Four Cheese Plates for a Heat Wave

Zavino Cheese Plate

Philadelphia is a ghost town – everyone’s at the shore or sitting indoors with ice packs in their armpits. Me? I’m just eating cheese plates.

It’s mozzarella weather. Feta weather. Goat cheese and berries weather. If you’re working through the heat wave and looking for a dairy diversion, here are a few suggestions for eating in and dining out.

In other words, here’s how Madame Fromage keeps her cool…

Have a Soave and soft Italian cheese party. Soave, from the area around Verona, is my new fave dry white. If you’re tired of Pinot Gris, which can be watery to my taste, Soave offers more complexity – think of melons, stone fruits, traces of volcanic soil. I bought a bottle of 2011 Bertani Soave Sereole, and it went down easy with a flight of cheeses. Try serving sliced cantaloupe, a tangle of prosciutto, a dish of mild green olives, and heirloom tomatoes alongside fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and burrata. Set out olive oil and sea salt, then go wild pairing and sharing.

Seek out a restaurant that serves buffalo mozzarella. Zavino, in Philadelphia, serves half rounds of this ethereal champion with a sploosh of basil oil and fresh tomatoes. To me, these ariy mozz balls are a welcome contrast to most cow’s milk mozz, which can have the texture of a rubbery water balloon. I’ve started seeing imported buffalo mozz on menus lately, and when I do, I don’t mind dashing across town to use it as a compress.

Buffalo mozzarella is flown in fresh from Italy at Zavino in Philadelphia

Buffalo mozzarella is flown in fresh from Italy at Zavino in Philadelphia

Eat sheep’s milk ricotta drizzled with boozy maple syrup for breakfast. If you get tired of yogurt, this deeply dreamy alternative to plain cow’s milk ricotta makes a fine treat. Ian Peacock at Di Bruno Bros. recently turned me on to this pairing. Now I rise from bed in the mornings, yearning for a downy bowl topped with blueberries, toasted slivered almonds, and Noble Maple Syrup.

Make a melon and goat cheese salad. Skip the field greens and go rogue with a variety of ripe melons, sliced thinly or cubed, tossed with good balsamic and olive oil. Then add crumbled chevre and fresh mint. In Philadelphia, I love the melon salad at Morgan’s Pier. I also love the mango and beat salad topped with goat cheese at Cake, in Chestnut Hill. Both are inventive and cooling. Bye bye, ice berg. Bye bye, Cobb.

Note: My recent visit to Zavino (mentioned here) was part of a press junket. I had never been. Didn’t know what I was missing.

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