Last night was one of the biggest night of my year. I got to visit with Byron (whom Dana jokes is my cheese boyfriend) and we planned the cheese trays for the holiday season – if you missed the tips on buying holiday cheese you can see why I do this here.
Buying cheese for the holidays is about an hours worth of work – sometimes longer. I find a quiet night to head to the St Lawrence Market and time the visit for the day when most of the Holiday shipment arrives – I need a quiet night so that I can get some quality time with my cheese man.
The conversation is two way and we brainstorm, trade ideas, stories and laughter. We start with what’s rare, then we go to seasonal and we follow it by planning pairings with food and the many preserves we have made specifically to be matched with cheese. It’s an awesome tour of the world according to lactose!
It is important that you trust your cheese dude – and that you like him. I have known Byron for 4 years – he know Dana and my parents. I have met one of his kids and know the stories of his family. I genuinely care about him and am excited to see him and love our time together. If you don’t have a cheese dude you know by name I highly recommend you consider this as a resolution for the New Year.
So what did we pick? Here is a preview (pictures will be added after Christmas as we unwrap them):
Vacherin Mont D’Or (we raved on it here). It is lord of the smelly. This cheese comes in a wooden box and is essentially hermetically sealed. Once open you remove a top skin off it to reveal the cheese which is pretty much a liquid. You put the entire thing in the oven and pass it around with bread. We are going to cover ours in wine this year before warming. When I got there he was already out of this once a year cheese – he had 3 pieces stowed away for 3 customers and we were one of them. If you want a similar (and unbelievably stinky experience), try Epoisses.
Fourme D’Ambert. A classic French blue cheese that is made from cows milk (more info here). It is one of France’s oldest cheeses and is protected by the AOC (Appellation d’origine controlle) which, similar to champagne, prohibits imitators from knocking it off. Although many websites seem to list this as being 50% fat, the one I purchased is 24%. I have already punched holes in it and filled it with a 10 year old Tawny port (as you may recall we were planning to do this with Stilton).
Stilton Colston Bass. This is a seasonal cheese – once a year is when it shows up. We decided to marinate the blue cheese and try this as-is because of its rarity. We will eat the blue cheese and this as a pairing with a glass of the port on the side.
Black Truffle Moliterno. A pecorino cheese is created and aged in Sardinia (Italy) before it is drilled with holes that are filled with black truffle paste. It’s a decadent and divine taste – we carefully select one with lots of truffle.
Christmas Cheddar. English White Cheddar that is made once per year. It will last for months in the fridge if we don’t eat it all. This will be paired with pickled garlic and some of our sweeter preserves. If you’ve only had commercial cheddar from large factories, you don’t know how awesome this great cheese can be.
Petit Basque. Aged for two months this French cheese arrived on the cheese scene 12 years ago. It is similar to Spanish Manchego though milder. This is to be paired with a 25-year old vinegar (such as the DiNigris here).
Chaource Lincet (AOC). A gift from our cheese man. This is all about the jams we will serve it with – and fresh slices of pear.
There will be a few more standards sneaking into the fridge in the next week – brie, chevre and beemster for pairing with preserves. The list above with be the heart of the feast that we will pick on for days over the Holidays (all of it will sit on the counter for 2-4 hours before consuming) and will be a highlight of the season for us. By the time January 4th rolls around we will not want to see cheese for a while and we will partake in a last, desperate attempt at consuming all of it and will eat the most unbelievable macaroni and cheese of the year.