Cheese Plates For Dummies

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The plate of cheese and olives above looks nice enough, doesn't it?

For those wondering, it contains hunks of Roncal, Manchego, Mahón, Iberico and Cabra Murcia al Vino -- all Spanish cheeses, some hard and some soft. It's a pretty decent variety of cheese, each representing a different region of the country.

The Roncal is a hard sheep's milk cheese that comes from northern Spain, while the Manchego is also a hard sheep's milk cheese, but comes from more southernly parts of the country in La Mancha.

The Mahón is a soft cow's milk cheese that comes from Minorca, the island next to the island I mistakenly pronounced "Muh-lore-ka" for years until someone corrected me. (Which took until college; that wasn't embarrassing or anything.)

The Iberico is similar to the Manchego but is made from a mixture of milks, and the Cabra is the famous "drunken" goat's milk cheese that comes from Murcia, in southeastern Spain.

But there's something a little different about this cheese plate (other than the fact that those are Greek olives, not Spanish olives -- hush up).

The cheese plate was, in fact, hastily assembled from this pre-packaged tray of cheeses (seen below) that I bought from Spec's a few nights ago.

Worried that I was going to have last-minute company, I ran into the downtown Spec's -- the temple of all things holy -- on the hunt for something good and fast. The cheese aisle can be overwhelming when your mind is full of thoughts like "Did I take the trash out this morning?" and "Do you think anyone will notice that I bought one-ply toilet paper by mistake?"

I spotted this tray in the refrigerated section closest to the deli's cheese counter. I'm normally not an advocate of buying pre-packaged food in bulk like this, preferring to pick and choose my foods carefully. But this was no time to dilly-dally.

It turns out that I didn't have to worry about company coming over that night after all, and was able to enjoy the cheese in a more leisurely setting last night. That's right: enjoy. Even though it was all packaged together in a loose tray and -- as a result -- some of the flavors were more muted, it was still a good cheese plate. The Mahón and drunken goat's cheese were by far the best of the five, with only the Manchego notably lacking in flavor.

For $17, it can be viewed as either a really expensive way to enjoy cheese for one, as I did, or a low-cost way to create a pleasant selection of five Spanish cheese at once and maybe even look like you know what you're doing. Just make sure you hide the packaging from your company.

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