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Jul 14, 2013 05:19 AM

Gateway cheeses

I attended a birthday party for a five year old yesterday and brought along a cheese plate. Since there was to be a mix of wee 'uns and adults, I thought it would be nice to pick cheeses that wouldn't totally flummox the smalls and yet would still be tasty to the older, potentially more jaded palates of the grownups.

The four cheeses I included were Applewood smoked cheddar (English), piave mezzano (Italian), manchego (Spanish) and cambozola (German). I was surprised and pleased at how many parents commented on how much they enjoyed what to me were fairly basic choices and it made me think about what types of cheeses might lure more into our cheesy mousetrap.

What do you serve to people who aren't already obsessed with cheese?

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  1. Great topic, grayelf! Manchego and cave-aged Gruyere are a couple of cheeses I've served to the less fromage-inclined. I also brought a wonderful local cheese (Everton, from Jacobs and Brichford) to a meeting for a local organization. It received raves (people who like food a lot, but some of them aren't cheeseheads), Maytag Blue is another. Some people haven't had any blue besides the crumbles in the plastic containers!

    1. My first thought is that an edible rind is counterintuitive. That puts an end to some of my favorites. Also, as this is an introduction, commercial stuff is OK.

      Cheese ball or log without the nuts. Shredded cheddar, quality cream cheese, Lea & Perrins, mold and chill. Save the bacon, horseradish, wasabi, etc. for a second time.

      Velveeta, salsa, and a chafing dish. Better as a white cheddar with fontina with salsa. Swiss or Italian fondue does not keep well over a couple of hours.

      Spend the money for a quality aged gouda.

      A smoked provolone.

      Make sure you have sharp knives and neutral crackers and breads. As well as a Normandy butter, chilled not solid, next to the two solid cheeses.

      Works for me when invited by friends to a party where I do not know the likes and dislikes of the other guests.

      Wine pairings are for another thread.

      1. I think you did very well.

        I'd agree with INDIANRIVERFL that an aged gouda usually goes over well. Maybe not a super-aged one, but a medium-aged one.

        Ossau-Iraty is usually a big hit.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Similar to Ossau-Iraty are the factory versions like Petit Basque, Capitoul, Etorki, Petit Agour, and Istara. They were my 'everybody loves it' cheeses.

          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

            IIRC, what's usually sold as "Istara" is actually the Istara *brand* Ossau-Iraty (which no one can pronounce, thus the use of the brand name). Istara also makes P'tit Basque and some other cheeses. I just googled and looked at the packaging and the O-I is the only one where the the name "Istara" is more prominent than the name of the cheese.


            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              I forgot to mention that when I'm looking for cheeses in a more "mellow" vein, I don't go to my local gourmet cheese shop but rather to the Parthenon, an excellent Mediterranean deli near my home. That way I can't be dazzled by something new and swanky and end up with weirder choices than suit the occasion. They still have lots to choose from, just a bit safer : -). Oh and way less expensive which doesn't hurt.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                In France Ossau-Iraty generally refers to the farm made cheeses of these two valleys. It is the only time the artisanal product IMVHO is less good than the pasteurized factory cheeses l mentioned above. Since the EU is changing things the pasteurized ones can now have AOC status as well.