The holidays are upon us! Take arms cheesemongers, take arms! To your posts! Defend your counters!
Oh, wait… no, don’t do that. I must confess, it’s pretty easy for a monger to get caught up in the rush and push of the holiday hustle and bustle and forget that we in fact are at the helm of what makes the holiday experience so special! Nowhere else in specialty food can you find such exciting seasonal varieties than at your local cheese counter and the Southern Season counter is no exception. So dear friend, instead of preparing for battle, strap on your latex gloves and put on a friendly facade in order to help that kindly person who’s been waiting patiently and wants nothing more than to enjoy thee teeniest, tiniest little sliver of Wensleydale with Cranberries by an open fire this holiday season.
I’d love to sit here and blog about all the different cheeses we have at the counter right now, but honestly, there’s not enough room in the blogosphere for all the new stuff we have to offer. This may sound like a boast, but I assure you, that’s not my style. I’m going to list a few cheeses you’re likely to not find at other, nearby counters and be done with it. Sound good? Let’s start with the Brie a la Truffe from Maison de la Truffe!
Brie a la Truffe
This Brie de Meaux filled with crème fraîche and chopped black Perigord truffles is exclusively available in the United States during the latter part of the year when the weather is cold and the drink is strong. Each store brought in only one wheel for the month of December. Do come by for a taste and take a piece home for the holidays!
An Italian sheep’s milk cheese aged two months in ceramic jars surrounded by olive leaves. This gentle, smooth cheese produces lovely hints of olive, but is not dominated by them. Ulivio’s subtle and playful. Come by for a taste!
Torta del Casar
Named after its city of origin, Casar de Cáceres, The Torta del Casar is a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Extremadura. It’s made with the milk of Merino and Entrefina sheep, known for their low yield, but protein and fat-rich, milk. Like many Portuguese cheeses, it’s coagulated with thistle rennet, which gives it a pleasant bitterness. The producer has been making this cheese since 1996 and had a hand in helping form the D.O.P. Expect a piquant, rich and creamy cheese with both sweet and sour notes. It’s traditionally served by cutting off the top and digging right in! This cheese spreads beautifully and tastes wonderful on top of a sliced rustic baguette. Torta del Casar is the perfect portion for a gathering of friends and family. Bring this unique Spanish cheese to your holiday table!
Gruyère Moleson, Gruyère Vieux (Aged 18 months)
Although many people say they know Gruyère, they might be surprised when they taste this gem. Let me start by saying the following: I’m not cheating on our favorite Gruyère! The 1655 Cave-Aged imported by Columbia Cheese is hands down the best value in Gruyère! This 18-month aged Gruyère Vieux however, has just enough age on it to turn heads without completely depleting the wallet in the process. Extremely savory, full of sweet cream notes, caramelized onion, crunchy protein and just as nutty as nutty can be, this cheese is guaranteed to make your holiday bright!
In 2004, Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson set out to create the most pure and true-to-form Stilton blue cheese using traditional methods and ingredients (traditional animal rennet, unpasteurized organic cow’s milk). Although they succeeded, the result by law, is not Stilton. Meet the mighty Stichelton! Stilton blue cheese was awarded PDO status in 1996. Because of this status, Stilton must now be made with pasteurized milk as well as crafted within specific geographic regions under specific working conditions. By using both organic and unpasteurized milk as well as a traditional animal rennet not produced in a factory, the two set out to make a lost cheese and in the process reclaimed England’s reputation for creating some of the best raw milk traditional blues the world has ever tasted. Stichelton is about as buttery as a cheese could be… cream and butter drive this locomotive while the earthy, funky blue qualities one might expect to find up front merely ride coach. To me, nothing says holidays like a good chunk of Stilton and some Tawny Port to sip upon. This year why not make it a chunk of Stichelton? Thanks be unto you Neal’s Yard Dairy for caring for this beautiful cheese and making it available to us cheesemongers in the United States.
The following cheeses are available on tables through December 31, 2013:
Tickler Mature English Cheddar
Aged a minimum of 18 months, this Taw Valley-born English cheese is sweet yet sharp, crumbly yet creamy and has a considerable toasty nuttiness with a lovely tangy finish. If you’re looking for an affordable everyday cheddar for the cold weather months then look no further! Tickler’s our pick! It should be yours too. Enjoy this cheese with a hearty, malty holiday ale or an extra-special bitter.
Abbaye de Belloc
Developed by Benedictine monks at the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Belloc more than 3,000 years ago in the Pays Basque region of France, this unpasteurized , farmhouse sheep’s milk beauty is rich, warm and deep and is about as balanced as a cheese can be. Expect a caramel sweetness with each delicious bite, expertly balanced by a hint of salt. This cheese pairs perfectly with a subtle, fruity Pinot Noir or a spritzy Franco-Belgian Farmhouse Ale.
Marcel Petite Comté
And last, but certainly not least, we will continue to feature our beloved Marcel Petite Comté select until New Year’s Day! This cheese is imported by the Essex St Cheese company and is tasted and selected for Southern Season specifically. You’ll not find this exact flavor profile anywhere else. We preordered an entire palette of this beautiful cheese just for your palate to be consumed from late September to January 1, 2014. Say what? You haven’t tried it yet? Well, get down here and have a taste! Happy Holidays!!!