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Cheese Plate: Maple’s Match


Spring is maple-sugaring season in Vermont, as warm weather encourages tapped maple trees to turn stored starch into sap for syrup. What better to pair with this liquid gold than another of the Green Mountain State’s signature creations: cheese. “Sweet foods combined with savory or salty foods are irresistible; one complements the other,” says Lisa Battilana of Woodstock Farmers’ Market in Woodstock, Vt.

Battilana, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, grew up in Vermont and has worked at the market for 18 years, rising through the ranks from sandwich maker to a partner in the business. In her new role as cheese program director, Battilana will start classes and tastings, organize visits to makers, and grow the store’s selection.

For this board we asked Battilana to pair cheeses with maple products. “Artisan food entrepreneurs have given new life to these simple foods, which are hundreds of years old,” she says.

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1. Pecorino Romano

  • Maker: Fulvi
  • Origin: Nepi, Italy
  • Milk: Pasteurized sheep’s milk
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Wood’s Verdena Balsamic Reduction

This “big, full-flavored cheese requires an accompaniment with some muscle,” Battilana says. The ideal foil? Wood’s Verdena reduction, which combines venerated products from two countries: maple syrup (United States) and balsamic vinegar (Italy). Drizzle it on the season’s first greens, and top with shavings of pecorino for a welcome spring tonic.

2. Maple Chevre

    Maker: Blue Ledge Farm
  • Origin: Salisbury, Vt.
  • Milk: Pasteurized goat’s milk
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Jan’s Cranberry-Pistachio Farmhouse Chips

“The lemon tang of Blue Ledge’s fresh goat cheese finds a match in maple syrup; the result is a fluffy, light spread with incredible versatility that’s wonderful atop these cranberry-pistachio crisps. Add a bowl of asparagus soup, and you’ll have a great lunch or supper.”

3. Grappino

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Grafton Village Bakery Maple Oat Biscuit Bites

Attention to detail and the great palates of the team make Spoonwood Creamery an excellent new addition to the cheesemaking scene, Battilana says. This small-format wheel with a geotrichum rind is washed with grappa—the first bite is “assertive,” but it has a “creamy finish,” she adds. Scoop and swirl the cheese on a Grafton Village Bakery biscuit for an elegant bite.

4. Chiriboga Blue

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April’s Maple Dark Cocoa Maple Cream Truffles

“The first time I had Chiriboga Blue, I wanted to go home and turn it into ice cream,” Battilana says. “It has a rich, sweet, creamy taste and texture with a subtle saltiness.” Coupling the cheese with these dark chocolate-and-maple truffles is “simplicity and harmony in one mouthful,” she adds.

5. Beatrix Brie Button

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Sidehill Farm Vermont Maple Apple Drizzle

“If you’ve read and loved Beatrix Potter’s children’s books, the name of this cheese will conjure up a Lilliputian world,” Battilana says. The warm spices of Sidehill Farm’s cinnamon-maple condiment flecked with apple enliven the maple, making it a perfect companion to the 2-ounce Brie-style rounds (try topping each cheese with a tablespoon of drizzle and baking them in a 350°F oven for five minutes).

Photographed by Andrew Purcell, styled by Carrie Purcell

Lisa Battilana

Lisa Battilana is a Vermont native, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, and the director of the cheese program at the Woodstock Farmers' Market.