Buying lots of great cheese for a party is thrilling if you’ve got unlimited funds. But if you’re like many who are feeling the crunch, specialty cheese prices can be akin to a “do not enter” sign. Still, which of us penny-pinchers wants to accept defeat and roll out the string cheese at the next dinner party? There’s a better solution: serve glorious cheeses—like the three California curds featured below—in appealingly tiny portions. Our frugal yet fab serving ideas can turn a little indulgence into a lasting good time.
Valley Ford Cheese Company
raw cow’s milk
Created by Karen Bianchi, Estero Gold is one of the first cheeses to come from this family’s closed herd of Jersey cows. Made in the style of an asiago, Estero Gold is malleable when young, with notes of fruit and grass, and is dotted with small holes. The cheese is rich and buttery in flavor, developing nuttier notes as it ages. Named after a nearby river, Estero Gold has a beautiful golden hue.
SERVE ON A SPOON: Dip a tiny wedge of Estero Gold in cider (or apple) jelly and sprinkle with finely chopped toasted walnuts.
SHAVE AND ROLL: Roll up a thin shaving of Estero Gold and tuck it into the middle of a dried plum; place pistachio nuts in the center of the rolled cheese.
Redwood Hill Farm
pasteurized goat’s milk
Redwood Hill Three Peppercorn is a light, airy chèvre made at Redwood Hill Farm’s facility in Sebastopol, Calif. The milk for production is sourced from the farm’s own herd of goats as well as from local dairies. Peppercorns are thoroughly ground and mixed in with this fresh goat cheese, adding distinct flavor without disrupting the smooth texture. Quite versatile, this offering from Redwood Hill has a mild, fresh taste with a refreshing tang.
SPREAD AND SANDWICH: Spread chèvre on a long, thin breadstick. Sandwich the cheese with another breadstick. Cut crosswise into bite-size sections. Garnish with a length of chive.
SERVE ON A SPOON: Fill a small spoon with chèvre and top with a little ribbon of smoked salmon.
SPREAD AND WRAP: Cut store-bought piquillo peppers lengthwise to open and lay flat. Spread a thin layer of the Redwood Hill chèvre on top of the pepper. Cut the pepper into four triangle sections; roll up each one like a tiny wrap and garnish with parsley.
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company
raw cow’s milk
Made by the Giacomini family in Northern California, the Original Blue was born in August 2000 as the realization of a collective family dream. Produced with raw milk from the company’s own closed herd of Holsteins, the Original Blue is hand-salted for three days before being pierced with a stainless steel needle to encourage mold growth. Aged for six months or more in a coastal climate, the cheese develops a natural rind and takes on balanced flavors of butterscotch, sea salt, and hay. The texture is semisoft and very creamy, shot through with myriad blue veins.
FILL AND TOP: Tuck a piece of Point Reyes blue in the center of a taralli cracker (a ring-shaped Italian cracker); top with slivers of red and green pear.
SANDWICH AND SERVE: Toast pecan halves and let them cool. Just before serving, sandwich a small knob of Point Reyes blue between two nuts.
Photography by Caren Alpert