Cheers To The Cheese: Create An Appetizer or Dessert Cheese Course for Entertaining

Written by Sharon Bice on . Posted in Life on the Farm, Recipes

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The winter “eating” holidays are all about sharing with family and friends. Entertaining, a house full of party guests or perhaps simply a few intimate friends. Ending a busy day of shopping for gifts with your favorite local cheese to treat yourself while writing your holiday cards. Or garnering “oohs and aahs” when you bring a platter of your favorites to a holiday potluck.

Whether you’re serving cheese as an appetizer or as part of your dessert course, have fun by using Redwood Hill Farm’s unique, delicious artisan cheeses and along with a few simple suggestions we’ve discovered over our more than 25+ years of crafting goat milk cheeses in the farmstead tradition.

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Keep it simple. How about a classic platter of three or four cheeses from a single region…say Sonoma County? Use a variety of styles and textures. If offering four cheeses try a couple soft-ripened varieties, a firm cheese such as cheddar, a soft, spreadable variety like chevre or even a spreadable flavored soft cheese. First and foremost choose cheeses that you know and love as long as you have variety.

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Or, a single whole cheese can be a good solution. It’s original and beautiful. With a small dinner party of intimate friends or family offer our Cameo, a whole luscious Camembert-style cheese.

When choosing your cheese, build on a theme. For example, a classic French selection. Or, you could offer a selection of American artisan or farmstead cheeses. With Redwood Hill Farm handmade cheeses your theme would be local, artisan goat cheeses crafted from Humane Certified milk. Consider hand printing the cheese name and a sentence or two about the cheese maker, cheese monger, or even the dairy goat who provided the milk!

Amount to buy? This depends on how much other food will be served. Typically a good rule-of-thumb would be from 2 to 4 ounces per person. If serving cheeses only at cocktail time and guests are hungry, up to 3 to 4 ounces per person would be ideal. Serving cheese after dinner and before a light dessert? Use a very small amount per person, about ½ to 1 ounce per person.

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Present your cheese on decorative trays, wooden or bamboo boards, or ceramic platters for showcasing cheeses. Avoid silver or stainless steel, as they can alter the taste. Remove the cheeses from the refrigerator about one and a half hours before serving so as to enjoy at room temperature.

You can adorn with vine leaves, flowers and fruits. Play with colors and shapes but keep your cheeses accessible. Whole cheeses should be cut so guests can appreciate the beauty within and set out a separate knife for each type of cheese to make serving easy.

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Using plain, fresh cheeses? Dress them up! Coat fresh chevre with fresh herbs, paprika, pesto, chutney or dried fruit.

Now, add a few accompaniments. Chutneys or fruit spreads are fabulous with plain, fresh cheeses. Fresh or dried fruits, fresh-roasted nuts, olives, or even a variety of cured meats are all fine pairings. Do keep it seasonal! With a winter party, try hearty, substantial cheese pairings such as pates, roast beef, nuts and cheese recipes such as fondue.

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“Bread, wine, and cheese…a true French trio that wonderfully symbolizes our gastronomic heritage and history” ~Jean D’Alos, Fromager-Affineur

I just love this quote. I do agree with Jean D’Alos in his opinion that white or whole grain breads that have been baked over a wood fire as well as handcrafted sourdough can complement any type of cheese. But also try a nutty bread, such as walnut, which goes well with all cheeses. Raisin bread is a delicious option for strong cheese. Whole grain bread does very well with cheese that have light, fresh flavors. Tip: Offer a variety of breads with your cheese platter. Include whole grain bread, sourdough, raisin bread and breads with nuts, figs, etc., allowing your guests mix flavors and aromas.

Our favorite cheese and wine pairings? Always choose a wine that suits the occasion, ambiance and mood. Cheeses generally make great partners for flashy young wines full of vigor and flavor. The earthy, robust flavors of aged goat cheese make the tannins of young red wines settle down, showing off the fruit flavors to greater advantage. Click here for specific wine pairings we like with Redwood Hill Farm artisan cheese.  http://www.redwoodhill.com/recipes/cheese-wine-pairing

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Cheese and beer? Yes! We recently had a fun, very informative beer and cheese pairing evening at the creamery and I discovered once again that certain cheeses can really complement a beer and that absolutely a particular type of beer will bring out exciting flavor notes in a cheese that just makes your mouth sing! What I loved from that pairing was the “Chimay” ale, creamy, fruity & floral that complemented our Three Pepper Chevre beautifully. Also excellent paired with our Plain Chevre, was a sour wheat beer “Telegraph”, out of Santa Barbara. Of course pairings can be subjective but one we all agreed was superb was the Saison style “La Merle” from North Coast Brewing out of Fort Bragg—excellent with Plain Chevre and our California Crottin and was very good with Redwood Hill Farm Bucheret. Click here for more cheese and craft beer pairing suggestions to try… http://www.redwoodhill.com/recipes/cheese-beer-pairing

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Lastly, put out the cocktail napkins and eco-friendly plates for your guests and voila…you’re ready to celebrate the season!

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