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Local cheese guru Greg O'Neill of Pastoral crafts the perfect Midwestern cheese plate

Greg O'Neill does not want your cheese to stand alone.

We asked the local guru--Pastoral owner, president of the American Cheese Society and co-founder of American Cheese Month (happening now!)--to guide us through crafting a perfect Midwestern cheese plate.

The result: Combine three of his favorite Midwest-made cheeses with Midwest-made accompaniments (all available at Pastoral) for complete cheese board mastery.

Ziege Zacke Blue: "It's a cross between a fudgy blue and a cave-aged jack," says O'Neill of this goat-cow blend ($30 per pound), a collaboration between two notable Wisconsin creameries, LaClare Farms and Roelli Cheese Haus. Pair it with Madison-made Quince & Apple preserves, like savory shallot-red wine or fig-black tea ($10 each).

Bent River Camembert: Pair this Minnesota Camembert from Alemar Cheese Company ($28 per pound) with basswood or clover honey from fellow Minnesotan, Ames ($10). Or slap it between bread in a buttered pan for a singular grilled cheese: "There's some funkiness, but it's not over the top and it's really meltable," O'Neill says.

Chevre Frais: This Nebraska-made New World interpretation of classic French goat cheese by Dutch Girl Creamery ($30 per pound) is encrusted with rosemary, chives and peppercorns. "It's pretty on the outside with a little kinkiness on the inside," O'Neill says, adding that plum-cardamom jam from Michigan's Thornberg Preserves ($11) plays nicely with the herbs.

Pastoral 2945 N. Broadway Chicago IL 60657 773-472-4781 Pastoral 53 E. Lake St. Chicago IL 60601 312-658-1250 Pastoral at the French Market 131 N. Clinton St. Chicago IL 60661 312-454-2200

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