Top 5: Holiday cheese recommendations

Top 5: Holiday cheese recommendations

Sick of seeing tray after tray of uniform slices of Colby Jack and cheddar cheeses, layered back and forth, at holiday parties and family gatherings? Even though it might not taste all that bad, it's nice to think outside the box, especially since there are a number of cheeses produced right in our own backyard. Ever tried camembert? It's like brie, only better. Still gotta have your cheddar? How about one from Scotland?

For the holidays, Surdyk's Cheesemonger Josh Dix says he tries to recommend cheeses that allow people to branch out a little but are still crowd pleasers. Dix, who used to work for local cheesemaker Shepherd's Way, says "I like to recommend artisan versions of cheeses that sound familiar, like cheddar and Gouda, but that have far more flavor than many people might be used to. I also try to gauge how adventurous the customer and their guests are, and usually choose some cheeses that are mild but interesting, and some that might push their bounds just a little." Here are Dix's Top 5 cheese picks for this holiday season.

1. Bent River Camembert, made by Alemar Cheese Co. in Mankato, Minn. -- made with organic milk from Cedar Summit Farm in New Prague, Minn.

Bearing a bit more flavor than a traditional brie, Dix describes this cheese as "buttery and rich, but with a slight piquant bite on the finish. One of the best soft ripened cheeses made in the Midwest."

Top 5: Holiday cheese recommendations

2. Granite Ridge organic goat cheese, made by Donnay Dairy in Kimball, Minn.

This cheese is easy to doctor up, Dix says. "You can go with something savory like olive oil, kalamatas, and roasted garlic to make an appealing appetizer, or go with something sweet, and spread fig or apricot preserves with the cheese for a divine dessert."


Top 5: Holiday cheese recommendations

3. Marieke Gouda, made by Holland's Family Farm in Thorp, Wis.

Holland's cheese, Dix says, "has far more flavor and complexity than your average, red waxed cheese." Surdyk's has three different kinds of the farm's cheese: Young Gouda ("creamy and sweet"), Super Aged Gouda ("a more grassy and complex flavor than most"), and Fenugreek Spiced Gouda ("most unique ... tastes as if it's been flavored with maple").

Top 5: Holiday cheese recommendations

4. Isle of Mull Cheddar, aged by Neal's Yard Dairy, Scotland.

"Isle of Mull is made from un-pasteurized milk from cows that are often fed the remaining grain husk from Scotch Whiskey production. The result is a wild flavor that ranges from winey and fruity to earthy, smoky, and sharp, but never overwhelming," Dix says. He says it's hard to believe this one even shares a name with what you find on many holiday trays.


5. Rogue River Blue, made by Rogue Creamery in Oregon.

Best for last? This seasonal cheese is only available this time of year and Dix says it's definitely something to look forward to. "Rogue River Blue is wrapped with Syrah grapes leaves that have been macerated with pear brandy, and then the wheels are hand-salted and aged for up to a year. The creamy texture is accented with flavors of berries and hazelnuts, and a yeasty, pear aroma."

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