Holiday Entertaining: Tips for Your Cheese Plate

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When you hear Christmas songs on the radio and there's tinsel stuck to every surface around you, it's time to think about...cheese? Of course. If you are a cheese lover, this is a great time to share the joy of dairy with loved ones (if they can digest dairy, that is). Whether it's a simple cheese plate for a party or a luxurious spread for after Christmas dinner, fine cheese brings something special to a festive event.

Here are four of my favorite holiday cheeses:

Brillat Savarin

Perhaps my favorite triple cream of all time, Brillat Savarin is like the ice cream of cheese. When ripe, this cheese unleashes a rich swatch of sweet dairy flavor that is second to none. A tantalizing salty touch brings the flavor down to earth, keeping this beauty from tasting too fatty. Make sure the cow's milk is fully ripe when you serve it to guarantee as much runny creamline as possible. Pairs well with mild jams, corn crackers, and dried fruits such as cherries and cranberries.

Bonne Bouche

Don't let this little beauty's stinky disposition scare you away from one of the most delicious cheeses on the market. Soft and creamy with a lovely lick of salt, this goat's milk cheese is aged for ten days before being sent to market. When buying Bonne Bouche, make sure you get a ripe one; you'll know it's ripe because the wheel will have spread lazily across the bottom of its small wooden crate. If your Bonne Bouche stands at attention, it still has a few days of aging before you get the decadently runny creamline. Pairs well with prosciutto, cranberries, and toasted hazelnuts.

Tomme du Berger

This meaty, pungent example of an exemplary goat-sheep blend makes a fine addition to your holiday cheese plate. Pungent and meaty with a nutty followup, this cheese loves to be drizzles with honey or jam, anything that will give Tomme du Berger's piquant nature a sweet, sloppy kiss. Pairs well with honeycomb and briny olives.

Roaring Forties Cheese

Yes, I believe in adding a spicy blue to your holiday cheese plate. Nutty and sweet with a lot of personality, this cheese hails from Australia and brings a bit of its makers' Aussie spark. This blue is pretty active on the palate, meaning that blue haters might back away in fear; but if given the chance, and a pairing of grapes or walnuts, even the most recalcitrant anti-blue folks might be swayed for a taste. And then another.

A Few Tips on Serving Cheese

  • When laying out a cheese spread, make use of your best platters and cheese knives. Fine cheeses are expensive, and it's always impressive to gussy it up with a touch of fine china and silver flatware.
  • For pairing, you can scatter accoutrements around the cheeses, or place them in little bowls nearby for a more compartmentalized presentation.
  • And most importantly, make sure that all cheeses have come to room temperature before serving, to guarantee that their flavor blooms with every bite.

What are your favorite cheese for the holiday season?