We’ve finally reached the holiday season, when office parties, family gatherings, and friend-filled celebrations abound. Being “The Cheese Guy,” I bring cheese to most parties I attend throughout the year, but in the cold winter months I’ve found that cheese is particularly welcome at any shindig. When I know most of the people going to a gathering, I can tailor my cheese selections to the preferences of the group, but there are times when I have no idea who will be getting their ‘fest on with me. On these occasions, I fall back on three trusty types of cheese that are so festive and well-loved that no one will be able to turn them down.
White Bloomy Rind Cheeses
The first universally-adored style is white bloomy rind cow’s milk cheeses such as brie or Camembert. I prefer double-creams or triple-creams, as they tend to be richer, softer, and more satisfying. These cheeses pair well with Champagne, making them perfect for New Years, as well as white Burgundies and many beer varieties. Bloomy rind cheeses get creamier as they ripen, have a lush mouthfeel, and are easy to serve; just add a knife and some toasted baguette and you’ll have an instant winner on your hands.
Who can argue with an excellent cheddar? Cheddar may be ubiquitous, but you can impress your fellow revelers with a unique, noteworthy cheddar, such as Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze or Beecher’s Flagship. Just cut the cheese into cubes or slices and serve with tasty crackers and slivered apples for an effortless home run. A mild cheddar will appeal to a greater audience, but if you want to go big, you can opt for a super sharp cheddar like Quicke’s Traditional Mature Cheddar. Cheddar is great when paired with lighter red wines, strong beer or even certain cocktails (I personally love aged cheddar paired with a good whiskey!).
Flavored Goat Cheeses
My third holiday cheese-of-choice is flavored soft goat cheese. There are so many types to choose from; Cypress Grove Chevre, for example, has an entire line of these cheeses in small formats. But personally, I like to make my own. It’s incredibly easy – just purchase the freshest goat cheese log you can find and roll it in whatever suits your fancy. I like to drizzle mine with extra virgin olive oil then add fresh thyme and cracked black pepper. Or for a sweeter option, add honey, chopped dried cherries or cranberries and crushed pistachios; the red-and-green bits give the log a holiday look. Enjoy flavored goat cheeses with white wines, non-hop forward beers, and crisp ciders.
I’d like to wish a very happy holiday season to all my readers, no matter what you end up feasting on! Remember: eat good cheese, share it with your friends and family, and always remember to hug your cheesemonger.