Blogs: All That Glitters / Designers

This Valentine’s Day, Say “Cheese!” With Michael O’Connor

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You may know Michael O’Connor as a quotable jewelry style expert-about-town; marketing director of the Plumb Club; designer of jewelry collections for JTV and, most recently, Danbury Mint; or dad to Roxie, a particularly photogenic Yorkshire terrier.

And if you follow @stylingspy on Instagram? You’ve likely discovered, as I have, that O’Connor is impressively skilled at whipping up epic cheese plates laden with not just cheese but any number of carefully chosen sweet and savory delights. (And calling it dinner!)

Michael OConnor cheese plate collage
Seriously, though—O’Connor really knows his way around a cheese plate.

There’s no question that O’Connor is uniquely qualified to speak on a number of topics, from red carpet style to the latest retail and marketing trends, but in honor of Valentine’s Day (which is this Sunday), I asked him to share his fromage formula with JCK readers.

Because I have to imagine that this year, most Valentine’s Day celebrations are happening from the glamorous perch of a living room couch (instead of out at a restaurant). So why not make it a wine and cheese affair? Easy and elegant. Less prep, more party.

“The trick is really to create something that offers a variety of taste sensations that appears abundant and visually appealing,” says O’Connor. “The best plates show a variety of color, texture, height, and shape.”

His official how-to ahead.

THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

MIchael OConnor cheese plate ingredients
A key point: It’s not just about cheese. “Personally, I always like to mix in some other elements for both texture and variance of taste,” says O’Connor. “Grapes not only look great but work well with cheese. Use your imagination and add blueberries, strawberries, or raspberries for sweetness, or olives, cherry tomatoes, or nuts. You can also introduce hummus or artichoke dip.”

Number of cheeses: “At least two to three types of cheese,” says O’Connor. “But I think it really depends on just how decadent one wishes to be. I do think there should be a couple of varied choices in terms of color, consistency/texture, savory, and/or sweeter.”

Types of cheeses: “I personally like a fairly strong cheddar or an aged Gouda. I would mix that with something mild such as a Jarlsberg. Or incorporate some differences of texture with a goat cheese or a Camembert, Saint-André, or Brie. To get some variety of sweet and savory, there are goat cheeses mixed with apricot or blueberry, or try a Cambozola, a great blue cheese–Camembert mix.”

Add-ons: “If you’re not adding cheeses with some sweetness, I would definitely add fig jam or a fruit preserve to any plate. And Carr’s Water Crackers are a classic choice.”

Assembly: “Let’s face it: You really can’t go wrong, and nothing really needs to be exact. I usually start with the cheese I really want to try or already love the most. I usually cut that in the largest size and start with a classic wedge shape—use that as the focal point of the plate. You can work a plate from the center out, or from one side of the plate to the other.

“Once you have your focal point, add something for a change of color and texture along the back such as the grapes, fruit, or nuts. Your next cheese should be a change in shape or color—or both. Therefore, you may want to add a small round (slice of goat cheese or small round of Gouda still in the red or yellow casing) or perhaps a rectangle-shape cheese that can be sliced. Angle these elements away from the focal point. If you have a dip, put it into a small ramekin and place it into the space between the two cheeses. Now, use one of your other fruits or small vegetables to fill in the space and/or use the exposed round area of the ramekin to fan out crackers or the vegetable that will be dipped. From there, just keep changing the shape/color/height and angling the new shape outward from the focal point and filling in the gaps with the smaller accents.”

THE SPREAD

MIchael OConnor cheese plate ingredients
“I love things touching and slightly overlapping, so I don’t believe in spacing it out. It should appear abundant,” says O’Connor. Clockwise, from bottom left: Pomegranate hard candy buttons; pitted dates; Cindy’s Kitchen Artichoke & Parmesan Dip; strawberries; Tillamook sharp aged cheddar; Rembrandt aged Gouda; raspberries; green seedless grapes; Cambozola cheese; Genoa salami; Brie; herbed goat cheese; truffle mousse; mixed nuts. At right: Carr’s Water Crackers. The Champagne in the back is—but of course—Veuve Clicquot.

Top: Oh, hey, in this version of the V-Day spread, Cupid has joined the party! More specifically, the Michael O’Connor Angel Wing pendant in silver and simulated diamonds, $119; Danbury Mint.

 

Follow me on Instagram: @aelliott718

 

 

 

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By: Amy Elliott

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