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December cheese of the month - holiday cheese plates

What is a good assortment for a holiday cheese plate? I have a vibrant orange hued Mimolette that is frightfully dense, and a Rogue
River Oregon blue only slightly less so. I have noshed my way through my washed rind soft cheeses. What would be a good mix of 4 or 5 cheeses for a holiday plate, with accoutrements?

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  1. Without realizing holiday cheese plates would be the December Cheese of the Month topic, I started this thread.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/924965

    I'm sure the topic will receive a great deal more traction now, thanks Veggo!

    1. What does Mimolette taste like?

      16 Replies
      1. re: HillJ

        I have never eaten Mimolette! My cheese monger said that soon it will no longer be exported to the US because of mites in the rind, which is affirmed in Google articles. My wedge is in my hands now, it has a pocked-marked rind, and is as dense as a hockey puck. It resembles the cheese equivalent of petrified wood. As is my custom, I want everything I can't have tomorrow!

        1. re: Veggo

          What's stopping you from cutting it open and tasting it? Inquiry minds. I've only seen photos of Mimolette. How does one approach a petrified wood-like cheese?

          1. re: HillJ

            I will soon, I have had a lot of cheeses lately with short shelf lives and the Mimolette looks very stable.

            1. re: Veggo

              Delicious dilemma :)

              I'm conjuring up this visual that your holiday guests are going to be wowed by this particular cheese and its back story.

              1. re: HillJ

                I really don't know how to attack it yet, other than removing the entire rind. It has similar characteristics to a 5 year gouda.
                On the flip side of rock-hard cheeses, I think some runny cheeses and goat cheese should be served on their own plate with their own knife so things don't get too messy with a cheese assortment. Also, accoutrements such as the orange-fig jelly I like with St. Andre and some other soft mild cheeses. Cracker & bread choices and recommendations will be helpful, also, so please chime in.

                1. re: Veggo

                  At Thanksgiving we had three different cheese plates set out. One for hard cheese, one for soft and one of the homemade mozz rolls I had made last month. I found keeping them separate allowed me to create more appropriate pairings and some people just don't care for runny cheese and I didn't want one cheese to 'suffer' over another...if that makes sense.

                  With the homemade mozz I offered roasted red peppers, green pitted olives, cured cauliflower and two kinds of salami (a red wine and a hot) along with a large loaf of Italian bread slice as you go.

                  For the soft cheeses I arranged cubes of honeycomb (a few I hand dipped in dark chocolate), fig salami, dried apricots, these super thin rye crackers and a cracker that had bits of pumpkin seeds, a pumpkin butter and a black raspberry jam.

                  With the hard cheeses, which I arranged on our home bar counter, I had two wines and grapes. A few slicers, small forks.

                  Not a big display of accouterments but with all the rest of the holiday fare, it was more than enough for our guests to sample.

                  What I need to do is look over my notes for which specific cheeses we put out that day.

                  1. re: HillJ

                    Nice! I never would have made it to the dinner table!

                    1. re: Veggo

                      I'm with you! The nibbles usually get my attention over the larger meal.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        I learned from hotoynoodle that putting out heavy things like cheese prior to a meal can be a big mistake. People fill up on that. I continue to remind myself that appetizers are intended to whet not kill the appetite. I feel it's a good way to go.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I recall you stating that (as well as hotoy) before. I don't serve the same menu to the same guests in the case of large feasts like Thanksgiving or Christmas. As I said below, the early risers came for the nibbles (including cheese) and the dinner guests came much later for an entirely diff menu.

                          The only mistake I made this year was enough chairs at one point.

                          1. re: HillJ

                            I saw that after I posted. Smart.

          2. re: Veggo

            Here's the thread on the US lockdown on Mimolette for more info,
            chowhound.chow.com/topics/898424

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              How would you describe the actual taste of Mimolette? On that thread, I see a comparison to a hard cheese and another to being used for a grilled cheese sandwich.

              1. re: HillJ

                The character depends on the age of the Mimolette. Here's my previous tasting note on approximately one-year old and 3+ year-old,
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7082...

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Thanks for the preview. Mine is one-year old, and I plan to nibble away gradually with no bread or crackers, just wine.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Your description is helpful and wasn't what I expected entirely.

          3. Are you asking us to assemble a cheese plate then report on how it tasted/worked? Or is this a thought exercise only?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Either, or feedback on hits and misses from previous experiences.

            2. Here is a helpful link about quantity of cheese to purchase for holiday gatherings....

              http://www.thekitchn.com/buying-chees...

              10 Replies
              1. re: EmBrooks

                The funny thing about how much cheese to buy as well as figuring out the amount of cheese to expect per guest is that the only time this formula or recommendation works for me is when I offer ONE cheese. Then, guests either go for it or pass. The minute I offer more than one cheese the equation flies out the window. Folks pick hard at one and ignore the others or pick away in differing degrees at each cheese.

                So I over buy cuts, let the cheese munching fall naturally and use up whatever is usable from the remainder in some recipe later in the week.

                EmB, do you find the equation works for you?

                1. re: HillJ

                  I am literally the worst person to answer this question. I inherited from my mother a fear of running out of food at a dinner party so I always WAY overbuy. I can't help it, even when I try to cut back I just can't do it. Like the article says, leftover cheese is never a bad thing!

                  1. re: EmBrooks

                    That's what I'm saying. Especially if you're a cheese lover buying for a party..I figure someone is going to eat it..even if it winds up being ME!

                    1. re: EmBrooks

                      Embrooks,

                      I am the same way and also inherited this from my mom. Always way too much food at my dinner parties.

                      1. re: Ridge

                        It helps that we always look forward to party leftovers!

                      2. re: EmBrooks

                        I just read an article on Tasting Table talking about using all manner of leftover cheeses in mac n cheese.

                      3. re: HillJ

                        I don't care for the crusty dryness that sets in on uneaten cheese pieces after a few hours. In fly fishing parlance, I try to "match the hatch with the catch" , and learn my guests' preferences beforehand.
                        To borrow from Dan Quayle, a cheese is a terrible thing to waste.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          Good point! I do put out smaller pieces at a time and replenish as needed otherwise it is very wasteful and the plate is a complete mess and not very appealing by the end of the evening.

                          I usually provide some go to crowd pleasers - a goat cheese and/or a triple creme and/or something hard and mild, then get something for the more adventurous. I put anything that has any stink to it on its own plate so as not to scare off the less adventurous from the tried and trues.

                          Lately I am more drawn to the idea of serving just one really great cheese, but you definitely need to know your audience for this...

                          1. re: EmBrooks

                            That is a good point. Although I don't let cheese plates sit out during the course of an entire party. The cheese platters I put out for Thanksgiving were for the early risers. My formal dinner guests never saw the cheese plates. They were served an entirely different menu.

                            I like the idea of one great cheese for small groups.

                          2. re: Veggo

                            I'm careful not to waste cheese. I also don't find it difficult to keep the cheese platter from drying out. Glass dome covers.

                      4. We want more geometry and creativity for the once-a-year holiday cheese plates. Balls. Rolls. Tetrahedrons. Covered in nuts or things we don't usually think of. C'mon, cheese hounds! DIG DEEP. Share your creativity! Melty stuff and dips count, also. Don't be a Scrooge! Think Jimmy Stewart! It's a Wonderful Life!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Veggo

                          Funny V I was just looking at the Turducken of cheese balls (again) over on CHOW.

                          http://www.chow.com/recipes/30216-the...

                          1. re: HillJ

                            Wow! That's a lot of cheese love!
                            Cool.

                        2. Here are my observations and thoughts. I always serve the cheese course as an appetizer. The reason is that I always make too much food, so people barely have room for dessert after dinner. And munching on tasty cheese is such a pleasurable thing for the guests to enjoy that it starts the party off on the right foot.

                          I usually include at least 1 stinky washed rind cheese like Epoisses. I find that in the atmosphere of a dinner party, where the house is full of food aromas from the kitchen, people are drinking wine and socializing, timid eaters who would normally never dare try a stinky cheese like Epoisses are distracted and end up trying it. And the response is always the same: "this is best cheese I ever tasted, what is this? Where did you get it from?" There is never any Eppoisse left at the end of the evening.

                          I usually include 1 soft runny ash covered goat cheese. A good choice is one from Bonne bouche from Vermont.

                          I usually include 1 hard cheese. One that is a good choice for a party is Euphoria, an addictive sheep Gouda, apparently crafted to appeal to the US palate.

                          I include 1 blue cheese. When all else fails St Agur is commonly available and is a reliable tasty blue.

                          I serve the cheese with crackers and toasted baguette slices.

                          1. Here is one of my go-to cheese dishes for the holidays. It is not fancy, but people FREAK OUT over it:

                            One big wheel of brie (plain old grocery store kind), slice in half long ways - put bottom half in a pretty round dish just slightly larger than the brie.

                            1/2c butter
                            1/2c brown sugar
                            1/2 each red & green apple diced
                            dried cranberries
                            chopped pecans

                            Melt butter and brown sugar together then off heat add apples, cranberries and pecans. Mix together. Put half of mixture in the middle of the brie, replace top half of brie and put remaining apple mixture on top. Bake at 350 until melty.

                            Serve with baguette slices and/or crackers. Watch for flying elbows.

                            6 Replies
                              1. re: Veggo

                                Oh I'm writing that down. And so simple! EmB, I might add some grated fresh ginger to the mixture, what do you think?

                                1. re: HillJ

                                  Sounds awesome! Let me know how it turns out!

                                  1. re: EmBrooks

                                    Veggo's comment just now made me realize I didn't return to let you know. I made two brie wheels. One as you outlined and one with diced dried apricots that I soaked in apple brandy for about 20 mins then drained beforehand. I did add a small amount of fresh finely grated ginger to both. Just a hint.

                                    I served the wheels with warm sourdough bread. They were big hits and two friends asked me to explain how they were put together so they could replicate the dish for their gatherings.

                                    I took them to this thread to show them your comment. They couldn't believe such a forum existed!

                                    So thank you EmB. Big hit with the HillJ crowd.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      Your versions sound delicious! Glad everyone liked it!

                              2. re: EmBrooks

                                sounds akin to my MIL's recipe, which was a whole round of Brie, topped with brown sugar and sliced almonds. Bake until warm and the sugar kindof melty and the nuts browned. That thing is positively addictive.

                              3. So I didn't put them all on the same plate, but I selected five cheeses for my holiday party.

                                I went with four American cheeses:

                                Two hard cheeses:
                                A gouda from Burroughs Family Farms (Merced County, CA)
                                San Joaquin Gold from Fiscalini (Modesto, CA)

                                Two soft cheeses:
                                Moses Sleeper (brie-style from Jasper Hill)
                                Dancing Fern (washed-rind Reblochon style from Sequatchie Creamery in Tennessee)

                                And an imported blue:
                                Gorgonzola dolce style cheese soaked in wine and cranberries from the Veneto region of Italy

                                I'll have to give props to my friends for polishing off the Dancing Fern, which was perfectly ripe and moderately funky. The Italian blue was also a big hit, especially with the currant walnut bread from the local bakery (which I always think it an outstanding pairing with blue cheese). The Moses Sleeper was a very good version of a brie-style cheese and the hard cheeses (which I'd chosen for appeal to less adventurous cheese eaters) balanced the others quite well.

                                I didn't put out any accoutrements with the cheeses -- the currant walnut bread adds the fruity-nutty elements if desired, and there was plain baguette slices and crackers as well.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  Have found when SJ Gold is in a mix it is not the one that gathers much praise but it is the one that is gone by the end of the night.

                                2. I have a challenge/ quandary since I started this thread that I never expected. I'll be in the US, and I accepted an invite for dinner on Christmas with 10 people I know nothing about, only my friend, and I have yet to meet his wife. This is a big-boat crowd, and I'm a Beneteau guy. Cheesy suggestions? I can find a lot of them in Sarasota. Thanks.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    When I first read this I thought "big boat" meant "cruise ship". Now I'm thinking you meant "big yacht" ;)

                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      My apologies, I wasn't referring to cruise ships. But thanks, DG., I enjoy cheese (and wine) on seaworthy vessels!

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      I'd go with some of the less common but still accessible cheeses -- aged gouda, Istara Ossau-Iraty, Brillat-Savarin or Delice de Bourgogne, something like that.

                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                        Ruth, I'll sleuth around with your reco's before the holidays, thanks! I have not yet found nor tried Brillat-Savarin, but I hope to.

                                      2. re: Veggo

                                        Try to find a wheel of coulommiers, smallest of bries, about 20 ounces. Not too rich as Brillat-Savarin would be and presents beautifully. About the size of a reblochon but twice as thick.

                                      3. San Francisco Chronicle's tips for putting together cheese and salumi platters for the holidays.
                                        http://www.sfgate.com/food/article/Ti...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          A pound of each cheese for eight people is a lot of cheese.

                                        2. A suggestion for an addition to the cheese plate that I'd never heard of before: cheese fudge.
                                          http://www.daily-journal.com/life/foo...

                                          The use of powdered milk and butter seems reminiscent of burfi from an Indian sweet shop.

                                          11 Replies
                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            http://www.cabotcheese.coop/recipes/c...
                                            This would be more in line with what I understand cheese fudge to be.
                                            Burfi (http://www.recipestable.com/milk-burf...) which I have been making and buying for years would be an entirely different flavor profile and expectation.

                                            The only similarity btwn the two is the consistency.

                                            1. re: HillJ

                                              That's the same recipe as the article I linked to. It credited Cabot.

                                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                Yes, I realize that. My comment was in reaction to comparing cheese fudge to burfi. In my opinion, little to compare.

                                                1. re: HillJ

                                                  "This would be more in line with what I understand cheese fudge to be."

                                                  Sorry, I misunderstood that line thinking that it would point to a more archetypical example of chocolate cheese fudge instead of the same one that I used since it implies some differentiation.

                                                  I guess you've never had chocolate burfi. Granted it won't taste like cheddar unless cheddar cheese is added (sometimes cheese is a component but usually not cheddar), but it's not far off from how chocolate cheese fudge reads.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    I really enjoy burfi, which is often called Indian fudge. I've made it for years including chocolate.

                                                    Cheese fudge I've not made myself but I've had the recipe you and I linked at a party. Didn't care for cheese fudge. Didn't care for the taste, mouth feel or smell actually. It was unpleasant.

                                                    I know you are repeating yourself, but, I still don't see the two treats as similar except (as I said) that they both cut into squares most people associate with fudge. As for the flavor and texture, nope. At least not the burfi I've had.

                                                    1. re: HillJ

                                                      http://theglobalgirl.wordpress.com/20...

                                                      Now, among burfi makers cheese like ricotta or paneer are used in some of the newer styles. But even the inclusion of soft cheeses in burfi is not the same eating experience as cheese fudge.

                                                      1. re: HillJ

                                                        Late to the party but I do cheese for about 40 on Boxing Day (that's Dec 26). I buy 9 pieces about 200 g (just under half a pound) each plus mum always makes ported Stilton. Conveyances for cheese are French baguette, walnut bread, Carr's water biscuits and a gluten free option.

                                                        We also serve 8 racks of pork ribs, 1.5 lbs of kippered salmon, smoked oysters, olives, cornichons, mixed nuts and various sweets.

                                                        Three large round platters with a page of info beside them giving a bit of intel about each cheese. Sometimes I put out condiments, sometimes not. I have a trusted cheesemonger who picks the specific cheeses based on their ripeness and a set of criteria I provide. This year we had a particularly stellar lot. I forgot to stipulate that we didn't want any super pungent cheeses this year so be warned the goat has a serious whiff to it.

                                                        The triple crème was the one that got most massacred (as per usual) and my favourite was the brie. Here they are with my hastily assembled writeups:

                                                        Bella Vitino Merlot Another American, Bella is cow's milk and pasteurized, hailing from the redoubtable state of Wisconsin, home of many fine cheeses

                                                        Kaltbach AlpineExtra This cow's milk cheese from Switzerland is an award-winning cave-aged emmentaler with a distinctive blackened rind. Enjoy its complex flavors, which blend intense nuttiness, herbaceous woodiness and sometimes hints of earthiness.

                                                        Camembert de Normandie (raw cow's milk) As the cheese matures it forms a smooth, buttery, runny interior and a white bloomy rind thanks to a fungus, called penicillium candidum. It is meant to be eaten with the cheese. This cheese is best paired with a light red wine such as Beaujolais, Chenin Blanc, St Emilion, St Estephe or traditionally a glass of Normandy cider.

                                                        Gres champenois, a double cream Brie from France, is lusciously salty and deeply savoury, with a whisper-soft creamline around the inner core

                                                        Pikauba comes from the Saguenay Lac St Jean area of Quebec. A semi-firm farm cheese, with a buttery, slightly fruity taste, it is named after a river in the Parc des Laurentides.

                                                        Grand Creme de Lin triple cream Brie made with pasteurized cow's milk. It's called grand for a reason

                                                        Bleu des Basques is a lait cru (raw sheep's milk) blue from the French Pyrenees. Semi-creamy, with little bites of crunch where the veining is found. A bit salty at first, becoming complex, with a tangy, spicy, fresh flavour and a creamy finish.

                                                        Le sabot de Blanchette This Quebec farm goat cheese can be recognized by its beautiful pyramid shape covered with a natural coarse rind. It has a soft, velvety creamy texture that melts in the mouth. From the website: "It's wonderful taste develops into an explosive finale."

                                                        Point Reyes is an American blue from our favourite part of California. It is unpasteurized organic, kosher and made with vegetarian rennet.

                                                        Ported Stilton (Mum, Vancouver) will become addictive so consider yourself warned. Good English Stilton is marinated in fine port for several weeks. Best enjoyed on a Carr's water biscuit.

                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                          You may have come late to the party but you're the clear winner in MY book :)

                                                            1. re: HillJ

                                                              Indeed, and a Happy New Year to all cheese mice!

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                Glad you enjoyed! I have another piece of the triple cream and a five-year-old white Balderson on deck for tomorrow night. HNY all cheese weasels!

                                            2. Not a cheese plate, but seasonal. I'm really enjoying the Somerdale Champagbe Cheddar. It sounds kitschy but is really good.