Four Tips for a Cheese Board+An Iowa Tasting

Camembert and ProseccoI’m in Ames, Iowa this week, visiting my dad and prepping for a special happy hour to help locals plan a New Year’s cheese board. If you live nearby, come join me on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 for a toast and free tasting at Hy-Vee West (details below). If you’re far away, lean in close and let’s talk. There are four words I want you to remember when you visit the cheese counter this week: 1. Tangy, 2. Creamy, 3. Funky, 4) Salty.

Can you remember those? They’re the four dairy dwarves that Snow White forgot — too bad, because they would have helped her build the ultimate cheese board in the forest. If you can remember all four in the dairy aisle,  you will be able to build a fairy tale cheese board that takes your palate on a magical journey.


Think: fresh goat cheese. Wake up your palate with a cheese that’s lemony and light. Your first bite on a cheese board this time of year should remind you of snowfall. Recommended: Vermont Creamery Coupole or a little French number, like Chabichou du Poitou. My favorite goat cheese pairing this year: Yuzu marmalade or lemon curd.

Coupole Closeup


Think: supple and soft, like the cheese everyone’s meowing about this season, Rush Creek. This coveted cheese from Wisconsin reappeared in November, and sources tell me it’s the best Rush ever. If you can’t find this creamy dreamboat, use my fall-back plan: Delice de Bourgogne. It’s not exactly an artisan cheese, but it’s easy to find. And it’s terrific paired with bubbly and berry preserves.

Look how she runs...a perfectly ripe Rush Creek


Think: cheese that pairs with meat. This category included softies, like Italian Tallegio, and firm wedges, like Gruyere and Appenzeller. Below: one of my favorite funksters from this year, the beautiful Prufrock from Grey Barn Farm on Martha’s Vineyard. Other favorites: Schnebelhorn and Vulto Creamery’s Ouleot. Pair funky cheeses with charcuterie and pickles.

Prufrock close-up


Think: Hard cheese or blues. You could grab a rugged hunk of Pecorino or a lusty wedge of Stilton or Roquefort. My favorite salt master of the year was Parish Hill’s West West Blue, pictured below. Salty cheeses are fabulous with light-colored honey, fruit, and nuts.Parish Hill Creamery Cheese Plate 1

~ Madame Fromage at Ames Hy-Vee (West)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015 4-6 p.m. at the cheese case

Join cheesemonger Darrell Neumann and me for a happy hour tasting. We’ll have bubbly and prepared bites, plus we’ll show you how to build a New Year’s cheese board using selections from the extensive cheese case at the Ames Hy-Vee (West). We’ll also be featuring a special Iowa cheese, plus I’ll have books to sign. Hope to see you at this cheese mecca in Ames!

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One Response to “Four Tips for a Cheese Board+An Iowa Tasting”
  1. Oh wow, the Rush Creek cheese from Wisconsin looks so good… I wish I could cut a hot blade through it and watch it melt. Mmm, mmm. Thank you for the post! Have any other soft cheese suggestions? 🙂

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