Hooked on Cheese: A Very Cheesy New Year

Raymond Hook threw a very special New Years’ party

Tome d’Aquitaine is a washed-rind goat’s milk wheel that weighs about nine pounds and has been aged three to four months.

I always like to celebrate the New Year with a festive gathering of friends — a small post-holiday get-together to fête the "new beginnings" now upon us. Needless to say, providing decadent treats for the occasion is paramount to its success, so I opted to swing by the Dean & Deluca SoHo flagship store to pick up some goodies from cheesemonger Efren Diaz. When I arrived and saw Efren wasn’t in his usual spot I started perusing the cheeses on display and was asked by the gal at the counter if I needed suggestions. I couldn't help but pose my perennial question: “What's your pick of the day?"

The monger, who'd introduced herself as Caitlin Ewing, brought out the Tome d’Aquitaine, a washed-rind goat’s milk wheel that weighs about nine pounds and has been aged three to four months. This cheese is made in the Loire region of France then sent to Bordeaux where it's washed in the sweet dessert wine Sauternes, giving it its distinctive, smelly orange rind. Dean & Deluca, thankfully, keeps their cheeses at room temperature so it was ready for me to taste straightaway.

The Tome was fairly firm and fudgy with deep mineral flavors. It was not too "goaty" and had just a whisper of sweetness from the wine. This cheese is full-flavored and satisfying; ideal for the wintertime and, unbeknownst to Caitlin, perfect for my New Year's gathering! I decided I'd grab a few warm-from-the-oven, crusty baguettes and a bottle of Château d’Yquem Sauternes to round out my simple yet indulgent delicacies for the party. Château d’Yquem is the most sought-after of all Sauternes wines. It ages extremely well for a white wine — I've had them as old as 20 years — and though they are pricey, I knew I could justify the cost in the name of a once-yearly celebration with friends.

After being so impressed with Caitlin's cheese choice (and genuine helpfulness) I asked her how she'd ended up behind the prestigious Dean & Deluca counter. A recent transplant to NYC, she had previously worked for stellar retailers in Boston and really knows her cheese. I'm thrilled that in 2015 NYC can welcome a new passionate, educated monger, and I'm doubly excited that I now have two friends to go visit when I swing into Dean & Deluca.

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You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.