade pesto and I decided that I wanted to put together a cheeseboard for our perfect picnic. I love cheese, and there’s nothing I love more than a good cheeseboard. I checked my pantry to see what accompaniments I had and set off to pick the perfect cheeses.

Generally, you want to aim to have at least one cheese from each type of milk – goat, cow, and sheep. You also want to vary the cheeses in texture and looks. So some soft cheeses, some hard, and some semi-hard.

I decided on four cheeses to give a good variety. Once I selected my cheeses, I got some extra additions to put out on the board (almonds and dried fruit) and matched what accompaniments I already had to the cheeses I picked. I already had a large variety of honeys, jams, and spreads that were from various places, people, and some from my Try The World box subscription. (Side note: if you haven’t heard of Try The World, you definitely need to check it out. Each box is themed from a different country and is full of food products from that country. I love it!)

Here are the cheeses (and their respective accompaniments) that I used:

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The Cheese: La Tur by Murray’s Cheese (bottom left in photo)
This is a triple cream cheese made from cow, goat, and sheep milk. It smelled strong, but wasn’t extremely strong tasting. It was earthy, rich, and super creamy. The edges were melty and the inside was slightly firmer but perfectly spreadable on a cracker.
Type: Triple cream, soft cheese
Paired with: I didn’t pair anything with it specifically because it’s a stronger cheese, but we did try it drizzled with lavender honey, and that was a good combination.

The Cheese: Skellig Cheese by Kerrygold (bottom right in photo)
I knew I wanted a harder cheese on the board, so I was looking for an aged cheddar. I came across Skellig Cheese by Kerrygold and was intrigued by its description as a sweet cheddar. This is now one of my favorite types of cheese. It was rich, sharp, and finished sweet. It was so good.
Type: Cow’s milk, semi-hard to hard
Paired with: I paired this with lavender honey, but also excellent on its own.

The Cheese: Apple Smoked Gouda Cheese by Red Apple Cheese (top right in photo)
I love gouda cheese, so there was no way it was going to be missing from my board. Smoked gouda is a good option to provide some variety and a different taste to the board. This apple smoked gouda had a flavor profile that was nutty, with notes of applewood and smoky flavors, but the smoked taste didn’t overwhelm the cheese. It was the perfect balance because some smoked goudas can be too smoky. It was also a good texture that fell between the harder cheddar and the soft triple cream and goat cheese.
Type: Cow’s milk, semi-hard
Paired with: Chestnut spread from my French Try The World box. The sweet nuttiness of the chestnuts paired well with the nuttiness of the gouda.

The Cheese: Goat Cheese by Ile de France (top left in photo)
It’s not hard to find good goat cheese, and I normally get mine from a local farm called Stone Hollow Creamery but I was in a pinch this time and just grabbed some goat cheese from the grocery store. Ile de France makes a pretty good goat cheese if you’re looking for an affordable option for your board. It’s creamy, has a distinctive goat cheese taste, and is a good spreading cheese.
Type: Goat’s milk, soft cheese
Paired with: Fig Jam, also from my French Try The World box. Goat cheese pairs well with any fruity jam.

There are so many great cheeses that make for wonderful cheeseboards. Play with different combinations of types, textures, and flavors and I promise you’ll be the envy of every picnic!

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Swine and Wine

Last weekend I went to Swine and Wine, a pig roast to benefit the Druid City Garden Project in Tuscaloosa. Chefs of local restaurants came together to provide some delicious food for the event. As you can see from my plate, I ate a lot of food, but my favorites were the rosemary biscuit with rose petal jam and goat cheese, pork tenderloin from a whole roasted pig, and fresh, delicious collards that had a garlicky vinegar sauce. Check out Druid City Garden Project here: http://www.druidcitygardenproject.orgIMG_4842

Birmingham Rallies for Street Food

OffTheHookMenuThis past weekend I attended Birmingham’s Street Food Rally! I’m a big supporter of eating local, so food trucks are my new favorite thing. I love living in a city with an abundance of local, fresh restaurants and dining options. In fact, in my first two months living here, I didn’t eat at one chain restaurant.

The Street Food Rally was a great way to spread awareness about the trucks and give locals a taste of what they each offer. I tried at least one dish from each food truck there and everything was absolutely delicious! Although I was definitely in a major food coma afterwards…

Read about my five favorite dishes over at Southern Living!

http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2013/03/11/birmingham-rallies-for-street-food/

Fashion Week and Food Trucks

This past week was Birmingham Fashion Week, so there were events all week leading up to the three nights of fashion shows Thursday-Saturday. Since my friends and I want to make the most of our time here in Birmingham, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to one of the shows. We chose to go to the show on Friday night since the headlining designer was Anthony Ryan, winner of season 2 of Project Runway All Stars. Check out the whole week’s schedule here.

The show started at 7 p.m. so we got there around 6:30 p.m. to claim our spots. The show, naturally, started fashionably late. There was a competition throughout fashion week for emerging designers, so eight college-aged and post-grad designers kicked off the show. Some showed true talent but others looked cheap or tacky. They were followed by 15 rising design stars from high school and younger that designed outfits from non-clothing materials such as mardi gras beads or bubble wrap. These were actually pretty fun to see.

After the emerging designers, some local boutiques modeled their fashions. We weren’t crazy about this because we came to see fashion designs, not things that we can go shopping for tomorrow. The next featured designer, Annie Griffin, was similar to this. Her line was resort casual, but many of the fabrics were the same and just repurposed for different styles. There was nothing new or unique to her designs.

Now, onto the designers with Project Runway ties. Joshua McKinley was on Project Runway: All Stars season two, as well, and was a featured designer of the night. His line was a men’s line but it was a little over-the-top for our taste. The designs were garishly colored and the shorts were way too short to look classy. But his models had a lot of personality and spunk and I loved the funkiness of the music choices. Next up was Anthony Ryan, the headlining designer. I really liked his line. It was classy and clean but still stayed true to the high fashion look. He definitely made the show worth going to. After the show, we hit up the after-party sponsored by Avondale Brewery, a local Birmingham brewery.

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Top: Anthony Ryan’s line. Bottom left: Kelsey, Erin and I. Bottom right: Joshua McKinley walks after his line.

Overall, it was a fun night and I was glad we went. However, being the foodie I am, the best part of the night was when I finally got to try one of Birmingham’s food trucks! We didn’t have time for dinner before the show, so by time we got to Avondale I was starving. It’s my goal to try all the food trucks here so I follow them all on Twitter. For once, our location matched up with one: Spoonfed Grill. It was right across the street from Avondale so Erin and I sprinted across the street (in the snow, mind you) to the welcoming smell of delicious food. The best way I can describe Spoonfed’s food is fusion Southern. I ordered the pork loin sandwich with caramel apple slaw and peanut sauce. I still can’t figure out how food trucks have such good food, but this sandwich was so delicious. The pork had a great marinated taste and I would eat that slaw every day if I could. The guy working the truck also told us about the Street Food Rally happening on March 10, where about 10 of Birmingham’s food trucks will be represented. The event is from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Pepper Place and tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. I will definitely be going! Buy your tickets here.