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Perfect Cheeses for Holiday Giving


A fine cheese should be treated like a Little Black Dress – a timeless classic of quality is and versatility. It should be able to be paired with a variety of accoutrements or hold its own at any holiday party. When I’m giving gifts this holiday season, I prefer to give one outstanding cheese and embellish it with a variety of ‘out of the ordinary’ partners. Harbison with cashews, candied bacon, and a whole wheat baguette; or Stilton with Port, dark chocolate, and some 34 Degree crisps, for example.

As a professional cheesemonger, my family and friends expect me to ‘wow’ them with piles of exotic cheeses during this season of plenty. This can be a daunting task, though, and should be handled with care. Gifting too many cheeses over Christmas causes many of them to get lost at the back of the refrigerator, where they may not be discovered again until long after Easter. Instead of overwhelming their palates this season with a box of mediocre cheeses, I prefer to give my family and friends one quality cheese to appreciate and several wonderful ways to approach it. I would like them to enjoy all food this way – versatile right out of the box. They should baste their pork chops with the jam and melt the cheese on their scrambled eggs.

Gifting a single cheese also allows me to gift more frequently throughout the year and still remain within my budget. Often I will send the same cheese to several friends and family members. This gives them something to discuss, comparing flavor opinions and pairing notes. No one has the same palate and what is wonderful to one might be mundane to the other.

This year I am gifting a cheese everyone is sure to enjoy – the lovely Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog in the half pound format with Kissel’s Spiced Cherry Fennel Jam and Cracked Pepper 34 Degree Crisps. This cheese is refreshingly delicious and beautiful – it gives a new spin on the classic cheesecake. The fennel infused cherry jam is simply made yet complex in flavor. The black pepper crisps lend a nod to the peppery finish of the maturing rind. Presto! I am gifting champ again, leaving my friends and family to anticipate what mouth-watering surprises the new year will bring.


Cheesemonger Melissa Wood is in the running to receive full sponsorship to the Cheesemonger Invitational in San Francisco this January, as the #CheeseChamp for Cypress Grove Chevre. To help her get there, vote for here using this link! Vote for Melissa!

Melissa Wood

Melissa Wood joined the Kroger Co. / Murray Bros. partnership during it's initial launch in 2008. She's leveraged her 20+ years of experience in cooking and wine to develop best practices and train associates on pairing, cooking with, handling, selling, promoting, merchandising and appreciating cheese. Melissa has developed many best-selling cheese products that are sold in Kroger cheese shops company-wide. Ms. Wood states that, "competing in the 2015 Cheesemonger Invitational would be a dream opportunity to lead by example. I look forward to sharing my passion for cheese with my fellow Kroger associates and the Cheese Eating Public At-Large".

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