If you follow the cheese world on Instagram, you might have seen some of these striking cheese boards on feeds like That Cheese Plate or regrammed by yours truly at Cheese Notes. These beautiful edible constructions are the work of Lilith Spencer, currently cheesemonger at Cheesemongers of Santa Fe in New Mexico (@cheesemonggrrl on Instagram).

she got her start as a monger in NYC, and could be found behind the counter at shops like Brooklyn Larder, working the Vulto Creamery stand at the farmer’s markets, or competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational. Recently I had a chance to catch up with her and ask her about the boards, the cheese scene in Santa Fe, Georgia O’Keefe’s influence on her plating, and more.  

Check out the full interview here

(Photos ©2015 Lilith Spencer)

Her final stand: L’esprit de Noël Chocolate Tart

With dark chocolate Glaze and Ganache atop Praline Feuilletine in Sweet Almond Pastry Dough, layered with a beautiful gold-specked Cacao Nib Tuile, decorated with a Tempered Dark Chocolate ball filled with Mascarpone Cacao Whipped Cream and covered with Red-Gold Colored Cacao Butter, and a curve of patterned tempered Dark Chocolate. 

This was my mother’s final exam piece! She’s finally done with her Le Cordon Bleu Superior Pastry course and with this creation I’m fairly sure she will more than pass - I’ve watched her practice for weeks and weeks on end, baking the sweet almond pastry dough to tart perfection, double boiling more dark chocolate than I care to remember and tempering them in moulds which would only sometimes yield the desired shape, and basically exiling herself from a social life to the library where it was cool enough to assemble her complicated chocolate tart. As this is her own recipe perhaps I will be posting it soon,  but for now I’ll just celebrate with her in the L'espirit of freedom! 

Via, some cheese board do’s and don’t’s from Bon Appetit’s Carey Polis (@careypolis) and Veronica Pedraza, head cheesemaker at Meadowood Farms (you can see my previous reviews of her wonderful cheeses here): 

Build the Cheese Plate of Your Dreams by Avoiding These 6 Common Mistakes

It’s always the right time for a cheese plate, but with the holiday and entertaining season close upon us, we’ve got fromage even more on our mind than usual. And pulling a cheese plate together is easy: All you have to do is chunk up some cheddar into cubes and a unwrap a brick of blue, toss it on a cutting board and scatter Triscuits around everything. Wrong. Don’t do that. From the wrong knives to overly fussy pairings, there are a lot of ways to screw up a cheese plate. Here’s how not to.

Read the full post.


The Art of Plating

Watch Niki Nakayama, chef-owner of LA kaiseki restaurant n/naka, plating a selection of dishes from her 13-course tasting menu while explaining what kaiseki means to her. Filmed by The Art of Plating.

Kitchen work can sometimes feel like days of mindless repetition, doing the same thing in the same way, over and over and over and over again. No matter what station you’re working, it happens, but for whatever reason, the pantry station (which is salads and cold appetizers) is the worst. I’ve seen it break guys, they can’t handle the monotony of being stuck doing pantry for months at a time.

But there’s something guys like that aren’t understanding. It’s what ensures they get stuck at pantry and don’t get moved up.

The monotony of the job is what enables you to excel. It’s not really that mindless. At least not if you don’t want it to be. Once you get settled in to a station, you usually have somewhere between ten and thirty menu items you’re responsible for each night. Those dishes are your masterpieces, every single one, every single night. Focus on making each one look, smell, and taste the very best that you can, and I promise you, you won’t be bored.

If you make each dish coming out of your station look fit for the pages of a magazine, people will take notice. But if you slop out your orders, night after night, focused on how boring it is to just make the same things over and over, that will be noticed too, and your ass is never going to get off pantry.