Monday, December 07, 2015

Cheese Gifts for the Naughty and Nice

It's holiday season, so you know what that means: cheese gifts and cheese boards galore. And because you're no doubt the designated cheese geek in your circle of friends, everyone's expecting a cheese gift box or cheese platter for their next party. If you're stuck in a cheesy rut, here are some ideas:

The Cheese Gift Box for the Relatives You Don't Like
Yep, we've all got an in-law or an annoying opinionated uncle in our family that we don't particularly care for, but we know they expect a gift. So this year, give them the gift of cheese. Kill them with kindness with a simple gift box of your favorite medium cheddar, mild blue and young gouda. Tie it up and stick on a bow, and then spend bigger bucks on the folks you like. Which leads me to:

The Cheese Gift Box for Your Favorite Friends
This is where it gets fun. These are the people that you choose to hang out with; the people who ask you the questions they don't know about cheese and expect you to know the answer. So wow them with the same formula as above, but swap for stellar Wisconsin cheeses: Hook's 15-Year Cheddar (only available now, during the holidays); Dunbarton Blue from Roelli Cheese in Shullsburg (crafted by newly-minted MASTER Cheesemaker Chris Roelli; and Marieke 6-9 month Gouda, because it a) tastes amazing, b) won the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest, so you've got the hardware to back you up, and c) it's made by one of the coolest women on the planet: Marieke Penterman. Slam. Dunk.

The Cheese Platter for the Holiday Work Party
This one's tricky, because you're likely feeding a crowd who may know next to nothing about cheese, but as pointed out earlier, expect you to bring the good stuff because you're the office cheese geek. So go with volume on a budget. Pick up some healthy-sized chunks of Cedar Grove Extra Sharp Cheddar in Plain, Wis.; Edelweiss Butterkase from Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman in Monticello; Widmer's Brick Cheese Spread and a package of Potter's Winter Wheat Crackers; and a large log of Blueberry Goat Cheese from Montchevre in Belmont, Wis. You'll have an attractive, well-rounded cheese platter with plenty of talking points that won't put you in the poor house.

Finally: The Cheese Gift Box for the Cheese Geek

Let's face it: this is Wisconsin, so we've all got that one friend who is REALLY into cheese. Pamper them with a themed gift box of the hottest style of cheese right now: alpine. Start with the no-brainer of Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville; include a healthy chunk of Grand Cru Surchoix, an extra-aged Gruyere (yes, it's still a Gruyere, even though they took that word off the label) from Roth Cheese in Monroe, and if you can find it: Cupola from Red Barn Family Farms, a semi-hard cheese with notes of caramel and toasted pineapple. Include a bottle of your favorite Pinot Noir or Beaujolais and you'll be official friends for life.

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