(BPT) - As the weather turns colder and the season changes, your thoughts may be turning to the holidays and how you can make them extra special in this unique year.
While many of us will be staying closer to home this holiday season, we'll still want to celebrate the season in style and create happy new memories with loved ones. Although a bit different, each moment this holiday season can still be savored and enjoyed with the delicious food you bring to your table.
One choice sure to be appreciated by even the greatest gourmands is a cheeseboard curated with a selection of full-flavored artisanal cheeses. In fact, specialty cheeses have become so sought-after that the U.S. market is expected to grow by 2.5% in each of the next several years, reaching $18 billion by 2023.
Many cheese lovers these days especially value the aged cheddars that are given the opportunity to evolve in quality and taste over time — just like fine wines. For example, over 110-year-old Oregon-based cheesemaker Tillamook, a farmer-owned co-op, has crafted a unique, aged Maker’s Reserve Extra Sharp White Cheddar line that features a line of vintages between 3 and 10 years old, each with their own distinct tasting notes and characteristics.
“No one else in the industry looks at cheddar this way,” observes Rebekah Baker, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional who is Tillamook’s western regional specialty sales manager. “Cheese is a living thing that changes dramatically over time. By releasing vintages rather than static ages, we allow consumers to engage with the cheese across a range of ages and experience how it evolves over time.”
However you plan to celebrate, you may wish to consider these suggestions for pulling together a delicious, impressive and beautiful holiday cheeseboard this season.
Prepare for the perfect presentation
Your awe-inspiring offering starts with a cheeseboard large enough to hold all the garnishes and other bounty you wish to add, while allowing enough room for creative design. Whether they’re made of wood, bamboo, steel, marble, glass, silicone or other materials, today’s boards are often art objects in and of themselves.
Choose cheeses with unique flavor profiles
Instead of grabbing something generic, look around for specialty selections that offer different and unexpected flavors and textures as well as complex pairings. For example, Tillamook's 2010 vintage is crumbly, packed with crystals, and smooth as velvet, with a bold, buttery, caramelly sweetness. The 2015 vintage combines a dry, crumbly texture with sweet top notes, bitter, citrusy undertones and a nutty finish. And the 2017 vintage is fresh, creamy and bright. Though complex in flavor, all Tillamook cheeses are made from only the highest quality milk and aged over time.
Suggest tasty pairings
A well-crafted cheese plate calls for other offerings that will complement your cheese selections in terms of taste, color and texture. For example, Tillamook's bold and buttery 2010 Makers’ Reserve can be especially delicious with strawberries, aged balsamic vinegar, oysters or crusty bread dipped in olive oil. The nuttiness of the 2015 vintage is a perfect offset to Marcona almonds, cured meats, smoked salmon, blood oranges and/or smoked honey. And the fruity, sweet-nosed 2017 vintage is scrumptious with citrus-marinated olives, almonds, honey, rosemary or oranges.
Have fun with design
Evaluate your selections, then assemble your board with an eye toward color, texture and taste. For example, you may wish to add your items by color, following the rainbow spectrum and moving from light shades to dark shades. Or you may want to create a flavor map, placing sweeter dessert-oriented items at one end and salty or savory items on the other. If you’re extra creative, you could suggest flavor pairings by dividing the board into visual thirds and placing complementary food choices close together. Remember to slice some of your cheeses and other foods before serving so your guests feel welcome to help themselves.
With a little planning, you can pull together a beautiful and tasty holiday cheeseboard that will impress anyone. Ensure your cheese selections are the featured items on any cheeseboard layout and visit Tillamook.com to learn how and where you can find Tillamook Maker’s Reserve this holiday season.