Who says you can’t have cheese for breakfast?
In a corner of Nichols Hills Plaza, En Croûte, 6460 Avondale Drive, offers a curated selection of domestic and imported artisan cheeses among a wide variety of small plates, pastry, full breakfast, dinner and decadent dessert.
Across the menu, cheese is the one constant, said managing partner and cheesemonger Crosby Dyke.
“You can get a cheese plate with breakfast or have one late-night with a glass of wine,” Dyke said, who suggested pairing manchego or aged Gouda with coffee and a young triple cream Brie with freshly baked pastry.
“There is no secret to developing a palate [for cheese],” Dyke said. “It’s repetition.”
Opened in late 2016, En Croûte is under the culinary direction of partner Jonathon Stranger and also includes partners Drew Tekell, Andrew and Apple Rice and Robbie Haggard.
Dyke said En Croûte wants to offer more seasonal and smaller production cheeses that can’t be found retail at places like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Market and Sprouts Farmers Market. It also serves as wholesaler to other restaurants in the city for their own cheese boards.
“We don’t have a huge selection all the time, but we try to get in what is seasonal and smaller production, artisan cheese,” Dyke said.
Cheese can be selected à la carte, but the best way to sample a variety of cheese and charcuterie is to order the Le Loup plate ($35). Dyke and other cheesemongers on staff use their trained senses, including smell, to determine when a cheese is à point or at its peak (on point) for inclusion on a daily board.
In late January, Dyke selects Truffle Tremor, L’Amuse Signature Gouda and Colston Bassett Stilton to pair with La Quercia Berkshire Cross prosciutto, Fra’ Mani soppressata and house-made country paté, which is served with house-made raspberry Fresno jam.
“The aged Gouda is good anytime, but the Stilton is perfect winter cheese. The longer you work here, the more you become a cheesemonger,” Dyke said, noting that each staff member samples each cheese and is ready for suggestions if a customer asks.
That includes wine and cheese pairings.
“The sparkling rosé is perfect for any cheese,” Dyke said. “A lot of people want to pair bigger, bolder reds because that is Oklahoma’s favorite — big Napa cabernets — and you can do it, but for a big, bold wine you need a big, bold cheese.”
For beginners, Dyke recommended pairing mild cheese with mild wine versus the same for bolder flavors. Like the Truffle Tremor, an artisan selection from California, she recommended a softer wine with fewer tannins like a sauvignon blanc as a white or even a pinot noir as a red.
Dyke began working with cheese at Forward Foods in Norman while in college at the University of Oklahoma. She said some of her favorite moments as a cheesemonger come when she tells a table that a certain cheese might be strong but then it ends up being the table’s favorite on the board.
“People might not buy cheese from the case based on how it looks, but if you put it on a board for a little taste, there is no commitment,” Dyke said.
Just as with breakfast, Dyke said cheese shouldn’t be left out of the final meal of the day — dessert — noting that En Croûte has a selection of dessert wines like fortified ports and Madeira.
“They’re actually some of the best wine to pair with cheese because their residual sugar cuts through the saltiness of the cheese,” Dyke said.
For a beginner’s guide to cheese, Dyke recommend books by Max McCalman, and the staff uses McCalman’s handbook as a handy guide for parings. McCalman suggests pairing blue cheese with a sweet wine.
“You would think a bold red because it’s a full-flavored cheese, but something about the mold sometimes doesn’t quite cut through with the tannins,” Dyke said.
En Croûte provides many unique “bites” for the city, whether be it small or large. The addition of En Croûte sister restaurant St. Mark’s Chop Room & Bar with its connection to Oklahoma-raised wagyu beef means En Croûte now offers wagyu sausage and a tartare ($14) made with Dijon mustard, garlic lemon aioli, fresh thyme, basil, parsley, shallots and garlic. It also has an ahi tuna tartare.
“They get really popular when it gets warmer because it’s nice and light,” Dyke said of the tartare.
En Croûte also offers a pickle plate ($8) of house pickled fresh local produce, but don’t expect to see just pickled cucumbers. A recent plate includes local okra, lotus roots, strawberries, jalapeños and onions.
Another showstopping “bite” at En Croûte is the fried Brie and prosciutto ($12), which earned high marks from En Croûte chef Brady McBride.
“It’s a really bright, fun dish and one of my favorites of the small plates to prepare,” McBride said.
Brie receives an egg wash and is dipped in breadcrumbs before being topped with prosciutto sliced to order and served with macerated berries and toast.
After a long day, Dyke said her favorite “comfort” cheese is Oma, which comes from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont and is owned by the von Trapp family, of Trapp Family Singers fame. A washed-rind variety, the enzymes of the brine breakdown the cheese to add nutty and umami flavors, Dyke said.
“It’s one of my favorite cheeses and an American original,” Dyke said.
Print headline: Fromage hangout; Get tips for pairing cheese with wine from En Croûte cheesemonger Crosby Dyke.