Top 5 Cheese Plates in Houston

When a menu offers a cheese plate, there's a 99 percent chance I am going to order it. Especially if it comes with a variety of breads, crackers, fruits, meats, and preserves or jams. Each of these enhances the cheese -- and you can make a meal out of an appetizer.

Whether you want to munch on cheese and crackers at the bar, or start -- or end -- your meal off with a glass of wine and a sampling of artisan cheese and meats, there are several restaurants in our great city to satisfy this craving. Here are five of the best cheese plates in Houston.

5. Kirbside Bar

The bar inside the Whole Foods on Kirby serves a variety of cheese plates for you to munch on while sipping a glass of beer or wine. If you're a cheese connoisseur, order either The Kirbside Classic with smoked mozzarella wrapped with prosciutto, Goat Brie, a fig spread, Gruyere Reserve New Zealand Cheddar, gherkins and a Spanish cocktail mix, or choose the more expensive "The Localtier," complete with local cheeses: Lonestar goat cheese, aged Brazos Valley Clothbound Cheddar, raw milk Brazos Valley Brie, Stroope's local honey and Zilk's basil pesto. But one of the best options, for $10, is The Mixed Milk cheese plate, complete with soft, creamy Lonestar goat cheese, nutty three-month Manchego, cubed smoked seaside cheddar and fig preserves. The plates are served with crispy crackers. You can't go wrong with a plate of cheese and a beer.

4. Zelko Bistro

The cheese plate at Zelko Bistro is everything you want in a cheese plate. The selections of cheese from the Brazos Valley vary, but you'll always have a variety of hard cheese, like Parmesan or Gouda, and soft, creamy cheese like Brie or crumbled blue. But the plate is not complete without its accompaniments. Chef Jamie Zelko adds a variety of grapes and strawberries and a stick of honeycomb. Pair all these sweet treats with savory bread, heavily coated in garlic, olive oil and herbs. A little bit of cheese with some bread and honey is the ultimate bite. And if you can eat outside while enjoying this platter, you'll feel like you've died and gone to heaven.

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3. Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar

Chef John Sheely has received much praise for his wonderful cheese selections at Mockingbird Bistro Wine Bar. Head to the bar during happy hour, order a glass of wine, and choose three or five cheeses from the fromage menu. The cheeses available vary on occasion, but you always have incredible choices. Current offerings include Challerhocker, a semi-firm pasteurized cow's milk cheese from Switzerland; Smoke Blue, a raw cow's milk blue cheese smoked over Oregon hazelnut shells; and, of course, Veldhuizen Redneck Cheddar infused with Shiner Black beer from Texas. Each plate comes with a sweet and sticky fig jam, local honey and candied pecans -- you can't go wrong pairing cheese with something sweet. Throw in some charcuterie, such as house-made pâté, smoked duck breast or serrano ham, as well.

2. Adair Kitchen

The Kitchen Cheese Plate at Adair Kitchen constantly changes, and that's not a bad thing. The daily cheese selections are paired with thin slices of delicate prosciutto, sweet grapes (and sometimes other slices of fruit), seasonal preserves and honey. Sometimes you'll be served crumbly blue cheese with hard cheddar, or soft goat cheese with creamy Brie. Spread honey or preserves on the thin, crispy cracker bread, then top with a slice of cheese (any selection works) and a thin slice of prosciutto for the perfect bite. No matter which cheese is offered, everything on the platter pairs excellently. Order the half platter if you're splitting with another person, or opt for the full platter if you have a bunch of hungry diners in your party.

1. The Grove

The Grove is always packed during the evenings, especially on weekends. But if you don't have a reservation, don't sweat it. Grab a seat at the bar, order something to drink and share a cheese plate with your friends. Each local cheese selection costs $5, but the amount is perfect for two to share. Choose from pasteurized Deep Ellum Blue cheese from Dallas; soft, pasteurized Pure Luck Goat Cheese from Dripping Springs; Birdville Reserve from Grandbury; and three types of cheddar: raw Brazos Valley, raw Horseradish Pecan White and semi-firm, raw Veldhuizen Texas Gold from Dublin. For a filling plate, choose three cheeses, such as the blue, goat and Brazos Valley Cheddar. The pieces of toast are brushed with olive oil; create a salty-sweet-savory bite by spreading the pear mostarda or honey on the toast, followed by a slice of creamy goat or zippy cheddar. Ask for more bread to make a meal out of the cheese plate.

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Molly Dunn
Contact: Molly Dunn