About Kelly

Kelly is the super nerdy Director of Online Media for HMNS.

Cheese Please! Selecting Cheese for the Perfect Cheese Platter

Written by Chef Kevin Morris, Abuso Catering Co., one of our Museum’s exclusive caterers.

cheese 1

Cheese platers have been around for ages, and are a great staple to have whether at a formal event, or a casual gathering at your home. But with so many options how to you make a cheese plater everyone will remember?

Try to include a variety of textures and flavors. Most cheese belongs to one of four basic categories: aged, soft, firm, or blue. For a good variety, choose at least one from each group.

aged cheeseAged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda

soft cheese

Soft: June’s Joy, Triple Cream Brie from Cowgirl Creamery, Cremont

Heap of diced semi-firm cheese on plate

Firm: Manchego, Texas Gold Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano

blue cheese

Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Buttermilk Blue, Red Rock, Stilton

You can also try selecting cheeses by the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep). This will ensure a range of different flavors on the plate. Also be sure to serve at least one very interesting cheese like Barely Buzzed (Cheddar rubbed with a mix of ground coffee beans and French Lavender.

How Much Is Enough?
It really depends on the event. For display during cocktail hour, use 1 to 2 ounces of cheese per guest. If I am doing a party where the cheese display is the star, I use about 3 to 4 ounces of cheese per guest. If you are going to bring a cheese platter to a pot-luck style party, then you should be safe bringing 1 to 2 ounces per guest.

cheese 2Accompaniments
Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all different shapes and sizes. It’s a good idea to vary taste and texture among the breads as well as the cheeses. (I personally like to toast or grill some sliced baguette)

Jarred condiments and vegetables are quick and fuss-free. Try sweet fig preserves or honey, tart chutneys, and spicy mustards. You can also add artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and caponata. If you have a bit more time, prepare caramelized onions, which complement most cheese plates (I make this great cherry tomato jam that I like to put out with my cheese displays). One thing you could try is infusing the honey with interesting flavors like thyme, lavender, or even ancho chili.

Various other sweet and salty items are also great additions. Try cured meats such as prosciutto and salami, or candied nuts and pistachios. I like to use Marcona almonds, which I season with fresh herbs and olive oil. Assorted seasonal and dried fruits can include figs, cherries, apples, berries, melons and pears. I use fruit to make garnishes for my trays and displays as well.

cheese 3

Serving Tips

  • Set out a separate knife for each cheese, especially the soft varieties. Soft cheese spreads well with a butter knife; firm cheese might require a paring knife; and aged cheese often requires a cheese plane. We all have that set of cheese knives that someone gave us – you just need to find it in the closet.
  • Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving―cold mutes flavor.
  • Spread out the displays. Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several tables to avoid guest gridlock.
  • Label each cheese so you won’t need to recite the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavor.
  • When I need cheese for my clients I always call Houston DairyMaids. They can help you with your next cheese tray.

Good Luck and Happy Eating!

Our exclusive full-service caterers are trained in the policies and procedures of the Museum – making your event-planning process effortless. Each caterer is full-service and can customize your event to meet your specific needs. Learn more…

Butterflies and Shutterbugs: Another Fabulous Pixel Party at HMNS

Before-hours at the Museum on June 26, we hosted one of our exclusive Pixel Parties — where we open select exhibits just for photographers (both amateur and professional). For summer of 2016, we gave photographers exclusive access to our Cockrell Butterfly Center .

Below is a small sample of the fantastic photos submitted to our Flickr group:

PP-1

Photo by Sulla55

Photo by Sulla55

Photo by Sulla55

Photo by Alan in Houston

Photo by Alan in Houston

Photo by Debi Beauregard

Photo by Debi Beauregard

Photo by jerry1540

Photo by jerry1540

Photo by Arie

Photo by Arie

Photo by Arie

Photo by Arie

Photo by James Woody

Photo by James Woody

Photo by Sulla55

Photo by Sulla55

The Science of Ceviche – A Summer Seafood Favorite

Written by Ashley Zalta, HMNS Special Events Manager

ceviche 1Nothing is more refreshing than the cool delight of eating ceviche on a hot summer’s eve. Here at HMNS, one of our exclusive caterersMélange—are experts on this summertime staple and have a few tips (and recipes!) to share.

Why can we eat ceviche raw?
The fish is actually cooked by whatever acid (lime juice, lemon juice) you use to marinate! In a process called denaturation the structure of the protein unfolds and ceases to function as normal. With food, this is typically achieved through the application of heat, but acids, bases, and salts can also have the effect. Using an acid gives the fish its “cooked” look and feel but moist texture that we desire in food. It is important to cut the pieces in such a way that the acid can thoroughly denature the protein before it is “overcooked”.

How long does it have to sit before we can eat it?
Ideally it should sit between 10-30 minutes depending on your taste. This gives the acid time to start developing the “cooked” look and feel but isn’t so long that the fish begins to get a chalky dry texture.

How long does it stay good for? (ie should a person save left overs)
Ceviche really should be eaten right then and there for the best taste and texture. But I would say if properly cared and stored (on ice the whole time) it should be edible the next day.

What are your (Mélange) ‘must have’ ingredients in a ceviche?
Lime, cilantro, olive oil, thinly sliced red onion, and of course fish! This is ceviche in it’s simplest form, the addition of tomato, jalapeno, green onion, and avocado add a nice vegetable sweetness and balance to the acidic marinade. Corn and green olives(these two ingredients go very well together) are also common additions, of course the star of the show is the fish so be sure that is the focus and that you get a nice cut of fish to use!

If different, what is your one creative specialty touch ingredient?
A good quality Spanish smoked paprika lends a nice aroma and smokiness. Habanero with mango also makes a fine shrimp ceviche, just be sure to de-seed the habanero or you won’t soon forget that experience!

Snapper Ceviche
8 oz Fresh Snapper Filet
2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro Leaves
1 tbsp Small Dice Red Onion (as small as possible)
1/2 cup Lime Juice (plus zest from 1 lime)
1/4 cup Orange Juice (plus zest from 1/2 and orange)
1 each Diced Roma Tomato
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tsp Spanish Smoked Paprika
1 Seeded and Diced Jalapeno
Salt and Pepper to taste
Yucca Chips

Directions:

  • Slice Snapper into 1/8 inch planks. Cut those by 1 inch intervals.
  • Marinate snapper in the lime juice in the fridge for 14 minutes.
  • Drain snapper and toss with the rest of the ingredients, Serve in an ice cold glass bowl.
  • Prepare yucca chips by removing the tough brown outer layer of yucca. Using a mandolin slice yucca into 1/16 of an inch slices.
  • Fry at 350 F until golden brown and crispy, drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Serve next to the ceviche for scooping.

ceviche 2

Shrimp Ceviche (with Corn, Olives, and Avocado)
8 oz. Shrimp Peeled and Deveined
1/4 cup Roasted Corn Kernels
1/4 cup Sliced Green Olives
1 tbsp Fine Diced Red Onion
2 tbsp Rough Chopped Cilantro
1/4 cup Diced Avocado
1/8 cup Lime Juice (plus 1 tsp lime zest)
1/8 cup Orange Juice (plus 1 tsp orange zest)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Jalapeno Fine Diced (only half seeded)
tortilla chips

Directions:

  • Poach shrimp in boiling water for 60 seconds and cool in an ice bath. The shrimp should have cooked almost all the way through.
  • Toss the shrimp with the remaining ingredients and let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes tossing every 10 minutes or so.
  • Serve in an ice cold glass bowl with your favorite tortilla or yucca chips

 

Aperture and Amber: Our Amber Secrets Pixel Party Recap

After-hours at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on April 10, we hosted one of our exclusive Pixel Parties — where we open select exhibits just for photographers (both amateur and professional). This time around, we gave photographers access to the Morian Hall of Paleontology and Amber Secrets: Feathers from the Age of Dinosaurs. Here’s a small sampling of what they gave us in return:

Michael Palmer, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikedaddy/25767535184/in/pool-hmns/

Michael Palmer

Michael-Palmer

Michael Palmer

Sergio Garcia Rill, http://sgarciarill.zenfolio.com/hmns_amber

Sergio Garcia Rill

Sandy Grimm, https://www.flickr.com/photos/sulla55/26345218786/in/pool-hmns/

Sandy Grimm

Dwayne Fortier, https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortier_photography/25778251933/in/pool-hmns/

Dwayne Fortier

Randall Pugh, https://www.flickr.com/photos/uffdah777/26086547700/in/pool-hmns/

Randall Pugh

Arie Moghaddam, https://www.flickr.com/photos/coogie/25774417994/in/pool-hmns/

Arie Moghaddam

Randall Pugh, https://www.flickr.com/photos/uffdah777/26293102051/in/pool-hmns/

Randall Pugh

Ivan Moreno, https://www.flickr.com/photos/37chess/26322021871/in/pool-hmns/

Ivan Moreno

Ivan Moreno, https://www.flickr.com/photos/37chess/25783405474/in/pool-hmns/

Ivan Moreno

Arie Moghaddam, https://www.flickr.com/photos/coogie/25774411244/in/pool-hmns/

Arie Moghaddam

Randall Pugh

sandy

sulla55