Cheese Tray 101

A cheese plate is a great way to entertain and impress your guests. Cheese plates work well for parties because they allow you to freely snack and chat with your guests! At Reading Terminal Market we have five cheese merchants, with plenty of cheesy knowledge to share!


First, let’s start with the star of the show— the cheese. For a well-rounded cheese board, it’s key to incorporate a variety of textures and flavors. To do so, we recommend choosing one cheese from each category: soft, aged, firm and blue.




Brie: AKA “The Queen of Cheeses,” is a soft-ripened cheese with a buttery, rich flavor and a wonderfully creamy interior.


  • Downtown Cheese: Homemade White Truffle Brie; Saint André (not exactly a Brie, but a richer, creamier cousin)
  • Fair Food Farmstand:Thistle Raw Cow Milk (Valley Milkhouse)
  • Riehl Cheese:Brie Couronne (Henri Hutin)
  • Salumeria: Fromager d’Affinois; Brie de Meaux (Meaux, France)

Pair with: Chardonnay


Goat (chèvre): A simple, yet flavorful soft cheese. Goat cheese comes in many different tastes, shapes and textures.


  • Downtown Cheese:Honey Goat Log; Purple Haze (Cypress Grove Chevre)
  • Fair Food Farmstand:Ash Log (Pipe Dreams Fromage); Demi Sec
  • Riehl Cheese: Silver Goat Chevre
  • Valley Shepherd:Fresh Goat Cheeses 

Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc



Sharp Cheddar: Sharp cheddar goes well with everything and is always a crowd pleaser. It is aged anywhere between six to 18 months and as it ages, the flavor deepens and the texture hardens.


  • Fair Food Farmstand:Mature Cheddar (Clover Creek); Sharp Cheddar (Conebella Farm)
  • Riehl Cheese:Cheddar Smoked Bacon Horseradish; Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar
  • Salumeria: NY three-year Cheddar; Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar
  • Valley Shepherd: Valley Thunder

Pair with: Pinot Noir


Gouda: A semi-hard cheese loved for its smooth texture and rich, unique flavor. Gouda has an almost sweet, fruity taste that develops with age.


  • Downtown Cheese:Smoked Gouda (Netherlands)
  • Fair Food Farmstand:Old + Gold (Hidden Hills); Seven Sisters (Doe Run Farm)
  • Riehl Cheese:Gouda; Smoked Gouda with Bacon
  • Salumeria:Red Wax Gouda
  • Valley Shepherd:Califon Tome

Pair with: Merlot




Gruyere: A hard, yellow cheese from Switzerland. As Gruyere ages, the flavor matures from creamy and fruity to more earthy and nutty.


  • Fair Food Farmstand:Idyll (Parish Hill Creamery); Washington’s Crossing (Ely Farm)
  • Riehl Cheese:Gruyere
  • Salumeria:Caveage Gruyere
  • Valley Shepherd: Somerset

Pair With: Pinot Noir

Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan): Considered to be one of the most popular cheeses, Parmesan has a very hard, gritty texture. Often used grated over Italian dishes, Parmesan’s fruity and nutty taste is even more delicious when eaten on its own. 


  • Downtown Cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano (Italy); Reggianito (Argentina)
  • Salumeria: Parmigiano Reggiano (Italy)

Pair With: Chianti




Classic Blue cheeses like Stilton and Gorgonzola (just to name a couple) will introduce a pop of flavor to your cheese board. Blue cheese has a salty, creamy taste to it, which will be sure to add a funky contrast.  


  • Downtown Cheese: Stilton (Nottinghamshire, England); Bleu Des Causses (Auvergne, France)
  • Fair Food Farmstand: Birchrun Blue (Birchrun Hills)
  • Riehl Cheese: Blue Stilton Cheese
  • Salumeria:Bleu d’Auvergne (Auvergne, France); West West Blue (Parish Hill Creamery)
  • Valley Shepherd: Azure; Crema de Bleu

Pair with: Riesling



Now it’s time to focus on what you should serve your cheese with...and on. Jazz up your board with your favorite meats, spreads, and other small garnishes!


Charcuterie: Stop by Salumeria, Downtown Cheese, or Valley Shepherd for prosciutto, dried salami, and many other cured-meats. For an added treat, visit La Divisa Meats for their house-made cured meats and pates.


Olive Bar: Peruse Salumeria, Downtown Cheese, and Valley Shepherd, for a large selection on olives and other savory goodies that are perfect to nibble on.


Spreads: Sweet spreads like Apple Pepper Jelly (Fair Food Farmstand), Bauman’s Apricot Butter (PA General Store), or Fig Jam (Kauffman’s Lancaster County Produce) will introduce contrasting, yet complementary flavors to your board.


Fruits and Nuts: Apples, pears, and grapes are classics, not to mention easily prepared and inexpensive, but get creative by using sour cherries and dried apricots. For nuts, Spanish Marcona almonds are always a unique and tasty option.


Bread or Crackers? This is your cheese plate, so choose your preference! However, we recommend serving both bread and crackers to continue playing with different textures. Try choosing bread and crackers that match the cheeses being served.

Here are a few RTM options:

-          Locally made wheat thins (Riehl Cheese)

-          Carr’s Table Water Crackers (Salumeria, Downtown Cheese, Jonathan Best Gourmet Grocer)

-          French Baguette (Market Bakery, Metropolitan Bakery)

-          Petits Toast (Salumeria, Downtown Cheese)

-          Homemade Crackers made by Flying Monkey (Valley Shepherd)


Cheeseboard 1

Cheeseboards, Platters, Knives, and more: Visit Amy's Place for handcrafted USA made slate and wood boards from J.K. Adams; specialty knives and spreaders from Swissmar; and Fromaticum coated cheese paper for the leftovers (if there are any)!


Voilà! And just like that, you’re a cheese board expert! Next time you’re planning a get together, remember Reading Terminal Market is your one-stop shop for your ideal cheese tray. Enjoy!

**All wine pairings can be found at Blue Mountain Vineyards and Cellars**

Follow our Cheese Mongers on Instagram:

Valley Shepherd: @curdiologist

Riehl Cheese and Deli: @riehlsdeli

Salumeria: @salumeriartm

Downtown Cheese: @downtowncheese

Fair Food Farmstand: @fairfoodfarmstand

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"Reading Terminal Market Cookbook 2.0: An Old Favorite Gets an Update," by Carolyn Wyman

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Ann Hazan (left) and Irina Smith with their newly revised cookbook


When the Reading Terminal Market Cookbook was first published in 1997, Spataro's was still serving buttermilk, DiNic's was a low-key purveyor of "hearty sandwiches" (so described in a single paragraph) and the late Harry Ochs was every Philly meat-lovers friend and guide.

By cookbook co-authors Irina Smith and Ann Hazan's very rough estimate, 20 to 30 percent of the merchants who were in the Market then are not there today.

No wonder it took them almost two years to revise their book for its newly published second edition, boasting recipes for the Flying Monkey's Elvis cake, Beck's Train Wreck sandwich and Metropolitan Bakery's chocolate chip cookies with dried cherries, among many other modern Market favorites.

The change in the Market in the 18 years between the book's two editions has been "remarkable," Smith exclaimed from the Market's Rick Nichols Room the other day as lunchtime approached and tables began filling up around Smith, tall and blonde and of Center City, and Hazan, short and dark and of Wayne. Even more impressive is the change since the two women began shopping here in the 1970s, when only a couple of dozen merchants toiled under a "roof so bad that there was water in the aisles," Smith recalled.

Having penned the Original Philadelphia Neighborhood Cookbook for local publisher Camino Books in 1988, the women pitched the idea of a Market cookbook to the same company even before they both started teaching cooking classes and doing cooking demonstrations in the Market in the mid-1990s, jobs they held until the Market's demo kitchen closed for a time in 2007. Their cookbook remained in print until just recently, when, running out of copies, the publisher decided to commission this new edition.

While it's called a cookbook, the book also chronicles Market history: most obviously, in its overview first chapter but also in the stand profiles and recipes from now-defunct stands. "[Then Market manager] Paul Steinke pushed us to keep the book in the present, but we felt strongly that least some of the original recipes should stay," said Hazan, both as a way of keeping these stands "alive" and because Harry Ochs' leg of lamb, Jill's Vorspeise's vegetarian chili and Siegfried's German deli's choucroute garni are among the women’s personal favorites. Smith said she still makes the latter at least once a year.

With its recipes for regional specialties like cheesesteak, scrapple and shad, the cookbook has long been popular with tourists. Even locals who don't cook will find the stand profiles useful in navigating the Market or identifying popular and interesting dishes. Keven Parker's is not just good for fried chicken but also for seating that is "a bit removed from the maddening crowd," the women write. And have you ever tried Franks A-Lot's pizza dog or unique French fries ("a cross between a potato chip and a regular French fry," according to the book), Salumeria's marinated artichoke heart hoagie or Profi's Nutella, banana and strawberry crepe? I haven't because I didn't know about them until I read this book.

Only some of the book's recipes are for Market dishes. Others utilize ingredients sold at the stands (like the Pennsylvania General Store's chicken with raspberry shrub and Old City Coffee's espresso-enhanced chocolate sundae sauce, both Hazan's favs) or are stand owners' family recipes (Godshall's cider stew and Alex Spataro's buttermilk pancakes with raspberry sauce, which hearkens back to his family business' origins as a buttermilk stand).

The only requirement of merchant-donated recipes was that "they should fit on one page." As cooking teachers, Hazan and Smith wanted to be sure recipes would not intimidate but be ones that home chefs "would be able to take home and make."

The women will get a chance to make that case on Friday, Oct. 30 from noon to 1:30 p.m., when they will revisit their old jobs as Market cooking instructors and demo some of their cookbook's recipes in the Market's City Kitchen. They'll also be signing books in Center Court from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The Reading Terminal Market Cookbook, Second Edition, $19.95 at the Market's Cookbook Stall and many other local bookstores and online nationwide.

Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour.

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Celebrate the 35th Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Dutch