Eat Good Food

New Year’s Eve 2017 Cheese Guide

We adore a good cheese plate any time, but particularly at important holiday parties like those that mark the end of one year and the start of another. Here’s the cheese we’re purveying in our Healdsburg store in honor of 2017’s completion. Come get some!

Rush Creek Reserve, Uplands Cheese, Wisconsin ($35/lb)
Bound in spruce bark, this soft, young, cow’s milk cheese has a silky texture with notes of smoke, beef broth, and grass. A seasonal favorite made only in autumn as the diet of the cows begins to change to winter’s dry hay.

Rogue River Blue, Rogue Creamery, Oregon ($50/lb)
This cow’s milk cheese is wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy. The blue veining lends hints of hazelnuts and fruit; the paste becomes slightly crystallized as it ages.

Black Betty Aged Goat Gouda, Fromagerie L’Amuse, Holland ($35/lb)
Every year, Betty Koster sets aside a small trove of her treasured goat gouda. All of the caramel, grassy elements are intensified in this limited run beauty.

Mimolette Aged 24 Months, France ($28/lb)
This semi-hard cow’s milk cheese is produced in six-pound spheres with a bright, orange-colored interior. Sometimes called the “Halloween Cheese,” its taste is gloriously sweet, yet uncommonly tame for such a cheese.

Stilton, Colton Bassett, England ($33/lb)
This blue cheese is made with the milk of four dairies still using original pasturelands from the 1920s. Towards the center of the wheel, the profile is bright with a vibrant fruity tang. Closer to the rind, the flavor becomes earthy and savory.

Eat Good Food

Easy Hors d’oeuvres for Home Entertaining

hors d'oeuvres

The French word hors d’oeuvres literally translates to “apart from the work” and essentially describes a small dish served before a meal. The time to traditionally serve hors d’oeuvres is during the cocktail hour.

Two or three refined bites, hors d’oeuvres are often served with various aperitifs or wine, and are meant to pique the appetite, not fill you up. From crostini to oysters, here are some of our favorite ways to part from work.

CROSTINI

One of the simplest, most versatile types of hors d’oeuvres is crostini, which are toasted or grilled slices of bread with tasty toppings. These bite-sized hors d’oeuvres can be crowned with rich ingredients such as brandade, egg salad, or chicken liver paté, but they can also incorporate such leftovers as smashed beans or sautéed greens, or such larder items as cured fish, pickles, charcuterie, or cheese.

Here are some of our favorite combinations:

Crostini with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar Broil ripe cherry tomatoes until they begin to burst and drizzle with aged balsamic to add sweetness.

Crostini with Fig-Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese A salty-sweet tapenade made with dried figs, kalamata olives, and capers is the perfect foil for mild goat cheese.

Crostini with Smashed White Beans and Kale Last night’s pot of beans can be mashed in a mortar, adding extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste, then spread on toast. Top with well-cooked broccoli rabe or other greens tossed with minced garlic and olive oil.

Egg Salad and Smoked Trout Mash warm boiled eggs with extra virgin olive oil and salt, top with bite-sized piece of smoked trout, and sprinkle with chervil.

Crostini with Salt Cod Brandade and Chard Add a spoonful of brandade to the edges of toast, brown under broiler for a minute, and top with lemony sautéed chard.

Crostini with Peach, Prosciutto & Ricotta Ripe peaches, served fresh or grilled, and creamy ricotta are the perfect complement to salty prosciutto.

Crostini with Marinated Sardines and Salsa Verde Combine parsley, tarragon, capers, and lemon zest to make salsa verde and top with marinated fresh sardines.

Crostini with Tomato, Garlic, and Olive Oil In this riff onpan con tomate crusty bread is rubbed with garlic and virgin olive oil, then soaked with chopped tomatoes and finished with smoked salt.

SIMPLE PAIRINGS

Letting excellent ingredients combine and shine make entertaining easy. We prefer the focus to be on the company, not the work. Charcuterie, cheeses, and oysters make for marvelous bites during cocktail hour. Ease into the evening!

CHARCUTERIE

Charcuterie, paired with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, or condiments such as pickles and mustard, is a simple way to make easy work of the appetizer course in a meal. Here are some of our favorite combinations:

Proscuitto and melon Slice the melon thinly.

Proscuitto and grilled figs Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.

Proscuitto and nectarine wedges Garnish with blanched almonds.

Salami and Manchego cheese Add dried figs and toasted walnuts to the plate for a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.

Pork pate with pistachios Serve with pickled caperberries or cornichons and a smear of good mustard.

CHEESES

A cheese plate can easily start a meal as a balanced and satisfying little plate of flavors and textures. Fruit, both fresh and dried, nuts, and the ever-friendly fennel all have a natural affinity to many types of cheeses. Here are a few ideas:

Warm Saint-Marcellin cheese with roasted cherries Served warm, the combination is creamy and sweet.

Fresh baked ricotta with roasted figs Perfect for smearing on bread or topping crostini.

Savory baked ricotta with herbs and lemon Serve with garlic-rubbed grilled bread.

Reblochon cheese with slivers of raw fennel Nice with raw pistachios.

Pimento cheese on crackers or biscuits Delicious with pickled okra.

OYSTERS

Perhaps the finest and most celebratory way to start a meal is with oysters. Presented on the half-shell, they come in their own serving vessels, making them natural hors d’oeuvres. We like to serve them with the simplest condiments, a squeeze of lemon, or a traditional mignonette.

Learn how to shuck oysters at home and prepare a mignonette.

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Cheese Plate Artistry

cheese plate artistry

Cheese plate artistry requires an eye and palate both subtle and experimental. Not wanting to overwhelm guests with too many strong flavors all jostling for attention, a good cheese plate is a balanced affair that offers variety in tastes and textures and balances savory with just a touch of sweet.

Just in time for New Year’s celebrations, SHED Larder lead Bradley Frank has some tips on the art of the cheese plate, perfect for any host or cheese lover.

  • First of all, the mantra: Less is more. Choose just four to five cheeses for your plate.
  • Be sure to mix it up with different textures and types of milk – fresh, surface ripened, semi-firm, firm, hard, and blue; cow, goat, sheep.

Some of Bradley’s current favorites in our Larder include:

Andante Dairy Cavatina: goat’s milk cheese covered with ash

Ramini Mozzarella: made from buffalo milk

Pennyroyal Farmstead Velvet Sister: a creamy, Camembert-inspired cheese

Andante Dairy Largo: an aged triple-cream cheese

Nicasio Valley Square: a washed-rind cheese, reminiscent of a Taleggio

Andante Dairy Tomme Dolce: washed with a mixture of brandy and plum conserve made by farm neighbor June Taylor

Rogue River Blue: wrapped in grape leaves and macerated in pear brandy

When it comes to arranging a cheese board, Tia Keenan’s The Art of the Cheese Plate offers suggestions for both supporting and contrasting pairings based on texture and flavor. With tasting notes, recipes for accompaniments like lavender-quince paste, and visually inspired spreads, this book has become one of our main references during the holiday party season.

An iconoclast, Keenan serves fig-ricotta caramels with Parmigiano Reggiano and cranberry gin compote with her Roquefort. With aged Goudas, she suggests low-key accompaniments like coffee-hazelnut crisps or apple chutney. And with nutty, caramelized Alpine cheeses, she pairs sunflower seed brittle, beer mustard, or even fried onion strings.

However you do it, honor yourself and your own preferences. Absolutely, use guidance from the experts — but allow your own palate and tastes to lead your discovery.

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Ricotta Recipe

Making fresh cheese, as with this ricotta recipe, is a simple process that just involves heating milk and adding acid to curdle it.

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