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Just in time for holiday entertaining, The Wall Street Journal has advice from Pascal Vittu, head fromager of Daniel restaurant in New York City, about putting together five-star cheese plate and beverage pairings. His basic tips: Serve five cheeses in a wide range of flavors and textures, add fresh seasonal fruits such as sliced apples or grapes to the plate, and try beer or Calvados to accompany the cheese course.
Robin Schempp, R&D expert and owner of Vermont-based Right Stuff Enterprises–a concept, product and market development firm–has ideas for turning these fine dining ideas into even greater grocerant cross-merchandising hits.
“I love to use the perimeter of the store for cheese plate ideas that go beyond the usual fruit and nuts,” Schempp says. “Radishes and bleu cheese are a great pairing, as are fennel and Cheddar. In the prepared food aisle, roasted beets can be sliced and served with a soft, creamy cheese or crème fraiche.”
Schempp encourages category managers to try the center aisles for unusual crunchy elements, like granola or sweet potato chips. Look beyond the obvious in the beverage section too, encourages Schempp. She notes that the cider category is exploding with new flavors and styles that can complement or contrast with almost any cheese flavor.
“Merchandise soft, creamy cheese with tart, carbonated apple ciders. Hard, Swiss-style cheeses are great with medium-sweet cider. Italian cheeses go with sweet ice ciders, and bleu cheese works with effervescent champagne-style ciders,” says Schempp.
Pull together all these cheese plate ideas in the grocerant section for displays and tasting stations. Taking a full-store approach to helping customers plan holiday parties will build sales and customer confidence–and can be pretty fun in the process, adds Schempp.
- Inviting local cheese, cider or beer producers to headline in-store tasting events
- Display areas that cross-merchandise cheese plate ideas, ingredients and pairings
- Pre-packaged cheese and beverage bundles for ready-made party ideas