Holiday parties are happening at work, family gatherings, school events, volunteer organizations and more — it’s that time of year! Some people dread volunteering to bring the cheese plate; a vegetable dip or dessert is easier and requires less thought. If you are the passionate foodie among your friends and family or if you would like to learn more or be known as “the person” for cheese, we are here to assist with a few helpful hints.Cheese rules of thumb:
Variety — mix it up, offer a selection of different styles of products, milks and looks
Keep it simple — three or four cheeses will work for any event
Trust your cheese monger — develop a relationship with your local cheese monger and they will help make you a star
Label the cheese — write down the names of the cheeses and put the names adjacent to the cheese
Cheese is seasonal so it is a good idea to understand the best cheese available for your event. Don’t buy the cheese too far in advance — cheese is alive, so purchasing a day or two prior to your event is essential for the success of your cheese plate. Don’t be afraid to try new things — it keeps it fun. Here are a few examples of combinations that work every time. Promise!Easy BreezyBrie (creamy), Cheddar aged at least 12 months, Goat Gouda (trust me, almost everyone likes this cheese) and Fourme D’Ambert (creamy blue even your mother will love)The ClassicHerve Mons Camembert (traditional aroma, Normandy vegetal flavors), Manchego Aged (sheep milk wonder from Spain — great with almost any wine), Kaltbach Cave Aged Emmentaler (intensely interesting from Switzerland), Gorgonzola Dolce (sweet and fruity from northern Italy)Dressed to ImpressTriple Crème Brie (just like butter, Delice de Bourgogne, St. Andre, Explorateur or Metropolitain), Le Gruyere Reserve (aka “nuttilicious” cheese), Humboldt Fog (creamy goat from CA), Stilton (the classic holiday blue from the UK)Pushing the LimitsCoach Farm Triple Crème (goat heaven from NY), Epoisse (washed rind delight), Cabot Clothbound Cheddar from the Cellars at Jasper Hill (sweet flavors with classic texture), Roquefort (the spicy blue, sheep’s milk heaven)American ArtisanCowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (organic favorite from single source herd in Marin, CA), Roth Kase Gruyere Surchoix (Swiss descendants making the homeland and WI proud), Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche (aged goat cheese that is amazing!), Rogue Creamery Rogue River Blue (only the best for your friends from our Oregon friends!)Plan for 2 ounces per person and you will always have enough. Remember, you can eat the rind on brie, it adds to the complexity of the flavors!
Accoutrements are key. Plain bread or crackers are best, so the taste of the cheese is featured. I like nuts, as do most people. The Marcona Almonds from Spain are awesome and will work for every cheese plate. Walnuts are super with blues. Also, fresh fruit with high acids are a natural (grapes, pineapple and apples). Locally produced preserves are simple and bring out the creaminess of the cheese or try our classic Organic Fig Spread from Croatia or Cranberry Chutney. Other pairings? If you like it, try it — make your own rules!For wine pairings, check our Top Ten Wine page, which includes suggested cheese matches.Be a cheese star and love your cheese! What are your favorite combinations?