Special Feature Specialty Cheese Editor


Cheese Monger Challenge: One Cheese For The Holiday Table That Shames The Turkey

Moira Crowley
Specialty Cheese Editor
Cheese Reporter Publishing Co., Inc.
mcrowley@cheesereporter.com • 608-316-3793

November 23, 2018


Madison—Cheese mongers and connoisseurs can agree on one thing when it comes to selecting the singular best cheese to surprise and delight friends and family around the holiday table – picking just one cheese is really, really hard.

Cheese Reporter challenged industry experts and cheese mongers across the country to choose the one cheese to rule them all – a daunting task for those surrounded daily by some of the world’s finest cheeses.

Stan Dietsche, vice president of sales and procurement for Oshkosh Cheese Sales, Oshkosh, WI, said he would be somewhat remiss in his duties to offer just one type of cheese to family and friends at a holiday gathering.

“For like many others, I have learned to appreciate and feel the excitement of a wide variety of cheese – from the delicate, soft ripened Brie to the bold, hard Italian and aged Swiss, it’s very difficult to choose only one,” Dietsche said.

But if selecting only one is the challenge, it would have to be a wheel of bandaged Cheddar with a sound surface and carefully cured for 18 to 24 months, he said.

“Whether served with fruit and a glass of wine or with a slice of hearty rye, tangy mustard and dark beer, to romance this cheese in such a way is a true delight,” Dietsche continued.

Further east, Lisa Roberts, production manager and head cheese monger at Zingerman’s Community of Businesses in Ann Arbor, MI, said her “go to” gift for special occasions and dinners is L’Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda cheese.

Everyone in my family loves it – from my brothers in New Jersey and Toledo, OH – over to my sister in Charlotte, NC, Roberts mentioned.

“My sister especially loves it. She can’t have cows milk and she loves cheese, so she absolutely swoons over the Brabander,” Roberts said.
Procured and aged at Fromagerie L’Amuse in Santpoort-Noord, Holland, just outside of Amsterdam, L’Amuse Brabander Goat Gouda is made from Saanen goats and aged between six and nine months.

“At first, my family and friends would say ‘Are you bringing that one Gouda?’ Now they ask for it by name. ‘You’re bringing the Brabender, right?’ I can’t show up to a family dinner without it,” she continued.

Over in Chicago, the team at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine also have mad love for Brabander Gouda.

Alex McKeever, general manager of Pastoral’s Broadway Shop and Bar Pastoral, said his choices are seasonal artisan cheeses only available at this time of year.

“The Black Betty is an extra aged version of the Brabander Goat Gouda from Fromagerie L’Amuse, selected and imported by Essex St. Cheese,” McKeever said.

“The extra six months of aging transforms a creamy cheese into a crumbly, crystalline cheese with an ultra satisfying crunch and sweetness,” he continued.

Also, “the Rush Creek Reserve is one of only two cheeses made by Uplands Dairy in Dodgeville, WI, and is sure to impress with its custardy texture and flavors of beef broth, cruciferous vegetables and a hit of wood due to the spruce bark wrapping,” McKeever said. “Just cut the top off and dip in!”

Lisa Futterman, Pastoral’s wholesale accounts manager, said she would pick a limited-edition Bayley Hazen Blue by Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro, VT, called Hinman Settler that features raw sheep milk from a neighboring farm.

Jasper Hill has introduced a rich, buttery and irresistible, yet restrained and funky Blue that’s my first choice as an after-dinner cheese course paired with digestifs, Futterman said.

In the southwestern US, the staff at Cheesemongers of Santa Fe in Santa Fe, NM, singled out some obscure imports and a Vermont artisan cheese.
Cheese monger and floor manager Matt Zehnder would go with Stichelton – similar to a raw milk English Stilton.

Stilton is a regulated cheese that has to be made in a certain way to be called “Stilton.” Originally, Stilton was made with raw milk, but there was a food poisoning epidemic at a certain point in its history that was traced back to Stilton, so the laws were changed to require Stilton to be pasteurized, Zehnder said.


“Reverie is robust and full of character... Plus, it’s lovely to look at with its deep yellow paste and rustic natural rind. (It) is a cheese I want all my friends and family to try.”

—Lindsey Schechter, Houston Dairymaids


Neal’s Yard Dairy in London has gone and basically commissioned a farm in the region where Stilton is made to manufacture a Stilton in the way it was first produced using raw milk – that’s what Stichelton is, he said.

Neal’s Yard works with and ships to any decently-sized cheese shop in the US, Zehnder said. They’re very good about working with smaller retailers and distributors.

I like Stichelton better than Stilton simply because pretty much any raw milk cheese is going to be more interesting than a pasteurized version of the same cheese, Zehnder said. It’s just got more complexity and depth.

“The reason I picked this cheese specifically is because Stichelton
pairs easily with any dessert wine or port. These things are usually fairly expensive, so Thanksgiving is my excuse to buy myself a nice dessert wine that I wouldn’t normally drink and for me, a hunk of Stichelton and a glass of wine is all the dessert I want or need, especially after a big Thanksgiving meal,” he continued.

Fellow Santa Fe Cheesemonger Madeleine MacDonald chose Camembert Dell’Alta Langa – her favorite Italian version of Camembert, made with cow, sheep and goat’s milk by Caseificio dell’Alta Langa, a dairy in Piedmont.

“It’s my favorite Camembert – it’s as good an appetizer as it is a dessert,” MacDonald said. “It’s decadent and complex, and will please even the most skeptical at your gathering.”

Santa Fe Cheesemonger Adam Stone chose Zimbro, a Portuguese sheep’s milk cheese that’s coagulated with thistle rennet, giving the cheese a flavor it couldn’t get from anything else – almost a grapefruity citrus kind of flavor.

I think this is a tangy, refreshing cheese that acts like a palate cleanser between courses during a heavy meal, Stone said. It also pairs really well with pears, cranberry sauce and other sweet fruits.

Further West, cheese monger Lindsey Schechter, owner of Houston Dairymaids specialty cheese shop in Houston, TX, said she would bring Reverie from Parish Hill Creamery in Putney, VT.

“Reverie is robust and full of character: bright, grassy and fruity with a lingering finish,” Schechter said. “Plus, it’s lovely to look at with its deep yellow paste and rustic natural rind.

“Reverie is a cheese I want all my friends and family to try,” she continued.
West Coast cheese monger Omri Avraham, worker/owner at The Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley, CA, would bring a large wedge of Kirkham’s Lancashire – hailed as the last farmhouse raw-milk Lancashire in the world.

Elegant, clean and bright – these qualities cut through all the richness of holiday food, Avraham said.

“The characteristic ‘buttery crumble’ is unlike any other cheese out there, and it pairs well with all the autumnal fruit,” Avraham said. “It’s time for this underdog to shine!”

On the other side of the United States, Corrina Blau, cheese monger, at Brooklyn’s Bedford Cheese Shop in Williamsburg, said that growing up vegetarian with no turkey at the family’s Thanksgiving table gave her an appreciation for authentic Ricotta and Mozzarella – crucial ingredients for veggie lasagna.

However, the Bedford Cheese Shop’s easily most popular cheese for holiday gatherings is Marinated Sheep Goat Feta by Australia’s Merideth Dairy.

Made from a blend of sheep and goat’s milks, this marinated cheese is softer and a little creamier than typical sheep’s milk Feta. Once the cheese is formed, it’s marinated in oil with herbs, spices, peppercorns and garlic.

“Someone blogged about it and it went viral,” Blau said. “Customers will storm our doors if we don’t have it. Seriously.”

Dick Groves, longtime publisher/editor of the Cheese Reporter, plans to take an aged Cheddar, either a three-year-old Hook’s Cheddar or possibly an aged Cheddar “we get” from Stan at Oshkosh Cheese Sales. Groves also plans to take a Grand Cru Reserve from Emmi Roth USA.

“I try to alter my cheese selections for every family holiday gathering to keep my relatives delighted and surprised,” Groves commented.

Cheese Reporter and Moira Crowley welcomes letters and comments regarding the above story. Comments should be sent to: Moira Crowley by e-mail to mcrowley@cheesereporter.com





Moira Crowley has been Specialty Cheese Editor of Cheese Reporter since 2015. She has over 15 years experience covering the dairy industry through her work at Cheese Reporter. Her contributions to Cheese Reporter are read and referenced throughout the world.
For more information, call 608-316-3793 mcrowley@cheesereporter.com.


Other Special Features Written by Moira include:

Whey Permeate Is Lower Cost, Sustainable Dairy Ingredient With Many Applications
October 5, 2018

A Mystery Beyond The Midwest, Aged & Mild Brick Seen As An Untapped Market
September 21, 2018

American Cheese Month Donations To American Cheese Education Foundation Benefit Entire Artisan Industry
September 14, 2018

Investment in Salary, Education Required To Find & Keep Qualified Cheese Mongers
July 20, 2018

Growing Market Demand for US Parmesan Due To Better Quality, More Usage Options
April 6, 2018

Staying Relevant To Tech-Savvy, Goal Driven Gen Z Means Dairy Must Nourish Body, Mind
April 6, 2018

Ghee Whiz! Health-Conscious Consumers Finding Clarified Butter As Superfood
October 6, 2017

More soon to be added.