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Cool For School: Lunchbox-Ready Cheese Plate 


lunchbox

Photographed by Nina Gallant; Styled by Monica Mariano

It’s that time again: The air is getting crisp, daylight hours are waning…and the lunchboxes are ready to be stuffed. Whether you’re packing a meal for yourself at the office or for the little ones at school, a portable cheese plate is always a welcome option.
Searching for the ideal wedge? Think firm and mild, says Darren Vanden Berge, head cheesemonger and shop manager at the Cheese Shop of Des Moines. “Harder, aged cheeses travel easily,” he says, and mellow curds will win you more friends at the office (don’t be the person who microwaves fish—or snacks on Époisses). Vanden Berge scoured the shop’s 70-plus range and landed on four cheeses that fit the bill.

We then asked him to pair said cheeses with different iterations of an iconic accompaniment (and snacktime favorite): fruit. He was more than happy to oblige. “Fruit adds another layer of texture and helps bring out hidden flavors in the cheese you may not necessarily notice upon first bite,” he says. “When you get that pairing right, both the cheese and the fruit are elevated to another level.” Likewise with your lunch.

(clockwise from top right in featured image)

Frisian Farms Aged Gouda

Origin: Leighton, Iowa
Milk: Pasteurized cow’s milk

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Quince and Apple Pear with Honey and Ginger Preserves

Butterscotchy gouda goes head to head with super-sweet pears and honey for a dessert-like combo—but it’s the spicy ginger in this jam that kicks it all up a notch, Vanden Berge says.

Finca Sierra la Solana/Essex Street Cheese Co.
Manchego 1605

Origin: La Mancha, Spain
Milk: Raw sheep’s milk

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Boat Street Pickles Pickled Apricots

“I love the fruitiness of this younger Manchego,” Vanden Berge says. Top slices with sweet and sour pickled apricots cured with toasted curry and cider vinegar for a balanced bite.

ShadowBrook Farm’s Dutch Girl Creamery Rosa Maria

Origin: Lincoln, Neb.
Milk: Pasteurized goat’s milk

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Door County dried cherries

“Rosa Maria is one of my favorite aged goat cheeses. It’s got such a great earthiness to it,” says Vanden Berge. Counter that savory flavor with the sweet punch of dried Wisconsin cherries.

Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze

Origin: Milton, Iowa
Milk: Pasteurized cow’s milk

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Honeycrisp apple slices

Give the classic pairing of apples and cheddar a Midwestern twist: Swap in Prairie Breeze, an aged, crumbly style with plenty of crystals. “The cheese plays so well with bright apples,” Vanden Berge says. It’s just as good as pie— we promise.

Rebecca Haley-Park

Rebecca Haley-Park is culture's Managing Editor and resident stinky cheese cheerleader. A native New Englander, she holds a BFA in creative writing from University of Maine at Farmington. Her favorite cheese: Harbison

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