Fall is a favorite season for many, including foodies. The crisper weather is reason enough to indulge your palette and opt for something a little more decadent.
Now is the time we usher in beloved cold-weather staples: braised meats, winter squashes, apples and pears, aromatic baking spices, and truffles. A savory, well-balanced cheese and charcuterie plate can be a welcome addition to these classics during the holidays.
Much like produce, cheese possesses a certain seasonality. Personally, I prefer goudas, cheddars, creamy soft-ripened cheeses, pungent blues and funky washed-rind cheeses in the fall and winter. Here are a few domestically-produced picks for the season.
Vermont Creamery Cremont | Vermont
Luscious goat cheese is mixed with fresh Vermont cream for a more muted taste. It is sure to please a crowd but also appeal to more educated taste buds. No European copycat, this is a true American original.
Rogue River Blue Reserve | Oregon
Wrapped in grape leaves, macerated in pear brandy, this show-stopper pops with flavor. It is sweet and creamy, with enough sharp blue character to compete with a classic Stilton or Roquefort, and pairs well with a Sauterne.
Marin French Schloss | California
The oldest operating U.S. creamery, Marin has been making this Austrian-inspired cheese since the early 1900s. The recipe was reformulated 2 years ago to make it a triple cream/washed rind. Funky and pungent, with lots of flavor.
‘Simple’ is often better when composing a cheese plate – the star of the show is the cheese, after all. Serve with a Tribeca baguette or some Rustic Bakery flatbreads. I’m also loving Purely Artisan’s freeze-dried Manuka Honey as a cheese accoutrement; it provides a fun textural contrast and is easier to serve than traditional honeycomb.
For charcuterie, I use a sampling of large and small format salamis, cured and cooked, ranging from mild, subtle flavors to those more heavily spiced.
FraMani Smoked Pancetta | California
This Italian bacon is smoked and seasoned to perfection. It can be easily sliced and served, and the fat melts in your mouth. The seasoning is kept light enough that the quality of pork shines through.
Olympia Provisions Loukanika | Oregon
Countries across Europe have their own takes on charcuterie, and the Greek version is particularly interesting. Olympia Provisions has incorporated traditional Greek flavors — garlic, cumin, orange zest — you won’t have tasted a salami like Loukanika before. Best served alongside a crusty bread.
La Quercia Nduja Spicy Prosciutto Spread | Iowa
Made with prosciutto, speck and New Mexican chiles, this spread is texturally unique and its spicy flavor will certainly wake up the taste buds. Its versatility is a big advantage. It can be served plain on a platter (pairs well with beer), but also is a great ingredient in dishes. Toss it with butter and pasta, or serve atop a pizza. Add to a sandwich for another layer of depth. Or even put in a ramekin and broil it to develop a ‘creme brulee-esque’ crunch.
We have a selection of Bel Aria olive blends that add color and textural variety, and a plethora of pickled or marinated items — artichokes, gigandes beans, carrots, snap peas, and Peppadew, Sweety Drop and Pippara peppers. Many chefs prefer to pickle their own ingredients, but these items can save time to concentrate on other things in the kitchen.