12 days of cheesemas, aged cheeses, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, italian cheeses, parmigiano reggiano, raw milk

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 12


(photo from Culture Magazine)

Parmigiano Reggiano. Not pre-grated, not that shit that comes in a canned shaker or is any way, shape or form, pasteurized. We’re talking about the “King of Cheeses” for God’s sake, so have some respect here. You want the real stuff, raw and imported. You know I love my American cheese makers, but you have my permission–actually, my encouragement–to roll your eyes at the next person trying to sell you ‘Parmesan’ at the farmer’s market. It’s not even a distant cousin to the real thing. This is 660 years of traditional cheese making at it’s absolutely most perfect execution. What the cow’s eat, how the milk is heated, where it’s aged–all of it is regulated by law and all of that fuss makes sense after one bite. There is no other cheese as nuanced as Parmigiano, with its perfect balance of creaminess, crunch, sweetness and salt. This is one of those cheeses that, once you have the real thing, you are very hard pressed to use any lesser substitute.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Missus and I to our friends, family and fellow food lovers.

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12 days of cheesemas, Bresca, burrata, cheese advent calendar, cheese pairings, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, maplebrook farms vermont

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 11


(photo from TheKitchn.com)

One of the best dishes I ate this year had Burrata at the center of it. It was at Bresca, back in March, during Restaurant Week. Dawn and Adam were with The Missus and I, settling in for a four course dinner when the plate arrived. We hadn’t ordered it, mind you, but Chef Krista Desjarlais generously surprised us (she knows my love of cheese) with an antipasto course of Burrata, prosciutto, roasted tomatoes, capers, olive oil, aged balsamic and bread. The table didn’t speak for over the course of the next twenty minutes. We were too focused and our mouths were too full to articulate how wonderful it was at the time. I think I thanked Chef Desjarlais for the month for her kindness and the amazing food we had that night. Burrata is NOT a cooking mozzarella, it’s filled with cream and melty curd, so don’t waste it on a pizza. Make a plate, similar to the one that we were served, and enjoy some comfortable silence with some friends over one of the simplest–yet, exquisite–cheeses in the world.

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12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, cheese plate, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, raclette cheese, springbrook farms reading raclette

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 10


(photo from NYTimes.com)

We’re going to talk French again. You don’t really think about domestically made cheeses when the name ‘Raclette’ rolls around. You think French or Swiss made, melted on roasted fingerling potatoes or crusty bread. Truthfully, I wasn’t fond of Raclette cheese until this past year when I was introduced to one by Chef Guy Hernandez of Bar Lola. This one, from Springbrook Farms in Vermont, has completely shattered my illusion and ambivalence towards Raclette. It’s painfully more interesting in both nose and paste to the French or Swiss varieties you can by stateside. It’s rusty, pink rind gives you a fair bit of warning that the cheese has a nose to it, but the bite is no where near as strong. The paste is creamy, with a bit of a cheddar spring to it. It’s a bit earthy, but has a pretty mild nutty finish. I’ve had it on eggs, melted over a rib eye sandwich and shredded into a gratin. It’s become my ‘go to’ melting cheese over the past few months, but it’s great for nibbling as is.

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12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, coupole, goats cheese, holiday cheese plates, vermont butter and cheese creamery

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 9


(photo from Murray’s Cheese)

I’ve encountered people, more than I care to admit, that don’t believe that Americans can make wonderful goat cheese that would rival the French, much in the same way they thought about our wine. Sure, it’s taken a bit of time (and we’re still dealing with those pesky and obnoxious raw milk laws), but I think we’re just about there. Some of the natural rind cheeses coming from Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery are a prime example of that, like my favorite, Coupole. It’s one of the few bloomy rinds that I prefer in their younger state. The milk is sweet, mild and grassy–making for the perfect breakfast cheese to have with a sweet bread and cup of tea.

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12 days of cheesemas, bucheron, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, goats milk cheese, holiday cheese plate, maine cheese, york hill farm maine

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 8


(photo from Stacy Camp Photography)

I will openly come out now and say that York Hill Farm, from New Sharon, ME, is one of my absolute favorite goat cheese makers in New England. They were recently featured in a Culture Magazine article on Maine cheese makers and were big winners this past year at The Big E. And the accolades are well deserved. The two cheeses above, their ‘Bucheron‘ and Capriano are two of my favorites. The Capriano is aged about 6 months and the paste imparts a very distinct nutty, sweetness, without the tanginess that goes along with so many goat cheeses. The Bucheron, aged much younger, embraces the tanginess and all its glory. The cream line of the cheese–the one that gets gooier and gooier as the cheese ages–never really gets a lot of body. But, it does loosen up enough to give you that wonderful dual texture and, therefore, dual flavor that makes so many people love this style of cheese.
One thing, though, that strikes me about just about every one of York Hill’s cheeses is a mineral note in the milk that cuts a bit into the acidity, which is most prominent in their plain chevre.

If you’re looking to track down York Hill’s cheeses, I’d do so soon as their milking season is coming to an end. After that, you’re waiting 4 long months until the next batch of cheese is made.

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12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, holiday cheese plates, major farm, sheep's milk cheese, vermont shepherd

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 7


(photo SF Chronicle)

Four months, five if you’re lucky. That’s how long the season is for this raw sheep’s cheese from Major Farm, Vermont Shepherd. And, if you’re truly lucky, you’ll get a taste of one of the first batches of the season, when the sheep are grazing on lemongrass and clover. Seriously, they send you whimsical cards telling you what the sheep were eating the week the cheese was made. It makes it seriously romantical and may just make you focus on the flavor profile of the cheese, rather than just munching it down. As the season goes on, the flavor becomes less grassy and sweet, taking on a bit of a nuttier, drier profile.

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12 days of cheesemas, cheese advent calendar, counting down my favorite holiday cheeses, Harbison, holiday cheese plates, jasper hill farms, plating cheese

12 Days of Cheesemas–Day 6

If I were told that I would be given $1 million tomorrow, but I would have to forgo ever having a taste of Jasper Hill Farms Harbison again… I would take the $1 million, but I would pine for that cheese every day. Seriously, one of the most beautiful and complex cheeses I’ve had in the past few years. As I’ve swooned here before:

It starts out smokey, akin to a young Winnimere, then a wash of butter and cream hits, ending with a distinct mustard finish. French’s Yellow Mustard to be exact.

It’s that finish. That lingering, familiar and pleasant acidity separates this from so many in its category. Get it ripe enough and, like the Vacherin, sheer the top and just fucking ladle it out.

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