A Modern Relish Tray for Thanksgiving: A Beautiful Whole Cheese

published Nov 18, 2014
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

For our final Modern Thanksgiving Relish Tray (see our pickle board and spread of dips and crudités) I went a very untraditional route for Thanksgiving: cheese! I was looking for something that represented the Bay Area and our local bounty, something unique and delicious and maybe just a bit decadent. Something dramatic and singular and celebratory.

Well, hello there, whole wheel of beautiful, buttery Mt. Tam! You’re looking marvelous!

Nothing ticks all those boxes for me like a whole wheel of Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese. About 4-inches in diameter and about 2 inches tall with a beautiful snowy white rind, Mt. Tam is a showstopper and a favorite cheese to serve whole. It’s a delicious triple-cream cheese, so it offers lots of buttery, creamy decadence.

→ More about the cheese: Mt. Tam at Cowgirl Creamery

Thanksgiving Cheese Tips

Of course, any whole wheel of cheese will suffice just as long as it’s not too big. Your guests shouldn’t fill up on cheese; they should just get a tingle of salty, funky, appetite-whetting flavor from a smear on a light cracker or two.

If you’re not familiar with your local cheeses, I urge you to do some research and discover your own area’s version of Mt. Tam. If you can’t find a whole cheese, a large wedge can also make a dramatic statement.

→ Serving Tip: Be sure to take your cheese out of the refrigerator the morning of your Thanksgiving feast so it can come to room temperature before serving.

What to Serve With the Cheese

For contrast, I picked some fresh figs from the tree in our front yard (talk about local!) and toasted some almonds like they do at Chez Panisse.

Get the recipe: Chez Panisse Herbed Almonds

It may be a little hard to find fresh figs in late November but dried figs will do, too. Or partially peel some of those tiny Cutie oranges and break them into segments, leaving curls of peel on the tray for dramatic effect.

Instead of a sliced baguette, I used paper thin Italian ‘sheet music’ crackers which you can find at many Trader Joe’s these days. I like to use them because I find that people will fill up on bread without even realizing they are doing it. Then they sit down at the dinner table and discover there’s not much room left for the main event! These ultra thin crackers offer a little crunch without the additional heft of a baguette slice. Any simple, thin cracker will do if you can’t find carta de musica.