A roaring fire, dynamite fall cocktails, and one comforting feast of a cheese plate—'tis the season when dinner parties are getting cozy. And an indulgent, aesthetically-pleasing cheese plate can elevate your hosting prowess tenfold this winter.
To elevate your spread this chilly season, Marissa Mullen, the fromage aficionado behind the Instagram handle @thatcheeseplate returns with seasonal advice. “I grew up in the Northeast, so the holidays always remind me of cold winter days staying warm by the fire.”
The Best Cheeses for a Winter Cheese Plate
Like many foods, cheeses can be fundamentally different depending on the season. "Aged cheese is typically produced in the spring and summer when the animal’s diet is abundant with fresh flowers and grasses," explained Mullen. "As these cheeses age through the warmer months, their flavor and texture hit their ultimate peak come winter."
So for the most flavorful of cheeses this season, stick to aged cheese made with spring and summer milk. This is especially true of aged cheeses like Gruyère and Comté from mountainous areas such as the Alps, where cheese is only produced in the summer.
Mullen's ultimate winter cheese plate involves a winter-fruit-stuffed baked brie as the showstopper and a few aged cheeses as accompaniments.
According to Food & Wine, you should add these winter cheeses to your shopping list this season:
- Appenzeller (Switzerland)
- Comté (France)
- Gruyère (Switzerland)
- Colston Basset Stilton (England)
- Cabrales (Spain)
- Morbier (France)
- Raclette (Switzerland/France)
- Rogue River Blue (USA)
- Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve (USA)
What to Pair With the Cheese
For a packed plate include something crunchy, salty, sweet, and tangy. "Crisp bread, sweet chutney, and nuts" are Mullen's fail-safe staples for winter. For fall plates think dried apricots, fresh figs, seeded crackers, and star anise.
Garnishes and Finishing Touches
To complete the look add seasonal finishing touches.
“I love using rosemary all year round, but during the holiday season it gives your cheese plate that evergreen pop. I also love to use holly around the holidays, as well as fresh cranberries and dried flowers.” Just make sure to let your guests know that the holly isn't edible, as the berries can make you sick if eaten.
And remember, the two things that are really important when it comes to serving cheese are temperature and humidity. "Cheese should be consumed at room temperature—that's when the flavors are the strongest."