Happy Holidays, readers! Are you ready for Christmas? I just need to get one more gift for someone! Speaking of which, my gift to you this week is a holiday cheese plate! If you’re still looking for holiday party inspiration, look no further!
As you build your own cheese plate, there are a few things to consider:
- How many people are attending? You will need about 2-3 oz. of cheese per person.
- Mix things up. Have a variety of cheeses made of different milks, different textures, and colors. For instance, include a soft-ripened cheese like Brie de Meaux, a goat cheese, semi hard cheese, a blue cheese, and a washed rind cheese. Try cheeses from a similar geographic region, or compare similarly made cheeses from different regions. Try ewe’s milk cheeses, or water buffalo milk cheeses. That said, there are no rules, so include what you like!
- Add some tasty pairings. Nuts, figs, fruit, jams—the best pairings elevate both the cheese and the thing it is paired with. Here’s where you can taste as many flavor combinations you can stomach—for science.
- Are there any vegetarians in the group? There are cheeses made with microbe and plant-based rennet out there! Your cheesemonger should be able to point them out to you.
- Are there any pregnant women among you? If so, you’ll want to stick to pasteurized cheeses. Again, your cheesemonger should be able to direct you to them.
My holiday plate this year included:
Moses Sleeper with Miel l’Apiculteur Acacia Honey
This bloomy rind cheese, inspired by French Brie, is made by Jasper Hill Creamery, and is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill. It’s got a creamy texture with just a slight bite, and a creamy, mushroomy flavor with buttery finish. It’s a nuanced, but approachable cheese that all levels of cheese lovers can enjoy.
The acacia honey, with its light, floral, fresh flavor and light texture was the perfect pairing. Tasting them together, I noted the honey first, then the mushroomy cheese, then a long, buttery, sweet finish.
Couronne de Touraine with l’Epicurien Fig & Walnut Confit
I love Loire valley goat cheeses; this might be my favorite style! So of course I needed one for my holiday cheese plate. This particular cheese comes in a gorgeous little round, which explains the name couronne, meaning “crown.” This particular cheese has a rather rich, woodsy flavor, and because my round was a little on the older side, a peppery finish as well.
L’Epicurien’s fig and walnut confit was the perfect pairing. The confit did a beautiful job rounding out the beginning and finish of the cheese. Both of their flavors developed harmoniously before letting the cheese shine. The cheese’s peppery finish was tempered by the confit, which pleased my cheese co-taster greatly.
Gabietou with l’Epicurien Espelette Chili Jelly
Maybe I was thinking of the French town of Pau when I was cheese shopping, because I walked away with this cheese, made in the vicinity. It’s a goat-sheep-cow mixed milk cheese that’s washed with salt and water from local springs, giving it its characteristic dusty color and slight funk. It’s a semi-hard cheese, with some spring and a few eyes in its paste. Flavorwise, it has a bright hay tang, with a bit of underlying earthiness that becomes more pronounced in the finish.
L’Epicurien’s Espelette Chili Jelly complemented the cheese well, and yes, there is a bit of a kick to the jelly! When I bit into the combination, I immediately thought, “this would make a great Panini.” Both have such bright flavors, it’s like a slice of sunny southwest France on your plate. The jelly and cheese go for the long finish together, leaving you wanting to take that next bite.
Petit Sornin with L’Epicurien Apple Cider Confit With Calvados
I love washed rind cheeses, and wanted to try a new one, so I got hold of Petit Sornin, made by Hervé Mons, that is washed with a local amber beer. I found this cheese to be particularly vegetal, with a taste of asparagus, but smooth and a bit sweet on the finish as well. The flavors developed gradually, and while flavors were strong, they weren’t particularly aggressive.
Apple Cider Confit with Calvados ended up being a great pairing. I sensed something resembling a peanut butter flavor with this combo. It would have been great to taste the beer the cheese has been washed with, but ah well! That will have to wait for a trip to the Auvergne region of France!
Potted Stilton With Port with Miel l’Apiculteur Chestnut Honey
This potted Stilton was one of the many goodies M. Cheesemonger brought back from Harrods of London last month. We’ve been saving it for a special occasion! It certainly tasted festive, with lots of complex, earthy flavors melded with the intense fruit flavor of the port. And look at the size of that pot of Stilton! We’ll have enough for months. Maybe a month.
I only paired this with Miel l’Apiculteur’s Chestnut Honey off camera (it was a little messy, since I wanted to show the whole pot of Stilton), but it was memorable. The bramble-woodsy flavor of the honey complemented the earthiness of the cheese.
There you have it! Miss Cheesemonger’s holiday cheese plate! Happy holidays to all of you! What cheeses are you serving?
To French Farm for sharing their jellies, honeys, confitures, and confits with me. You can purchase their products at Frenchy Bee.
To my cheese/photography/general buddy Gavin SF, who helped me taste through all of these jams and cheeses, and assist with today’s photography! He’s one of the best wedding photographers ever, and has helped me with Miss Cheesemonger for years!