With all the times we’ve mentioned this cheese over the past year, is our No. 1 bubbly-worthy pick any surprise?

This triple-cream cheese from New York’s Nettle Meadow Farm is made from 75 percent goat’s milk and 25 percent cow’s milk, and the result is 150 percent spectacular. Read more.

Happy new year! May 2011 be the cheesiest year yet.
Colleen+Jill

We hope you and yours had a very merry Cheesemas! Now join us as we count down to 2011 with our top 5 bubbly-worthy cheeses — perfect for toasting with cava, prosecco, sparkling wine or real champagne.

#5: Merry Goat Round from Firefly Farms (Maryland)

Merry Goat Round is a bloomy-rind, Camembert-style cheese that is aged just three weeks. It has a remarkably clean, fresh flavor and a chalky, firm bite. Read more.

Tonight’s the night! If you celebrate Christmas, by now your tree should be decorated, your presents wrapped, and your dinner either eaten or bubbling in the oven. If you don’t, you’re likely eating Chinese food (or wishing you were eating Chinese food because your father, the sole Jew on the planet who doesn’t like Chinese food, is visiting). But regardless of your holiday of choice, everyone is welcome to celebrate Cheesemas!

Whatever your plans for the weekend, we hope cheese is part of the menu. Colleen picked up some Oma and Kunik at La Fromagerie today. I’ll be snacking on this delectable Chabichou du Poitou, which I picked up at the Cheese Shop at France 44 this morning. I’m still deciding whether I’ll share with the rest of my family with flutes of Champagne. Ah, I guess I should – that Cheesemas spirit and all.

Colleen and I wish you and yours a very happy holiday! If you taste any out-of-this-world cheeses or get fun cheese-related gifts, please share in the comments section. Merry Cheesemas!

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!

Though it’s still Chanukah and I have some of my potato chip-crusted cheese ball in the refrigerator, today our thoughts turn to Christmas. That’s a slightly weird thing to type, as I’m Jewish, but when I put together today’s featured cheese ball, I couldn’t help but notice the red-and-green color palette. But regardless of what you celebrate this month, you’ll want to make room for this appetizer.

Colleen and I have made no secret of our love for goat cheese on C+C, and I thought a fresh chevre would lighten up the typical (and heavy) cream-cheese mixture and add an unexpected tang to the cheese ball. To equal portions of goat cheese and cream cheese I added a handful of chopped fresh basil and then topped the ball with yellow tomato-onion jam I made this summer. The freshness of the basil matched perfectly with the almost lemony light flavor of the goat cheese, and the tomato jam rounds out each bite with a rich, brown sugar-infused sweetness. If you don’t have any homemade jam handy – and let’s face it, most people don’t – find the best tomato chutney available as a substitute. And next summer, make the jam.

Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Ball

Unlike yesterday’s cheese ball, which required several hours of refrigeration to help it keep its shape, this recipe can be prepared just minutes before serving. The extra-soft texture makes it easy to spread on hearty whole wheat crackers (Carr’s brand is our favorite).

4 oz. soft goat cheese (chevre)
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ cup finely chopped basil
½ cup tomato jam or chutney

Place goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl and mix thoroughly with a spatula. Toss in chopped basil and mix until evenly distributed throughout the cheese. Mold the mixture into a ball with your hands and place onto a serving platter. Spoon the tomato jam on the top and sides of the ball. Dig in!

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.)

What separates the cheese freaks (like myself) from mere cheese lovers or cheese admirers? A subscription to Culture magazine. A willingness to spend $20 or more each week on cheese. And use of the following words when describing cheese: “beautiful,” “mind-blowing,” “irresistibly charming.”

All those phrases are apt for my second featured cheese of the week, Tome d’Aquitaine. Also known as Clisson, this French goat’s-milk cheese takes cheese worship to a whole new level. Its paste is light, floral and salty, with a smoothness that makes it easy to inhale. During the dog days of August, Tome d’Aquitaine is a breath of fresh air – perhaps a breeze blowing off the Atlantic. I don’t meant to get all poetic – it’s just that good.

Tome d’Aquitaine is another example of how cheesemakers can work in tandem to create tantalizing cheeses that neither could fully develop on its own (see Clothbound Cheddar, Cabot and Jasper Hill, and Grafton and Faribault Dairy). This cheese begins its journey in the Loire Valley (a premier goat-cheese-producing region) at the Union Laitiere de la Venise Verte, a dairy cooperative that produces cheese, butter and baby formula. Later on the wheels of Tome d’Aquitaine travel to Bordeaux, where renowned affineur Jean d’Alos washes the rind in brine and Sauternes. The result – total cheese bliss. Serve it up with a dry white wine, like a Muscadet from the Loire Valley.

Psst…this cheese also makes a great birthday gift, and I’d share it with a certain birthday girl today if we didn’t live 1,000 miles apart. Happy birthday, Colleen!