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.)

The thought of reviewing the “Best of Show” winner from the American Cheese Society awards is, honestly, a little daunting. After all, you’ve surely already read all about this seasonally-produced, leaf-wrapped, buttery blue from central Oregon. You probably have heard of Rogue Creamery, one of the West Coast’s most celebrated cheese producers. (Did you know they were the first to export American raw-milk cheese to Europe? That they test every batch of milk to ensure it’s antibiotic and growth-hormone free? That the founder, Tom Vella, spent three months studying blue cheese making in Roquefort, France?) Honestly, I could describe Rogue River Blue in one word: yum. But perhaps you’d like a little more description.

This particular cheese is a testament to Oregon’s terroir.  It is made only for a short window in the fall (during the autumnal equinox and winter solstice) when the milk is at its highest butterfat content. The cheese is wrapped in Syrah grape leaves from nearby Carpenter Hill Vineyards; the leaves are first macerated in locally-made Clear Creek Pear Brandy. The cheese is aged in caves built to resemble the famed caves of Roquefort, allowing natural molds of the Rogue River Valley to ripen the cheese. The resulting cheese develops a wonderful, complex flavor. It is buttery, silky and rich, sweet with soft fruit flavors and a slight smokiness.

Not having any Clear Creek on hand, I tasted this with a sip of my post-dinner Dark n’ Stormy. Maybe not a perfect pairing, but the ginger was an interesting match. Of course it goes without saying that a fresh pear will make a lovely companion for a hunk of this blue.

By the way, Rogue River Blue’s 2009 release started shipping yesterday, so head to your favorite local cheesemonger … right now!

Well if you haven’t heard by now, cheese loving friends, August is National Goat Cheese Month, and we intend to celebrate to the fullest with some of the remaining goats-milk cheeses on the list. (Can’t wait? Check out the goats we’ve loved thus far.) But first, a blue cheese from Spain that has a bit of goat, the esteemed Valdeon.

Valdeon is a mixed-milk blue, made from goat and cows milk, hailing from Northern Spain. The cheese is wrapped in sycamore leaves and aged for 2-3 months; the leaves impart an herbal complexity in both the smell and flavor. The cheese is dense, sweet and creamy and full-flavored, but less sharp than other blues. It’s a perfect dessert cheese and/or well suited for pairing with fresh summer fruit. I enjoyed it with the sweet-tart flavor of my sister-in-law’s homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. I could also see it matched with some in season fresh figs. You’ll definitely want to go with a sweeter wine pairing, such as port.