Accompaniments


After two days of creamy cows-milk cheeses, we turn today to the equally luscious goats-milk cheese from California’s Cypress Grove: the multi-award winning Truffle Tremor. This earthy, rich cheese is always a delight.

Truffle Tremor and its fans (with cheesemaker Mary Keehn)

To really impress your guests, go all out and serve a truffle-themed cheese board with a trio of Truffle Tremor, Tartufo salami from Creminelli, and truffle honey. Add two more cheeses, perhaps Rogue River Blue and Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar, to cut the richness (and round out your West Coast cheese trilogy). Serve with a dry sparkling wine from California.

It’s hard to imagine a more decadent way to ring in the New Year … but we’ll try with tomorrow’s #1 bubbly-worthy cheese pick, so stay tuned!

disclosure: I received free samples of Creminelli salami. No other compensation was received, and as always, all opinions and reviews are strictly our own.

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It’s no secret that sweets make ideal accompaniments for many cheeses — chocolate, jams and honey are popular condiments on a cheese board for a reason. So why not take the next logical step and add Christmas cookies for the ultimate holiday cheese board?

I made lingonberry tart cookies, perfect for balancing the fruity yet tangy bite of the Rogue River blue. The sweet Prima Donna gouda tasted even sweeter after a nibble on a gingerbread cookie. Earthy yet mild Cabra de Cana (a Spanish version of Rebluchon) was a creamy palate refresher, and the board is rounded out with some dried fruit and chocolate salted caramels (Kingsbury Confections, a local treat).

Cana de Cabra (Spain), Rogue River Blue (Oregon), Prima Donna (Netherlands)

Jill makes white chocolate-coffee-cashew biscotti that is perfect with aged gouda or a decadent triple-cream. I’m still pondering what to match with my cranberry-pistachio biscotti, but I might go creamy there too. I plan to set these out on Christmas day to nibble on with coffee and perhaps a champagne cocktail in the afternoon.

We hope you have a cheesy holiday — and if you’d like to share your holiday cheese board, please send a picture to dccheeseATgmailDOTcom or Twitpic to our attention @100cheeses. We may post the best ones here. Merry Cheesemas!

Stumped for what to get your favorite cheese lover this Christmas? Here are our top five picks.

5. Cheese Ornaments. Every cheese lover needs a little mountain of goat cheese or funky blue hanging on their Christmas tree. Available at Sur La Table. (And thanks to Jill, who supplied this one for my tree last year.)

4. Cheese Lit — We particularly enjoyed Cheesemonger: Life on the Wedge, The Cheese Chronicles, and Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin this year – or a subscription to Culture the magazine.

3. Cheese Boards. One can never have too many surfaces on which to display and serve cheese. These slate boards from Brooklyn Slate are all the rage this holiday.

2. Cheese Condiments. A selection of jams, honey, mustards, pickles and crackers will make any cheese lover swoon. Madame Fromage has some excellent suggestions.

1. Gift Certificate to a local cheese shop. That’s right – there’s not a single cheese on this list. Unless you have access to a rare and in demand cheese (like Rush Creek), you’re better off letting your cheese loving friend select their own cheese gift. Not only does it give them the chance to get a favorite or try something new, but it brings your local cheesemonger business after the holiday rush has passed by. A win-win for all involved. (Find a cheese shop near you with this handy directory from Culture.)

(Photo credits: Sur La Table, Barnes & Noble, Brooklyn Slate and yours truly.)

Last night the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah began, and it is customary for the holiday meals to include apples dipped in honey to symbolize the hope for a “sweet” year ahead. As your C+C bloggers are 1.5 parts Jewish (yours truly is only Jewish-by-marriage), we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some of our favorite cheese and honey pairings*. While it’s practically passé to sample blue cheeses with honey, its sweet touch brings the best out of a wide range of cheeses. One of my favorite breakfasts is a piece of toast spread with ricotta cheese and honey. The tang of goats’ milk cheeses, sharpness of an aged cheddar, and bite of a stinky blue can all be tamed and complemented with a little drop of sweet honey.

And it just so happens one of the reviews I’ve had in store is Sally Jackson goat cheese, pictured here with … honey.

Sally Jackson is one of the pioneers of American artisanal cheese, having started her small Eastern Washington dairy farm during the Carter administration. Her small herds of goats and sheep are joined by three dairy cows, and she makes small batches of hand-crafted raw milk cheeses which are shipped to a select handful of retailers. I snatched up the Sally Jackson goat cheese at La Fromagerie earlier this summer, and wasn’t disappointed. (There are no cutesy names here, the cheeses are simply known as goat, sheep, or Guernsey.) This lovely round, made from the milk of Alpine and Nubian goats, is wrapped in grape leaves which enhance the fruity, herbal flavors in the milk. The cheese is dense, moist and creamy with an unexpected bright flavor. And as mentioned, it goes wonderfully with a drop of honey — and some wine.

A few other cheeses we’ve enjoyed with honey here on CheeseandChampagne:

Cashel Irish Blue, in a radish and pear salad with honey vinaigrette

St. Pete’s Select, a Minnesota blue

Narrangasett, Rhode Island ricotta, which I consumed by the bowlful topped with honey and berries

Cabot Clothbound Cheddar with a honeycrisp apple

and of course you can’t go wrong with the honey-rubbed Sea Hive cheddar from Beehive Cheese Co. (review coming soon!)

What’s your favorite cheese to drizzle with honey? L’Shana Tova!

(*of course, if you keep kosher, you’ll have to reserve the cheese board for dairy meals. also, these cheeses are not necessarily kosher themselves, as they may contain animal rennet. end disclaimer.)

Neither snow nor rain nor hear nor gloom of night could keep me from getting my hands on a pyramid of Haystack Peak. Well, the story isn’t that dramatic. Unable to locate one of the Colorado-made goat’s-milk cheeses in Minneapolis, I called up Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy and asked if the cheesemaker could send me one mere piece. Luckily, a nice woman named Joanna tracked down one of the remaining cheeses of the season and sent it the same day. The cheese arrived, surrounded by ice packs, in perfect condition, and I’m happy to report that the Haystack Peak was worth the cost. (I paid more to ship the cheese than the cost of the cheese itself. Seriously.)

Though the Haystack Peak’s shape immediately made me think of the disaster that was Valencay, the tasting experience was not at all similar. Instead of a soury bite, I got the clean, fresh taste of goat cheese that makes me get excited for spring. Haystack Peak is made from the pasteurized milk of Nubian, Saanen and La Mancha goats, and while I’m definitely no goat expert, I’d say that blend of milks makes a pretty awesome cheese. The pyramid shape can be awkward to slice, but that didn’t stop me from plowing my knife through the snowy wedge, and atop a whole-wheat cracker it was blissful.

Wine Spectator recommends pairing Haystack Peak with an Alsatian Pinot Gris or Gewürztraminer, and Haystack Mountain suggests you add some toasted almonds, quince jam or dried fruits on the side. As usual, I am perfectly content with just the cheese and a knife, but if you are able to find Haystack Peak at your local cheese shop, let us know which pairings you prefer.

There are blue cheeses, and then there are blue cheeses, and Persille de Malzieu, from the Langeudoc-Rousillon region of France, definitely falls into the latter category. See all that marbling in the cheese’s paste? That means it doesn’t skimp on sharp, spicy blue flavor. When Colleen and I did our taste test/photo shoot with the cheese a few weeks ago, I thought it may have tasted so strong to us because our pregnancy-altered palates are a bit sensitive, but no, apparently it tastes like that to everyone!

You may not have heard about Persille de Malzieu before. I certainly hadn’t before embarking upon this project. Availability can be spotty (hence, our ordering it from Murray’s rather than buying it at a Minneapolis or D.C. area cheese shop), and it’s a raw sheep’s-milk cheese, which often results in smaller production because sheep make far less milk than cows. But if you’re a blue-cheese lover and can get your hands on it, jump at the chance. Pesille de Malzieu is very moist and salty with a fantastic tang to it. It’s not as creamy as C+C favorite Roquefort, but with a good whole wheat cracker (we love Carr’s) and something sweet on the side, like a raisin chutney or dates, it would be a very satisfying dessert. Wine pairings tend toward the sweet as well – look for a Sauternes or Port.

My allusion to the now-famous 15-year Cheddar produced by Wisconsin’s Hook’s Cheese Company a couple of weeks ago occurred before I got the notion to ask my friends Jim and Becca, who have spent the better part of November and December in our home state promoting their fabulous book, to pick up a chunk for me to taste. Alas, by the time they made it back to Wisconsin, it was hard to find this extra-special cheese anywhere in the state. But ever resourceful, Jim and Becca brought me back a tiny sample cup containing two chunks of the Cheddar from one of their book-tour stops, and it made its way safely back to Minnesota to my eager mouth. Was it worth the wait? Oh yes!

This is, quite simply, the best Cheddar I’ve ever tasted, and you know how many Cheddars we’ve tasted over the past year. It’s the epitome of what a Cheddar should be. It is rich, creamy and caramelly with a few tiny crystals thrown in for good measure. Definitely worth its $50/lb. price tag, the 15-year Cheddar should become an award-winning cheese this summer at the American Cheese Society Annual Conference in Seattle. If not, those judges don’t know cheese.

I’m guessing this Cheddar would make a fabulous mac and cheese or grilled-cheese sandwich, but I think it would be a crime to desecrate it by grating and melting. Just carve off little chunks and enjoy with a big red wine.

If you can still find it in your area (as of yesterday, Surdyk’s reported via Twitter that it had 5 lbs. remaining), Hook’s 15-year Cheddar is the perfect holiday gift for the cheese lover in your life. But if you can’t get your hands on it, here are some other last-minute gift ideas:

  • If you know the recipient is a big fan of soft-ripened cheeses, a whole wheel of Brie, Chaource or Camembert makes a great gift, especially when paired with fruit preserves or chutney.
  • Crowd-pleasers like Gouda or Cheddar are always a safe bet. If you’re still uncertain about your cheese choice, revisit our post from last year, with gift advice from Ken Liss, the owner of the recently departed Premier Cheese Market. Ken is also a wealth of information about unusual cheese pairings – my Heavy Table profile of him from last spring may give you some fun ideas.
  • We know y’all love cheese balls because we get a ton of traffic to this blog from people searching for recipes. If you haven’t already, try Colleen’s version with Old Bay seasoning.
  • The gift doesn’t have to be cheese itself. My husband gave me a beautiful marble cheese board for Chanukah this year, and fondue pots are always a hit. Every cheese lover needs a quality set of cheese knives, and babes will look fabulous in Murray’s “little cheese” bibs.
  • And if you still have space on your tree, get one of these adorable cheese ornaments from Sur La Table. They almost make a Jew wish she had a Chanukah bush!

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