Take the guesswork out of your next purchase and consider
these cheeses that have been vetted by the pros.
AGED Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam — Gold Winner at the 2014 California
SOFT Marin French Cheese Camembert — Bronze Winner at the 2015
Cal Expo State Fair
FIRM Beehive Cheese Company Barely Buzzed — Bronze Winner at the
2014 World Cheese Awards
BLUE Point Reyes Bay Blue — Second Place, Best in Show at the 2014
Annual American Cheese Society Conference
GOAT Cypress Grove Chevre Humboldt Fog — Second Place 2013 at
American Cheese Society Awards
SHEEP Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper — Second Place 2011 at World
THE HOLIDAY SEASON: the time of year when we challenge our inner Martha Stewart to create Pinterest-worthy gatherings. Oh, the pressure. Not to worry, we’ve brought
in the experts. If you do it right you can
probably get away with a lot less work than you think — a
little planning here, some artfully chosen premade food
there, mix in a few shortcuts and you’ve got yourself a party.
Here, event planners, cookie makers, chefs and wine experts
give the inside scoop on easy planning no matter what type
of fete you’re having.
1 The Holiday Open House
The holiday open house is the most deceptive of party
prospects. At first glance it seems casual — guests drop in
whenever their schedule allows for merriment, food and
drink — but the host faces what seems a Groundhog Day
process of cleaning and restocking, unless you provide
snacks that don’t require refrigeration, cooking or prepping once the party starts. With that in mind, who better
to school us on what to serve than chef Jared Rogers of
Picco Restaurant in Larkspur?
Besides being a celebrated chef, Jared is known for his
cheese plate prowess. A great cheese plate is a perfect holiday
party attraction: it can be left out at room temperature and
filled just once, and it itself can be a topic of conversation.
When choosing which cheeses will make the cut, be
sure you have a variety of textures and flavors represented. Rogers likes to choose one hard cow’s cheese, one
medium-hard cow’s cheese, one soft triple-cream cow’s
cheese, one hard pecorino goat cheese, one medium-hard
goat cheese, one soft goat cheese and a blue. Locally, he
likes Tomales Bay Foods in Point Reyes and Woodlands
Markets for their cheese selections.
A noticeably odiferous cheese isn’t an automatic no-go,
Rogers adds; he just recommends knowing your guests
— are they picky eaters or foodies? If you do choose a strong-smelling cheese, give it its own serving plate away from the
other cheeses, so that it doesn’t transfer the aroma and alter
the taste of a less pungent cheese.
As for logistics, it’s good to know approximately how
many people will be strolling through. If cheese is going to
be the main event, plan on buying three pounds for every
eight people. If cheese is just one of many items being
served, a few ounces per person should suffice. Put out a
separate knife for each cheese and set everything out an
hour before the start of the party. At room temperature,
the flavors of the cheese can open up — like a wine that’s
had time to breathe in a decanter. Put the spread on platters around the home so everyone isn’t confined to one
gridlocked table, and label each cheese so you won’t have to
recite (or memorize) every name.
Although cheese may be the star, the supporting acts
are just as important. Rogers recommends quince paste,