Downton Abbey Cheese Board

I can’t seem to get enough of the PBS series, Downton Abbey, and neither can you. This became clear at the Cheddar class I taught on Friday night at Tria’s Fermentation School. It was a Masterpiece Theater loving crowd (lots of beards and one waistcoat); Lady Grantham would have fit right in.

By the end of the night, we’d eaten seven Cheddars, and there was hardly a crumb on the tables. After everyone left, I couldn’t help but imagine them settling in on their settees at home with a spot of port and an episode of Downton Abbey cued up for a nightcap. Since today is Sunday, and you’ll surely be watching, let me offer you a few crumbs of wisdom about building a Downton worthy cheese plate.

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Now that the holiday parties are over and more sleet is in store, a person can easily turn gloomy. If you find yourself prone to despair, I suggest a nice wedge of Ubriaco as a cure-all.

 Ubriaco, which means “drunken,” is a cheese that understands darkness. It spends months in a wine barrel before it comes to market. Originally, Italian cheesemakers hid wheels from tax collectors this way in order to avoid their fees. Eventually, these drunken cheeses became popular. Lucky for us.

Full disclosure: I freelance for Di Bruno Bros. Twice a month, I pick a wedge of my dreams and develop a post for their blog. This is how I cover the cost of my dairy habit.

Reading Raclette

So many award-winning cheeses are made in Vermont these days that it’s easy to feel Green State envy. One Vermont cheese that’s got cheesemongers buzzing this winter is Reading Raclette. Now, the Swiss make Raclette and so do the French, but until Spring Brook Farm introduced its artisanal version from Reading, no American cheesemaker had come forward with a melt-away Alpine stinker this good.

Reading Raclette has another thing going for it. All of the proceeds go to a Vermont nonprofit called Farms for City Kids that offers urban school children a chance to explore farming and cheese making. To continue reading, please visit the Di Bruno Blog.

Full disclosure: I am a freelancer for Di Bruno Bros. Twice a month, I select a cheese and develop a post for their blog. This is how I cover the cost of my dairy habit.

Rogue River Smokey Blue

Lately, people have been asking me about smoked cheeses, so this week on the Di Bruno blog, I devoted my column to Rogue River Smokey Blue from Oregon state. It’s one of the best smoked cheeses on the market — not that competition is stiff. Most “smoked” cheeses are loaded with Liquid Smoke, a chemical additive. For the 411 on why Rogue River Smokey Blue stands out, please check out my column.

Full disclosure: I am a freelancer for Di Bruno Bros. Twice a month, I select a cheese and develop a post for their blog. This is how I cover the cost of my dairy habit.

Highlights of the Year In Cheese

It was the year of Goudas.
Every time I turned around, I was nibbling a glorious Dutch treat. My favorites: Coolea, a Gouda from Ireland, and Evalon, a goat Gouda from Wisconsin.

It was the year of Twitter.
Making the Zagat list of foodies to follow was fun, but it was great to discover other cheese geeks like @curdwise, @CheeseboardUK, @cheesechick1, @kasekaiserina, @cheeseandpoetry, @ItsBrieBlog, @Timthecheeseman.

It was the year of the Cheesemonger.
Wherever I looked, the world of the professional cheese handler was getting props. I missed the second annual Cheesemonger Invitational, but I was happy to be at my first American Cheese Society conference, which launched the first ever Cheesemonger Certification Program.

It was the year of babies named after cheese.
Just ask Hunter Fike of Di Bruno Bros. (9th Street) about his son Jamie Montgomery as you nibble a hunk of Montgomery’s Cheddar. Hunter, might I suggest Strathdon Blue for a potential baby #2?

It was the year of cheese apps.
Pairing apps abound, but I am still looking for the perfect iphone app that allows me to snap a photo of cheese and record notes.

It was the year of aspiring young cheesemakers.
When will The New Yorker run its “30 Cheesemakers Under 30” story? Katie Hedrich of LaClare Farms in Chilton, WI made big news when she won the U.S. Championship Cheese title at the green age of 25. I’ve got my eye on Lindsay Klaunig, too.

What’s in store for 2012? Well, a newly designed site for Madame Fromage, plus a big bash that you’re invited to on Jan. 14. Keep your eyes posted for the invite to my Cheese Ball! I’m ready to celebrate three years of blogging in the land of Milk and Brotherly Love.

Dear readers, what are your highlights, cheese or otherwise?