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The Holiday Cheese Board

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Being the cheese maven that I am, I always am assigned to the cheese board at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other special occasion! I’ve picked Holiday cheeses for my family, friends, and of course, my customers for over ten years now. Needless to say, I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Although the inner cheese nerd in me wants to share the rankest, ooziest cheeses I’ve recently discovered, I’ve learned to tone it down and have curated a list of cheeses that everyone will enjoy.

First thing to remember is sadly, restraint. Although it’s tempting to bring large hunks of several different cheeses (and we’d love you to purchase a lot for the sales of the store) it’s only necessary to bring a small sampling of 3-5 cheeses for the ultimate cheese platter. Your friends and family should already be in sweatpants for the big day but we don’t want them to feel the need to utilize that elastic band before the meal starts!

 

How much do I buy?

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My best Thanksgiving cheese spreads have included three to five cheeses and one, to two, accompaniments. The cheeses are what people expect, but better. I want them to say-oh, this cheese reminds me of  (insert cheese here) but so, so much better! Because I’m known as the Cheese Lady everyone wants to know a bit about each cheese and why I picked it. Here’s my guide so you can use it as a cheat sheet.  I’ve picked a list of crème de la crème cheeses for those of you who don’t mind spending money on an annual holiday, and I’ve also selected a list of more budget conscious cheeses that will still prove holiday worthy.

Normally, I recommend one ounce per person per cheese, but a Holiday meal is so overwhelming that you can scale that back to a little over half of an ounce. That means:

  • For four people: A quarter pound of each cheese (3-4 different cheeses)
  • For eight people: A quarter pound of each cheese (4-6 different cheeses)
  • For 12 people: A third to a half pound of each cheese (4-6 different cheeses)
  • For 16 people: A half to three quarters of a pound of each cheese

Pick two versatile accompaniments that can work well with several of the cheeses. I like Mini Croccantini original crackers and Raincoast Cranberry Crisps. Then, of course, I pick a great chutney. This year I’m especially excited about  Quince and Apple Chutneys. We have an array of different flavors that are on sale as this month’s Gourmet Picks.

Show up or set up with a rustic wood board or black slate that you can leave behind with your host(ess) as a thank you gift. We have slates available for sale at the store for $14.00 each.

 

What cheeses do I buy?

Something Creamy…

Harbison by Jasper Hill Cellars – Vermont
Regularly $36.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $29.99

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Everyone’s looking for Brie. Don’t give it to them. Blow minds with Vermont’s answer to Camembert: Jasper Hill Creamery’s Harbison.  Harbison is wrapped in birch bark and its paste is woodsy, milky, and sublime.

On a budget? Fromager d’Afinois Brebis – France
Regularly $19.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $16.99

daffinois-brebis

This ultrafiltered sheep’s milk is like lactic silk, the flavor similar to butter that would be fit for royalty. Everyone likes butter.

Something Goaty…

L’amuse Brabander Goat Gouda – Holland
Regularly $32.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $26.99

Your friends and family will likely tell you “they hate goat cheese” so don’t tell them what it is, until they’ve tried it. L’amuse goat gouda has a beautiful white paste that is laden with lovely flavors of caramel and butter. It has a pleasant savory underpinning from the goat’s milk. Just wait for their reaction!

On a budget? Drunken Goat – Spain
Regularly $21.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $15.99

Literally meaning ”goat with wine” this semi-firm pasteurized goat from Spain’s Mediterranean coast is cured for 48-72 hours in Doble Pasta red wine. The paste remains nearly pure white and the rind absorbs a lovely violet hue. The paste is sweet and smooth, delicately grapey, with a gentle, pliable texture and mild fruity flavor. Trust me, it will turn even a picky cheese eater to the goat side.

Something Cheddar like …

Americans love cheddar. Plain and Simple. The following are selections that will impress your cheddar loving guests without boring your cheese enthusiast to tears. 

Challerhocker – Alpine Cheese – Switzerland
Regularly $29.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $24.99

challerhocker

This is our top selling cheese, because it’s so darn delicious. Translating to ”sitting in the cellar”, Challerhocker is washed in wine and spices and then aged for a minimum of 10 months, providing a remarkable depth of flavor. Firm yet creamy. This gem has the rich aroma of cooked custard, the flavor of slowly roasted nuts, and a lingering almost fruity finish. Challerhocker features a flavor veering more in the butterscotchy direction which pleases almost any pallet.

On a budget? Cabot Clothbound Cheddar – Vermont
Regularly $25.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $19.99

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Here is where I praise clothbound cheddar and its vast complexities and differences from the block cheddar we all know and love Cabot Clothbound has a signature tang and caramel nuttiness with a rustic crystalline texture that becomes creamy on the palate. Cabot Clothbound is an award-winning cheese, including American Cheese Society’s 2006 Best in Show. It has placed in the top three for Cheddars made in the United States since its debut in 2003.

Something Blue…

Rogue Creamery River Blue Limited Edition – Oregon
Regularly $45.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $39.99

rogue-blue

Great blue cheese isn’t a crumbly funky mess of mold. Turn even your most picky critics into blue cheese lovers with the following blue cheeses:

Rogue Creamery River Blue is released seasonally each fall, and is wrapped in pear-brandy macerated grape leaves. It tastes of fruit and cream with a smoky undertone. Although quite pricey this blue will be the highlight of your holiday cheese board.

On a budget? Gorgonzola Dolce D.O.P. – Italy
Regularly $19.99/lb, Holiday Sale Price $15.99

gorgonzola

Meaning “sweet” in Italian, Gorgonzola “Dolce” DOP is a soft, blue, buttery cheese made with uncooked cow’s whole milk. The cheese took its name from a small town in Lombardy near Milan, where it said to have been born in the 12th century. Flavors are not very assertive but sweet, mild with notes of sour cream and lactic tang.  Encourage your guests to try this cheese with some fruit chutney, they will surely become blue cheese believers.

 

These cheeses are on sale for November and December for your holiday cheese board pleasure. I hope to see all of you to help pick out a cheese board that’s perfect for your friends and family! If you’d like our team to put a board together for you, simply call with 24 hour’s notice and we’ll make sure to make a show stopping cheese platter for you. Please click here to visit our Catering page.

Yours in cheese,

Laura