Cheese, bread, and wine. I could subsist on these three main food groups. I recently visited Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine at its Chicago Loop location in order to learn all about the art of creating the perfect cheese plate, which makes an excellent host or hostess gift in lieu of the standard bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers. I left with a whole new understanding of and appreciation for cheese.
I met with Bryan, the head cheesemonger for Pastoral’s three locations. From him I learned that Pastoral first opened in Lakeview in 2004 with a mission to provide Chicago with the highest level of service and education for its customers, striving to make shopping for and consuming artisan goods enlightening, approachable, fun and delicious. Everything that I learned from Bryan reinforced that creed.
Everything sold and served at Pastoral is extremely thought out and well-curated. The central focus is cheese, obviously, and everything from the freshly baked breads, perfectly chosen accompaniments, small production wines, and hand-crafted beers, are chosen to highlight cheese. Everyone that works at Pastoral is highly educated in selecting the perfect cheese and coordinating accompaniments, taking all of the guess work, and pretension, out of cheese buying, thus making it approachable and fun.
Preparing the perfect cheese plate is all about variety, including origin, type of milk, and style. A good cheese plate should be comprised of four to five different cheeses representing both Europe and America. They should also highlight the four different types of milk used to make cheese: sheep, cow, goat, and water buffalo. Finally, the cheeses should be a variety of fresh, soft, ripened, washed rind, semi-firm, firm, and/or aged. This may sound overwhelming, but the staff at Pastoral is there to help you. In the end, you should serve what you like.
The cheese plate should also include some traditional, as well as new, accompaniments. Sweet items such as honey and jams always pair well with cheese. However, I also learned that anything from blue-cheese dusted caramel corn, pickled vegetables, and tomato tapenades are great cheese toppers.
When looking for that perfect wine to go with the cheese, match the body of the cheese to the body of the wine. Bryan advised me to stay away from wines high in tannins, and suggested looking for wines with higher acidity. Dessert wines, Champagne, and less hoppy beers all pair well, too.
Cheeses are best served at room temperature, and are great as an appetizer or dessert with the traditional nuts, jams, honey, and dried fruit accompaniments.
In additional to a cheese plate making a perfect Holiday gift, Pastoral also has an excellent selection of pre-made gift baskets for the cheese lover on your list. The Best of the Midwest, Comfort Food Collection, and the Lakeview Collection all look fantastic to me!
Pastoral also serves delicious sandwiches and offers catering, which, in my experience, is always excellent. I highly recommend Pastoral to anyone who enjoys good cheeses, wines, local artisanal offerings, and great customer service.
Bar Pastoral, 2947 N Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
Lakeview, 2945 N. Broadway, Chicago, IL 60657
Loop, 53 E. Lake, Chicago, IL 60601
Chicago French Market, 131 N. Clinton St., Chicago, IL 60661
While I received complimentary products from Pastoral, all thoughts expressed herein are my own.