All December long, we're bringing you the recipes, tips and tricks you need to Feast your way through the holidays, no matter how you celebrate the season.
We're all cheese lovers here at TT. But selecting cheeses for holiday parties isn't an easy task. Everyone has their own personal preferences on what they like or don't like, and the cheese aisle might be the most overwhelming one in the entire store.
That's why we've enlisted some outside experts to help you pick the best varieties to throw down on your cheese plate this holiday season. "Cheese is all about variety, especially during the holidays!" says Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods, who shares her favorite picks below, along with recommendations from Julia Birnbaum, head monger at Murray’s Cheese. Whole Foods' master sommelier Devon Broglie also offers a few wine pairings—because how can you possibly enjoy cheese without wine?
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In regards to serving cheese, Strange recommends that you let the cheese "breathe" for an hour before serving to enhance the flavors and that you serve it at room temperature. For easy navigating, she advises to label each cheese: "This way guests know what they're enjoying." And, now, on to your new favorites.
"This decadent, soft-ripened cheese from Vermont is hand-wrapped with spruce bark, adding a woodsy note to its sweet, earthy flavor. Lovely match with an IPA." —Strange and Broglie
"Released only in the wintertime, Rogue River Blue is one of those cheeses that mongers wait for all year. It’s a decadently blue-veined, domestic cow’s-milk cheese, wrapped tightly in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy (yes, really), and it’s simply a must for any holiday cheese plate. The inner paste is creamy and crumbly with a touch of blue spice and a unique sweetness, thanks to the boozed-up botanical rind." —Birnbaum
"This mild, ash-ripened goat cheese with earthy notes and a subtle hazelnut flavor is a visually stunning addition to any cheese board. Great with a glass of rosé." —Strange and Broglie
"The only three-time winner of the American Cheese Society Best of Show, this cheese has a sweet, broth-like flavor with notes of butterscotch and fruit. The hint of sweetness calls for a Riesling." —Strange and Broglie
"This award-winning collaboration between Murray’s and Vermont cheese powerhouse Jasper Hill Farm is one of a kind. This cow’s-milk stunner starts its life in Vermont, where the wheel is formed with a ring of spruce bark wrapped around it to add a fun, woodsy funk. The young wheels then travel to Murray’s caves in Long Island City, where they spend the rest of their monthlong aging period being washed with a cider to ensure a rich, creamy paste with custardy notes of bacon and campfire." —Birnbaum
"A silky, creamy, soft-ripened goat cheese packed with truffles. Deep floral, herb and mushroom flavors. An American original! Delicious with a full-bodied red, like Coppola Technicolor Red Blend." —Strange and Broglie
"2 Year Comté is produced by Marcel Petite, a highly respected affineur (cheese-aging expert) who works out of Jura, France, where he makes cheeses from a herd of cows that munch happily on high-altitude plains covered in nutrient-rich grasses. Most versions of Comté are aged for around a year, but with the extra time and care, this baby really opens up to reveal endless complexity and exciting raw-milk subtleties. Take a bite of the crystalline paste and explore the nutty, sweet flavors with hints of walnut, butterscotch and so much more." —Birnbaum
"A bold blue cheese from Oregon with tropical fruit flavors and a finish of sweet cream. We love this with a rich, tropical California Chardonnay, like Animist." —Strange and Broglie
"This classic cave-aged sheep’s-milk blue cheese shows rich spiciness, complex layers of flavor and a luscious, smooth texture. Just the match for a rich Sauternes." —Strange and Broglie
As a bonus, Whole Foods is hosting a 12 Days of Cheese sale through December 24. Every day, the store will sell one cheese at half its normal price, many of which are mentioned above. Now that's a Christmas miracle.
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