By Christine Hyatt – At its best, cheese is a food that makes you slow down creating sensory awareness on multiple levels: sight, smell, touch and taste. The most beautiful are a feast for the eyes and offer a complex flavor experience that often hits a number of satisfying places: salty to savory to sweet, creamy, nutty, tangy.
Savoring cheese is a fully sensual endeavor, creating pleasurable, unique and memorable food experiences for you and fellow tasters. In other words, it’s the perfect indulgence to celebrate the love-filled Feast of St. Valentine.
Here are four of my go-to delights along with romantic pairings to woo your cheese-loving sweetheart.
The name says it all and it’s the complete package: beautiful, fragrant, romantic and absolutely delicious. Coated in an alluring mixture of rose petals, jasmine and lavender, this ripened goat cheese takes center stage with ease.
Pat and Astraea Morford, the mother and daughter team behind Rivers Edge Chevre, make more than a dozen different cheeses at their farmstead creamery near Newport. The duo recently won Best American Cheese at the World Cheese Awards in England. Like the rest of their award winning cheeses, this is a stand out on the cheese plate as well as on the palate.
Indulge: Enjoy with a sparkling wine or a light white wine with a hint of floral and sweetness like Chenin Blanc or Semillion. Serve alongside peak-of-ripeness strawberries.
No list of romantic, Valentine’s Day cheeses would be complete without a buttery, rich triple cream. When perfectly ripe, it’s practically molten, the epitome of silky, unctuousness.
To satisfy this particular craving, you can set your sights on a fantastic variety of French imports. The traditional home of this cheese is Normandy, not far from the Champagne region, which produces the quintessential accompaniment. If you prefer homegrown triples, there are many delicious options.
Some of my favorites: Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery (pictured), Rouge et Noir Triple Crème from Marin French Cheese in California, Seastack from Mt. Townsend Creamery in Washington and Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in upstate New York.
Indulge: Berries or apples and dark chocolate would complete this experience.
Bark Wrapped, Winter Cheeses
If your sweetie prefers a more robust walk on the wild side, then run, do not walk, to your favorite cheesemonger seeking the newest “It” cheese on the scene, Swiss Vacherin Mont d’Or, or one of it’s equally incredible American incarnations: Rush Creek Reserve from Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin or 2013 ACS Best of Show winner, Winnemere from Cellars at Jasper Hill in Vermont.
These traditional “winter” cheeses are made when the cows are not on the pasture. The components of the milk are particularly well suited to making these bark wrapped beauties. The reddish hued rind can be peeled back and a molten feast awaits within.
When perfectly ripe, the cheese is a flavor-bomb with meaty, smoky notes and hints of resin from the bark, which surrounds the cheese and contains the flowing interior. Enjoy these short-season cheeses while you can. After April, they quickly disappear.
Indulge: Serve with hearty bread, your favorite salumi and a malty, nutty beer with a hint of sweetness.
Extra Aged Gouda
If your love has a sweet tooth, there’s more than one way to satisfy. The Dutch classic Aged Gouda is an easy-to-adore cheese with candy-like qualities: think butterscotch and caramel.
This cheese is darn near perfect in that it can woo a novice cheese-lover venturing out into the wider world of cheese AND it can charm a converted caseophile with lingering depth and complexity. The addictive little crunchy bits — crystalized calcium lactate from long and careful aging — are an added bonus.
My favorites are aged 12 to 24 months. Look for Beemster, Old Amsterdam and Rembrandt Aged Gouda. Stateside seek out Roth Cheese Vintage Van Gogh (pictured), or extra aged Marieke Gouda from Holland’s Family Cheese in Wisconsin.
Indulge: Serve alongside a mellow, fruity red like Cabernet Franc. Alongside all of these cheeses, you can’t go wrong with a few squares of quality dark chocolate and dried apricots or cherries. If you’re a bourbon sipper, this would be the cheese to break out your finest.
About the Contributor
Christine Hyatt is a writer and cheese photographer who captures the beauty and story of handcrafted cheese and the people who make it. She loves answering cheesy questions on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about this Woman You Should Know, click here.All photos © Cheese Chick Productions