Cheese Lovers Gift Guide 2015

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Every year around this time, cheese lovers from near and far email me about gift ideas. This year, I’m excited to present some true originals, from reusable baguette bags to goat cheese iphone covers! If the illustrated items featured above look familiar, it’s because Johanna Kindvall and I extended our year-long collaboration to a series of housewares.

Check them out over at Johanna Kindvall’s Cheese Collection at Society6 (includes free shipping and 20% off thru Dec. 5.)

In case a Provolone clock doesn’t float your dinghy, here are 5 additional items, and you won’t be surprised to discover that many of them involve collaboration…

1. Reusable Bake House Bags from Peg and Awl

My brilliant neighbors Margaux and Walter Kent recently launched a collection of reusable canvas bags in all sizes, including snack bags, a wine tote, and a baguette bag. These make terrific farmers’ market bags, and they’re also great for gifting that special bottle of Port or jar of chestnut honey. If you know someone who regularly shops for fresh bread or who loves to picnic, these would make a great present. Take a peekaboo, too, at Peg and Awl’s line of reclaimed wood cutting boards if you want to create a cheese lovers’ gift set or build a traveling cheese valise for yourself, a la Madame Fromage. Retailers, these bags can be customized to with your log. Baguette Bag ($18)

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2. Ferment Your Vegetables, by Amanda Feifer

Philadelphia blogger Phickle inspired me to begin fermenting this year with the release of her new book. I started with Amanda’s recipe for “Fool Proof Radish and Onion Pickles” and found that it paired beautifully with goat cheeses. I’m also partial to her recipe for Mac & Kimcheese. Yes, that’s macaroni and cheese with spicy kimchi. Amanda’s a great teacher, and her recipes for krauts, pickles, kvass, and more are easy to follow. If you have an unhappy gut, my dear friend, remember that ferments can be a great digestive aid, and they brighten up a cheese plate with color and tang.

Ferment Your Vegetables ($19)

FermentYourVegetables

3. Cheese Portrait Calendar 2016

Artist Mike Geno presents a full year of his enticing cheese portraits. If you attended the American Cheese Society Conference in the last three years, you probably met him — each year, he is commissioned to paint the top three wheels that win Best of Show. Mike paints in a studio within walking distance from my house, and he is one of the nicest cheese-loving fellows alive. Check out his paintings and prints of cheese, meat, and bread for a complete picnic.

Cheese Portrait Calendar ($25)

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4. Food in Jars Jam from Three Springs

Marisa McClellan of the blog Foodinjars has shared 3 of her best recipes with orchard grower Ben Wenk of Three Springs Fruit Farm. Through this awesome collaboration, Ben grows the fruit, makes Marisa’s recipe in his industrial kitchen, and sells jars through his online shop. Those of you who know Marisa and Ben — two of Philadelphia’s most lovable food personalities — know that this project is truly special. Needless to say, Marisa’s Tomato Jam is just about my favorite thing to slather on cheddar.

Jams from Three Springs ($8) 

Marisa McClellan's all-time most popular recipe, tomato jam is a sweet, sticky, tangy condiment that is great on burgers, with cheese, or served as a dipping sauce for roasted vegetables. For seven generations us Wenks have grown fruits and vegetables in beautiful Adams County, PA. In every jar of our Threes Springs Fruit Farm jams and sauces you'll find the result of this proud tradition.

Photo by Albert Yee

5. A Cheese Journey to France, England, or Oregon

For the intrepid cheese lover, splurge on a gourmet food tour led by Anna Juhl. You may remember that I ducked out of the blogosphere in October to join her cheddar odyssey to southern England. I can’t say enough good things about Anna’s professionalism and her choice in bookings. She knows the best cheese makers  (and vintners) in the countries she visits, and she puts together well-paced experiences that take you into the homes and hideaways of artisans you would never meet otherwise. She also arranges custom tours. Take your family on a cheese-centric vacation? Why not!

2016 Cheese Journeys (prices vary)
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6 Responses to “Cheese Lovers Gift Guide 2015”
  1. Aw such great ideas for gifts and am tempted to shop for myself too!! 🙂

  2. mignyc says:

    Bonjour Madame! I learned to make jam this summer using Marisa’s recipes, and now I’d like to pair cheeses with the jams for both gifts and for an upcoming holiday party. I looked around on your site to see if I could figure it out for myself, but decided I’d try asking you directly for cheese pairing recommendations for a small set of straightforward, sugar-sweetened homemade jam flavors I want to include. I just don’t have the natural instinct yet for how to pair these delicious jams! They are: the famous Amy’s Tomato Jam; her nectarine-lime jam (might not be meant for any cheese – curious what you think); sour cherry jam (my very favorite!); traditional apple butter; and traditional pear butter.

    I also made peach, strawberry, raspberry and blackberry jams, but they don’t seem like the best bets for the kinds of cheese one eats in wintertime. (They are delicious with fresh white cheeses, which I associate with summer.)

    I realize this is a detailed request and understand if you don’t have time to address it; if you do care to respond, I certainly appreciate your expert advice 🙂

    • tdarlington says:

      Bonjour! How great to hear from you. I’m delighted that you have learned to do some canning and that you’re trying out Marisa’s recipes. Here are my favorite combinations for the jams you’ve made:
      Sour cherry – great with triple cremes (like Delice de Bourgogne) or Spanish sheep’s milk cheeses (i.e. Idiazabal)
      Nectarine Lime – lean toward a goat cheese, like one of Vermont Creamery’s beauties
      Amy’s Tomato – terrific with cheddar or blue (Marisa tells me it’s her most versatile, goes with many, many cheeses)
      blackberry jam – I like with buffalo cheeses, like casatica, or sheep; also, try a funky washed rind or ashy goat cheese (i.e. a gooey valencay)
      apple/pear butter – I find these the trickiest to pair with cheese. Apple butter and young gouda pair well. Pear butter and blue sometimes. I usually swirl the butters into yogurt, or match them up with caramelized onion to pair with a clothbound. They are good at offsetting must.
      Finally, let me know what you discover!

      • mignyc says:

        OK, here’s the report from the party. I served the following:

        Blackberry jam + buffalo cheese: I found two buffalo cheeses, casatica and what I think was moringhello di bufala. Both were nice with the jam, but the second cheese was more interesting to me. I liked how it started kind of dry and chalky, then quickly got creamy, then finished with a nice little kick.

        Nectarine lime jam + Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche: Wow. I was worried about what I was going to do with my many jars of this somewhat unconventional jam, but now I know. A great pairing! This cheese disappeared the fastest of anything on the table.

        Amy’s tomato jam + Cabot clothbound cheddar: I’d had this pairing before and knew it worked. Most everyone at the party had a “holy cow!” reaction to the jam and the pairing.

        Sour cherry jam + Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam : I was a little disappointed in this cheese when I tried it alone; it’s a bit bland. It improved with a schmear of my very favorite jam, but I think I’ll try another route with my next jar of sour cherry. Maybe Monte Enebro, which is one of my favorite cheeses.

        Italian plum jam: I made an open-faced sandwich recipe I found on the American Spoon preserves site, which paired plum jam and a cheese called Dancing Goat Aretha on a split-open baguette, topped with lightly dressed arugula and chopped hazlenuts. In place of the Dancing Goat cheese, I used a Belgian cheese called Le Charmoix. In spite of how pretty the platter looked, this was my least-favorite creation of the night; the bread was wrong (too stretchy, needed something with a denser texture) and the cheese-jam match wasn’t inspired. I tried to improvise here and paid the price 😉

        Another lesson: five jam-cheese pairings is too many for a single event! It was a bit overwhelming to the palate. I was just excited to finally have an opportunity to pair my jams with cheese, and I went overboard.

        Anyway, thank you again for your suggestions. I brought bits of all the leftover cheeses home and will continue to experiment 🙂

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