Seattle's Northwest Cheese Plates
Washington’s artisan cheese movement has been slowly growing for decades, as small producers find an appreciative audience for European-style fromage made from goat, sheep and cow’s milk. Once considered an aberration on menus, cheese plates are now de rigueur at restaurants around Seattle, where farm-to-table eating is serious business.
Tilth, chef Maria Hines’ certified organic restaurant in Wallingford, offers a Northwest-centric cheese plate often accompanied by housemade fig jam and crackers from Essential Bakery. In this homey eatery, where tables are arranged in what used to be the living and dining rooms of a 1920s Craftsman house, diners can opt for savory selections from Mt. Townsend Creamery, or the brie-inspired Dinah’s Cheese from Kurtwood Farms on Vashon Island.
At Lark on Capitol Hill, Chef John Sundstrom handpicks some of his favorite regional cheeses, reflecting his commitment to local sourcing. The extensive list changes often but almost always includes the powerful curado, an aged goat’s milk cheese produced by Quillisascut Farm. Located in Eastern Washington, Quillisascut has been a leader in the artisan cheese charge for more than three decades.
Thierry Rautureau, the seasoned cuisinier and media personality known as The Chef in the Hat, was one of the first to purchase from Quillisascut’s Rick and Lora Lea Misterly. He prized many of the cheeses for their funky flavor, which reminded him of the type he grew up eating in France. Particular cheeses still show up when available on his menu at Luc, his popular bistro in Madison Valley.
For a fresh twist on the age-old traditional pairing of wine and cheese, head to The Calf & Kid in the charming Melrose Market. This tiny shop is packed with cheese from around the world and close to home, and customers are invited to try before they buy. Once purchased, it’s possible to walk just a few steps to Bar Ferd’nand and ask for suggestions on wines that will best complement the recent purchase. The staff is always happy to pour a glass or offer suggestions on bottles, which can be enjoyed at the bar or taken home and devoured with some of Washington’s best cheeses.