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Cheese Plate: Dessert Before Dishonor


Photographed by Adam DeTour; Styled by Catrine Kelty

From the French verb desservir, meaning “to clear the table,” dessert is usually the cherry on top of a sustaining meal. Sweet interludes in the form of sorbets or candied flowers have long served as mid-meal palate cleansers, but the dessert course came into its own at Renaissance-era salons. There, intellectuals and creatives would gather to share ideas whilst nibbling on palm-sized pastries following the main course. Indeed, the concept of dessert still feels like an indulgent prize that rewards diners’ patience.

The traditional cheese course, also a French invention, is typically served between the main course and dessert—that is, if one were to follow convention. But as the longest year on record comes to a close, we’re dispensing with the pleasantries. Dessert before dinner! Chocolate on cheese on cookies! Tell Aunt Mabel what you really think of her famous fruitcake!

Well, maybe don’t get too carried away—you need to stay on your in-laws’ good side, after all. But by the power vested in us as “The Word on Cheese,” we’re giving dessert before dinner the green light with this sugar-dusted guide to pairing dairy with decadence.

1. PECORINO ORO ANTICO

Origin: Tuscany, Italy

Milk: Pasturized Sheep

+ DI BRUNO’S STRAWBERRY & PROSECCO JAM

If you’re looking for us, we’ll be reclining on a bed of this cheese beneath a flowing fountain of this jam. This crystalline sheep’s milk cheese is regularly bathed in olive oil during its six months of aging, resulting in a grassy, almost citrusy tingle at first blush. As for the jam—it’s like a strawberry patch flooded with bubbly. Truly, how much more divine can you get?

2. VERMONT CREAMERY CRÈME FRAÎCHE

Origin: Websterville, Vermont

Milk: Pasturized Cow

+ LARK SALTED CARAMEL ALMOND CHOCOLATE PEARL SHORTBREAD COOKIES

Pure and silky with a clean flavor profile, Vermont Creamery’s crème fraiche is reminiscent of the snow-covered ski slopes of its home state. A spread or preserve might overpower its faint piquancy, so we recommend simply serving it atop a subtly sweet, buttery shortbread cookie.

3. FOUR FAT FOWL ST. STEPHEN

Origin: Stephentown, New York

Milk: Pasturized Cow

+ ALLO SIMONE PRALINÉ NOISETTE SPREAD

Like a single-serve cheesecake, St.Stephen is the perfect package. Dense, buttery, with a cloud-like bloomy rind, this little triple cream is happy with savory or sweet accompaniments. For peak cheesecake vibes, serve on a graham cracker smeared with Allo Simone’s to-die-for hazelnut spread.

4. PARISH HILL CREAMERY VERMONT HERDSMAN

Origin: Putney, Vermont

Milk: Raw Cow

+ ROUGIE MOUSSE ROYALE WITH MAPLE

This pairing gets the full Green Mountain State treatment. The smooth paste of Vermont Herdsman hints at caramel and tropical fruit, flavors amplified when paired with maple syrup-sweetened foie gras. The cheese’s edible brine-washed rind keeps this pairing from veering into cloying territory. Best served with a plaid flannel napkin.

5. ROGUE RIVER BLUE

Origin: Grants Pass, Oregon

Milk: Pasturized Cow

+ MITICA CHOCOCHERRIES

Made in limited quantities and released just in time for the holidays, Rogue River Blue is wrapped in pear brandy-soaked grape leaves, which help the cheese retain its moist sweetness. Double down on the booziness by serving it with these liqueur-infused cherries dipped in 55-percent dark chocolate.

Margaret Leahy

Margaret Leahy is a Contributing Editor at culture.

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