Come New Year’s Eve, you’re filling your bellies with French Champagne, Russian caviar and scotch from Scotland. This year, serve all-American cheese boards to your guests and let them know where the goods came from. With so many small, quality dairies and cheesemakers, now’s the time to spread the love as you lay out your party feast.
“American cheesemakers are taking inspiration from Europe but using different breeds of cows. They’re coming up with amazing cheeses that are unique and specific to America,” says Coral Frischkorn, co-owner of Cured, a cheese, charcuterie and wine shop in Boulder, Colorado. “Plus,” she adds, “for many people it’s a second or third career, and they are coming to it out of passion rather than tradition.”
For this reason, Frischkorn sells around 65 different American cheeses at the bustling shop she runs with her husband, Will. Another reason they like to push regional wheels: It’s easier to get the full story on the cheesemaker. You should inquire about that the next time you go shopping. That way, not only will you have the benefit of a really good cheese board, but a story to tell about about it, too.
When pairing cheeses, try to vary the intensities of the samples and styles. “You want to go back to the next one and then back to the next one,” says Coral. With that in mind, the Frischkorns shared seven of their favorite special-occasion American cheeses. Get them all if you feel so inclined, or take the experts’ advice and create trios of luscious, complex, simply delightful tidbits.
Cabra-Blanca: Goat’s milk cheese by Avalanche Cheese Company in Colorado
Making cheese was owner Wendy Mitchell’s third career path. Given the popularity of the goods coming out of her Avalanche Cheese Company in Basalt, it appears she found her calling. Mitchell learned to make cheese in England and always had a penchant for goat cheeses. That’s where the Cabra-Blanca comes in. Mellow and creamy, this fromage tastes of fresh grass and has a unique spongy texture that’s quite addictive. Be warned, one could easily snack on this cheese all day, which might make adding it to your spread a little difficult.
Bandaged Cheddar: Aged cheddar by Bleu Mont Dairy in Wisconsin
Why eat plain old cheddar when you can get a wedge that’s been lovingly aged and treated with dignity? At least, that’s what Willi Lehner is doing with his bold and complex “bandaged” cheddar, a 16-month-aged beauty that all at once makes your mouth water and taste buds crave more. It’s got a pleasing nutty, caramel flavor, and bits of crystallization that add a sweet crackle. It’s a great addition to any cheese board, especially if you’re hosting newbies to the world of fine cheese.
Bonne Bouche: Ash-ripened goat cheese from Vermont Creamery
Put a dainty wheel of this award-winning cheese on your plate and people are sure to ask about it. First, it’s a geotrichum-rinded sample, which means it kind of looks like pale blue brains molded into a quaint circle. Never mind that odd description or the texture—you’ll want to eat every morsel of this fresh, tangy and super-creamy Loire Valley–style cheese. As for the maker, Vermont Creamery opened more than 30 years ago when cheese enthusiasts Allison Hooper and Bob Reese banded together in, you guessed it, Vermont. They make numerous excellent varieties and theirs is one of the bigger names in the American cheese market.
Dunbarton Blue: Blue cheddar from Roelli Cheese Haus in Wisconsin
Thanks to fourth-generation cheesemaker Chris Roelli, this lovely cheese mixes a bold cheddar with the tongue-tingling aspect of blue cheese. Roelli hales from one of the few American cheese-making families, and the expertise shows through in this prime sample. Each bite has that familiar cheddar essence, then pops with a burst of spicy blue funk. It’s definitely a showstopper on any festive platter.
Harbison: Bloomy rinded, soft-ripened cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont
Andy and Mateo Kehler headed to the Northeast Kingdom region to buy the Jasper Hill Farm in 1998, and by 2003 they started making cheese good enough to sell. The Harbison is one of their young cheeses that has a bloomy rind with a distinct characteristic thanks to being wrapped with strips of spruce cambium. The names pays homage to Anne Harbison, the “grandmother of Greensboro.” Like the woman the cheese is named after, you won’t forget this funky fromage with its woodsy, earthy profile that brings to mind mustard and raw vegetables, in the best, most mouth-melting way, of course.
Add Avalanche Cheese Company’s Cabra-Blanca to complete your board.
Pawlet: Italian-style toma cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in Vermont
In the cheese world, “toma” means “made by the farmer,” and in the case of this semisoft fruity variety, the name is apt. Consider Stebbins Bardwell started the project in 1864 deep in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, and today Angela Miller and Russell Glover run the joint. Like all the cheeses, the Pawlet gets aged on the property in their extensive cave system. And despite the four to six months this creamy raw Jersey cow milk cheese spends there, it maintains a melty texture and easy-to-eat profile. Because of this, it’s a great cheese to add to a board when the other options are a bit bolder. The best part: The Pawlet makes a great grilled cheese sandwich the next day, perfect for curing a Champagne hangover.
Bayley Hazen Blue: Raw cow’s milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont
Even if someone says they don’t like blue cheese, get them to try a little nibble of this Vermont staple. The name Bayley Hazen comes from a nearby military road that George Washington commissioned during the Revolutionary War, and while your palate won’t be battling toasted nut and grassy nuances, it will open up revelations about blue cheese. Not only does it play well with milder cheese and tangy goat’s milk varieties, but it adds a bit of color to the plate.
Add Bonne Bouche or Harbison to complete your board.
Of course, if you would rather get a great handpicked selection of American cheese, charcuterie and condiments delivered to you for the occasion, Cured ships its thoughtful American All Stars and Colorado gift boxes all across the country.