Cheese: A Crowd Pleaser

October 26, 2012 2:36:39 PM EDT

Having good food can make or break a party, but it can be hard to please every guest. One food that almost everyone can agree on is cheese. With so many varieties available, there's sure to be something for everyone. Choose the right foods to pair with it and you're well on your way to party success.

 

Soft cheeses are spreadable and will complement many different foods. One popular option is Livarot. It has a salty, nutty taste that goes great with apples or walnuts and can make a pretty spread when paired with these. Brie is also a crowd pleaser and can be paired with sweet pickles or baguettes. It is mild, creamy and slightly sour.

 

Hard and semi-hard cheeses have been aged for one month to four years. They are great for cooking and melting. Parmesan is readily available and its piquant, salty flavor pairs well with arugula or prosciutto. Emmental, more commonly known as Swiss cheese, is also easy to find. It has a fruity, nutty flavor that goes well with ham and apples.

 

Cheddar cheeses are universally liked, so they can be great at any party. Sharp cheddar has a smooth flavor that can complement sweet foods like desserts. Try it alongside apple pie. Sharp cheddar comes in white or yellow so you can pick whichever will look best with your spread. Cloth-wrapped cheddar is more buttery and earthy and goes great with walnuts.

 

Blue cheeses have a lovely blue tint and some feature a blue vein. Gorgonzola comes from Italy and has a buttery, moist texture. It goes well with radicchio and black olives. Another popular blue cheese is Stilton. It is firm and tangy and goes well with walnuts and figs.

 

Featuring goat cheeses can be a fun way to offer something different and delicious. Fresh goat cheese is tart like yogurt and is often coated with herbs, ash or peppercorns. It tastes great with watercress or olives. Aged goat cheese, called Chevre, is rounder and less tart. It goes well on crackers, particularly those made from oats or whole wheat.

 

Choosing two or three options of cheese paired with different foods will ensure that everyone at your party will find something they like. This will help to make you a popular host and your party a success.

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Wine and Cheese - Yes, Please!

October 23, 2012 2:34:03 PM EDT

People have spent centuries perfecting the art of food. The small subtleties in different kinds of food can bring a whole new experience to the palette that adds even more enjoyment to food. Perhaps the best example of this is with regards to wine and cheese. Each comes in endless varieties, and the possibilities are even greater when they're paired together.

 

There are four basic types of cheese:

  • Bloomy cheeses are creamy and decadent with a soft rind.
  • Hard cheeses are stiff, sharp and salty and have often been aged.
  • Blue cheeses are pungent and salty with a blue tinge.
  • Fresh cheeses are not aged so they are soft and spreadable with a mild, tangy taste.

 

The flavors of wine and cheese can beautifully complement each other and many cheeses have been crafted for this specific purpose. It could take a lifetime to sample everything that wine and cheese have to offer. The best way to try different wine and cheese combinations is to have a party! With so many options available, there's bound to be something for everyone. Choose a few combinations that feature your favorite varieties and share this gourmet experience with your friends. Below are some popular wine and cheese pairings:

 

 

Bloomy Cheeses

Camembert - Champagne

Brie - Chardonnay

Robiola – Sparkling WIne

Taleggio - Pinot Blanc

 

Hard Cheeses

Gouda - Merlot

Cheddar - Cabernet Sauvignon

Parmesan- Chianti

Double Gloucester - Zinfandel

Pecorino - Valpolicella

Gruyere - Sauvignon Blanc

Fontina - Bardolino

 

Blue Cheeses

Gorgonzola - Port

Stilton - Sauternes

Blue - Riesling

Cambozola - Eiswein

 

Fresh Cheeses

Ricotta - Pinot Grigio

Mozzarella - Sauvignon Blanc

Goat - Chenin Blanc

Feta - Beaujolais

Burrata - Tocai Friulano

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Spanish Cheeses

October 18, 2012 2:20:56 PM EDT

Like cheese from many other European countries, the 100 or so different varieties of cheese from Spain can be categorized by the regions where they are produced. They are further classified as having a light, medium or strong flavor. Some cheeses from Spain are recognized as having a Protected Denominations of Origin (DO) and each is unique in its own way.

 

Manchego - This cheese is named after the province made famous by Don Quixote, La Mancha. It is made from ewe's milk and has a sweet, mild flavor. It was originally made to provide durable food for shepherds.

 

Murcia Al Vino - This somewhat fatty cheese is made from goat's milk and has a creamy, elastic texture. Its flavor is enhanced by a rind that has been rubbed with light red wine.

 

Nata de Cantabria - This name means “creamy cheese” and it is a perfect description for this cheese. It is similar to cream cheese but has a delicious bitter point that is very distinctive.

 

Roncal - Made in one of the seven villages in the Valle de Roncal, this cheese is from the area that was the setting for Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. It is firm with a nutty flavor.

 

Tetilla - This yellow cheese is uniquely shaped like a spinning top. It has a clean taste and is creamy and smooth.

 

Zamorano - Named for the province of Zamora, Zamorano is a hard sheep's milk cheese with a sharp, buttery taste.

 

Afuega'l Pitu - Meaning “fire in the throat,” this cheese is so named because it sticks to the back of the throat a little. A well-aged sample has a very strong flavor that might not be for everyone.

 

Cabra al Romero - This is a newer cheese from the same company that makes Manchego. The outside is coated with rosemary to give it a mild herby flavor.

 

Idiazabel - This rustic ewe's milk cheese was originally produced high in the Pyrenees. It was smoked in the roofs of shepherd's huts and still carries that smoky flavor.

 

Arzula Illoa - This soft, creamy cow's milk cheese comes in a variety of strengths depending on how long it has been left to cure.

 

Queso de la Serana - Locally called Torta del Casar, this cheese is great for party platters. It is an organic cheese made from specially raised sheep. It is considered a luxury and is somewhat expensive.

 

San Simon - This smoked cheese is very popular in Spain and is formed in a pear-shaped mold. It is soft inside and has a mild flavor.

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Bulgarian Cheese

October 15, 2012 2:05:14 PM EDT

Bulgaria may be a small country but it is bursting at the seams with good things to eat. Bulgarians are known for cooking fresh, organic dishes using the best ingredients. Cheese is a great addition to almost any meal and Bulgaria is home to some of the best varieties available. Gourmet chefs all over the world love using the delicious cheeses that originate in Bulgaria.

 

Kashkaval is a popular Bulgarian cheese made from sheep's milk. It is a semi-hard yellow cheese that comes in several variations ranging from bland to spicy. It is used in all aspects of Bulgarian cuisine, including cooking because it melts nicely. It can have a pungent taste similar to bleu cheese, even though it's not a moldy cheese.

 

Brinza cheese, another favorite among Bulgarians, is also made from sheep's milk. It is a very versatile cheese with many uses. It has a salty, smooth taste. When young, it is creamy and spreadable. It is a perfect pairing for meat, cheese and cracker trays, and other hors d'oeuvres. As it ages, it becomes more firm and crumbly, which makes it great for salads.

 

Feta cheese comes in a few different varieties, the most well known being produced in Greece. Sirene cheese, from Bulgaria, is another form of Feta cheese that many consider to be superior to the Greek version. It is a white, salty, brined cheese that can be made from either sheep or cow's milk. It is used in many traditional Bulgarian dishes and originates in the southern Trakia region of the country.

 

There's a good reason why professional chefs and food lovers all over the world include these cheeses in their lineup. Next time you're in the mood for gourmet cooking, try one of these Bulgarian varieties of cheese to top off your meal. The superior quality and taste they provide is a perfect addition to any meal.

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As American as Cheese

October 12, 2012 2:02:36 PM EDT

When you hear the term “American cheese,” you probably think of the processed, yellow slices that are popular among toddlers. But the truth is, there's a whole variety of delicious gourmet cheeses made right here in the U.S. You've probably heard of many of them and there are a few that most people eat on a regular basis.

 

Most American cheese is made in either California or Wisconsin. Aside from the more popular commercially produced varieties of cheeses that come from the U.S., there are a wide variety of artisan cheeses produced by local dairies across the country. They can be purchased from local grocers, at farmer's markets, or straight from the dairies where they're made.

 

Monterey Jack cheese is a semi-hard, white cheese that originated in Monterey, California, back when that was still part of Mexico. It was later sold commercially by a California businessman by the name of David Jack, who gave it its name. When spicy peppers are added, it is referred to as Pepper Jack cheese. Monterey Jack cheese is commonly paired with another American cheese, Colby, to make a semi-hard marble called Colby-Jack.

 

Colby cheese originated in Colby, Wisconsin. It is similar to cheddar cheese but it doesn't go through the “cheddaring” process. Instead, it undergoes a washed-curd process that replaces the whey with water. This leaves a cheese that is softer, more mild, and more moist than traditional cheddar.

 

If you prefer soft cheeses, Bergenost is a great option. It is made in Corfu, New York, using cultures imported from Norway. It is spreadable, similar to Norwegian butter cheeses, and sold in green-coated wedges. It has a smooth, mild, slightly sour flavor that made it the winner of the 1999 New York State Fair Cheese Contest.

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