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As our week of cheese ball recipes comes to a close, we wanted to share a few final thoughts. First, and most importantly, is that we hope our enthusiasm for the oft-maligned ball has inspired you to brush off your old recipes and revive this classic holiday party dish.

Second is that ingredients do matter. No, you probably won’t want to use your $50/lb. Hook’s 15-year cheddar, but there’s no excuse to use a processed cheese food product, either. This week I spotted a recipe that called for “a jar of Kraft blue cheese.” I can not imagine an occasion for which it would be appropriate to buy blue cheese in a jar. And you won’t see me reaching for the mayo jar either, even if the Queen-of-Butterfat herself recommends it. You can make a perfectly delightful ball with the better cheddars available at your local grocer, or even mix one “budget” cheese with something a little nicer.

Finally, get creative! The flavor combinations are nearly endless. We drew from popular dips, onion and pimento, for two of our balls. You can go spicy with smoked paprika, sweet with cinnamon and pumpkin, or add a Mexican flair with cumin and jalapenos.

Cheese + Champagne Original Cheese Ball Recipes

We’re also tickled to see cheese ball love spreading around the Web:

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Last night I attended the launch party for DC’s newest cheese enterprise, The Cheese Course. Fromager Carolyn Stromberg, well known among DC cheese lovers for her work running the cheese cave at Old Hickory Steakhouse, is setting out on her own to teach cheese appreciation classes around town. At last night’s event, hosted by Cheesetique, Carolyn led guests through a guided tasting of several wines and cheeses, beginning with a sparkling wine and triple-cream L’Explorateur. “I always like to start a tasting with sparkling wine,” explained Carolyn, “because it’s festive.” It’s also hard to go wrong in matching a sparkling wine with cheese, which makes it an easy choice for beginners.

Carolyn Stromberg at The Cheese Course launch

Carolyn went on to lead us through a white, two reds and on to the dessert course, Sauternes with Sweet Grass Dairy‘s Asher Blue from Georgia. The Sauternes was a little sweet for my liking, but well suited for the assertive blue. My favorite pairing of the night was the California Queen of Hearts pinot noir with Abbaye de Belloc. (I’m a bit of an Oregon pinot snob, but this was a really delightful and fruity California rendition that would go well with a variety of cheeses.) I was also delighted to try the Cinerino, a mild, almost floral tasting, ash-rubbed sheeps-milk cheese from Casa Madaio in Campania, Italy.

DC has a wealth of fabulous cheesemongers and shops, but too few opportunities for the cheese curious to study the subject matter more in depth. Carolyn’s passion for cheese is evident, and her casual approach will put even novices at ease as she leads them through a guided pairing. Visit her website and contact her today to schedule a cheese tasting for your holiday party. Plans to host public classes around town are in the works, so stay tuned and we’ll be sure to give you a heads up when they’re scheduled.

The Cheese Course
www.cheese-course.com
p: 202.236.3044
@cheesecoursedc

Today is Global Champagne Day, organized by wine blog Vintuba to “encourage people pause their hectic schedules, to take time to celebrate their lives, friends, and loved ones by enjoying the wonders of Champagne.” It’s also supported by the Champagne Bureau, which works to promote truth-in-labeling — so make sure you’re celebrating with a real Champagne from the Champagne region of France, okay? Good.

As you can imagine, this is a holiday we’re pretty excited about here at CheeseandChampagne. It’s been pointed out that we give the second half of our title short shrift here on the blog, and I promise you we plan to rectify that. (Not being able to imbibe for 9 months put a temporary damper on our pairings research.) And we’re beginning today, with a quick taste of some French cheeses to pair with France’s other famed export. (As an aside, how is it possible that cheese was omitted from the list of suggested champagne pairings on the event site? I mean, have you been to France?!)


Some of our favorite champagne-appropriate cheeses include Chaource (from the Champagne region, even), St. Marcellin, Comté, and Grès des Vosges. (Click here to see all our French cheese reviews to date.) Now we follow the “what grows together, goes together,” rule quite a bit — but don’t be afraid to branch out. Be a rebel and try some Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill or Nettle Meadow Kunik with your champagne. Any creamy, rich cheese will yield perfectly to the crisp bubbles of your champagne.

I also reached out to local cheesemonger Sebastien Tavel, of Alexandria’s La Fromagerie. While he curates a wonderful selection of local and domestic cheeses at this Old Town cheese shop, he’s also a native Frenchman with a few thoughts on pairing cheese and champagne. When you’re springing for the real deal, you don’t want your cheese to overpower the bubbly. Tavel suggests a creamy Brillat-Savarin, “a wonderful triple creme that is mild and very delicate,” or the “nutty and complex” sheeps-milk Abbaye de Belloc with a rosé champagne.

While French imports to the US have been slowed due to the transportation strikes abroad, Tavel has a full array of French cheeses in stock, including: Brillat-Savarin, Abbaye de Belloc, Brie, Boucheron, Bleu d’Auvergne, St. Agur blue, Morbier, Comte and Raclette. (La Fromagerie is open today until 7pm so stop in to pick up your favorite cheeses to toast with tonight.)

In Minneapolis, Jill reached out to Benjamin Roberts of France 44 Wine & Spirits. His choice with France’s best bubbly? Langres.

What’s your favorite cheese with champagne?

Hello, cheese friends. As our readers may recall, part of the impetus behind Cheese + Champagne was my coauthor Jill’s move several years ago to Minnesota. We decided to keep in touch through our mutual love of cheese — while sharing our tasting notes with the world. Well, it’s Jill’s birthday today, and as we aren’t able to break bread around a cheese board together, I’m sending her a virtual toast: a festive sparkling Spanish sangria and local Firefly Farm‘s Merry Goat Round. That cute little round is the perfect cheese stand-in for a birthday cake, don’t you think? (And, just last week it was named 1st Runner Up for Best in Show at the American Dairy Goat Association 2010 cheese competition.)

This little blog will be celebrating a birthday of its own next month. While Jill and I have been busy tending to our little human kids, Kunik and Oma (no, not their real names), we’ve also been plotting behind the scenes to bring you all sorts of new cheese deliciousness. Stay tuned!

And in the meantime, tell us what cheese would you celebrate a birthday with?

P.S. Speaking of celebrations, Thursday, October 28, is Champagne Day. There will be tastings at Alexandria’s Whole Foods here in VA, elsewhere follow the hashtag #Champagne on twitter to join in virtually.

The 2nd annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival takes place Sunday, July 25, back at the gorgeous lakeside grounds of Shelburne Farms near Burlington. (Read our recap of last year’s festival for a preview of the deliciousness involved.) Tickets sold out in advance last year, and are well on the way to doing so again, so order yours today if you plan to go.

The Vermont Cheese Council has a handy map you can consult to plan your own tour of Vermont’s 40+ dairy farms and cheesemakers over the weekend. Or, if you’re coming from New York or Boston, you can join a bus trip to travel in style.

From New York, the Murray’s coach will leave Saturday morning, tour Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery and then check you in to a three-star hotel overnight to rest up before the big day. (Last year, Murray’s led a red-eye bus trip that was reportedly quite the adventure, as there were heavy thunderstorms during the night — we experienced the same on our drive, and it was a rather harrowing trip through upstate New York.)

Formaggio Kitchen will conduct a day-trip from Boston, serving breakfast on the bus and hosting a private barbecue with their own grillmaster at Shelburne following the conclusion of the festival.

And if you’re looking for a more budget-conscious way to enjoy the festival, it’s not too late to sign up as a volunteer. Contact Hilary at VBC — HSchwoegler@vermontcreamery.com — for info or to sign up.

So tell us, have you bought your tickets yet? And if so, please report back — we’ll both be homebound with newborns and missing out on this year’s festivities.

This event recently came across my email and was too delicious not to pass on to those of you in the DC area. You know we love beer and cheese, and this upcoming beer dinner at Birch & Barley features three gouda-beer pairings, with Mikkeller beer from Denmark. Birch & Barley is the newest member of the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, whose local restaurants boast a strong cheese program across the board. See the full menu for the May 17 dinner below, and contact Birch & Barley at 202.567.2576 to make reservations.

The Mikkeller Beer Dinner
With Special Guest Mikkel Borg Bjergsø
Monday, May 17 | 5 Courses + 8 Beers | $76

Details: Mikkeller Beer Dinner at Birch & Barley on Monday, May 17 at 7:00 PM. $76 Per Person + Tax & Gratuity.

The Menu

Apéritif
Mikkeller Drink in the Sun

Barley Salad Pickled Cucumbers, Golden Raisins, Almonds & Crawfish
Mikkeller Funky (e) | [fung’ke e’st r]

“Smørrebrød” Pan Seared Trout, Lovage, Housemade Brioche & Pumpernickel Spread
Mikkeller 10

Veal Rump Roast, Scandinavian Spices & Minted Potatoes
Mikkeller Freiser

Young Gouda
Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole: Rum

Smoked Gouda
Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole: Peat Whisky

Aged Goat Goud
Mikkeller Barrel-Aged Black Hole: Red Wine

Maple Mousse, Lingonberry Sorbet & Apricot-Elderflower Syrup
Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel

Congrats to Mary Keehn and our friends at Cypress Grove Chevre for being named a silver finalist in the Classic category of the 2010 sofi™ Awards! Cheese+Champagne favorite Humboldt Fog is the only cheese in this category, and if we had our way, it will be named the winner. We’ll find out at the 2010 Summer Fancy Food Show, to be held in New York on June 27-29. As you may recall, last year Cypress Grove came out on top in the Cheese/Dairy category for its delicious Truffle Tremor.

The 2010 finalists in Cheese/Dairy are:

Other cheesey finalists include:

It looks like we have some new cheeses to add to our ever-growing to-do list! Since Colleen and I won’t be able to attend this year’s Fancy Food Show, we’ll have to seek out tastes elsewhere. (Samples are always welcome!)

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