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The Best Cheeses for Holiday Entertaining, According to Cheesemongers

The holidays are a time when we gather with friends and family to celebrate with comforting—and delicious—food. As cheese professionals, we’re often the person in charge of bringing the cheeseboard. Which can be a lot of pressure. You want to impress your guests with something that’ll knock their socks off, but not so over the top that it’s a cheese “only a mother could love.” To strike this delicate balance of wow and yum, we asked three cheese shop owners to share their favorite holiday cheese and go-to entertaining pairings.

Read on to see their answers and get inspired as we approach the holiday season.

Wild Petals Bend
930 NW Brooks St.
Bend, OR 97703

Owner: Nancy Zadoff

Tucked away on a magical street in Bend, Oregon is Wild Petals Bend, a new cheese shop opened by Nancy Zadoff. Nancy and her husband left the US 19 years ago to travel the world for their careers, but always knew they would make their way back to Bend. From Sweden’s markets to Australia’s intimate larders, Nancy’s diverse experiences have shaped her deep appreciation of cheese. “In Sweden I would put the kids on a bike and leave them outside while I ran in to grab a fresh loaf of bread or piece of cheese,” she reminisced. “No matter where we lived, charcuterie boards were a part of the culture, no matter what they called it.”

After moving back to Bend in 2019, Nancy missed her daily trips to the market and decided to open her own specialty cheese shop. Wild Petals Bend offers a large selection of international and domestic cheeses, charcuterie, flowers, beer, and wine, along with thoughtfully crafted charcuterie boards. “We eat with our eyes first,” says Nancy, considering each board a work of art, particularly focused on details like placement of fresh rosemary and thyme from her own flower farm.

Go-to party/entertaining cheese pairing?

I am madly in love with our local Rogue Creamery. The Bluehorn, as far as I’m concerned, is the finest blue cheese. It’s gorgeous, and it tastes even better than it looks. I like to pair it with chili fig spread.

Do you have a favorite “holiday” cheese?

Having lived in Australia, I love Meredith Dairy Marinated Sheep & Goat Cheese. You can do so many different things with it. I cook with it, eat it on local sparrow crackers, or smear it on fresh sourdough bread. Everything about it is divine.

Cask & Cleaver Charcuterie Co.
1534 Market St.
Redding, CA 96001

Owner: Kaitlyn Rodney & Opal Berry

Two years ago, Kaitlyn Rodney launched Cask & Cleaver Charcuterie Co. as a small charcuterie board business in her hometown of Redding, California. But it quickly became apparent that the town wanted more than just cheese boards. With some encouragement from her mother, Jennifer Berry, chef and owner of LuLus Jams and Jellies, Kaitlyn and her sister, Opal Berry, decided to open a cut-to-order-cheese shop. “If my community didn’t ask for a shop, it probably wouldn’t have happened,” Kaitlyn says. 

Opening the shop has been a learning curve, though. “I had no background in cheese, but I had a lot of passion for it and ran with it when I saw how the community embraced it and really wanted it,” Kaitlyn says. She has thrown herself into the cheese world, taking every online class she can find to learn as much as she can. Cask & Cleaver offers cut-to-order cheese, charcuterie, catering services, and private and public classes.

Go-to party/entertaining cheese pairing?

My party pairing is a pepper jelly from my mom’s line of preserves and Jasper Hill’s Clothbound Cheddar. Cheddar is a name everybody recognizes and loves, but this one is a little more complex.

Do you have a favorite “holiday” cheese?

I am in love with a fresh chevre pillow with a black mission fig jam. It’s perfect for fall and tastes like Christmas. I can sit at the table and eat it all at once.

Otto’s Cheese Shop
344 Landa Street
New Braunfels, Texas 78130

Owners: Rachel and Bob Pineda

Located in the town of New Braunfels, Texas, Otto’s Cheese Shop offers cut-to-order cheese, charcuterie, and pantry items from Texas, the US, and around the world. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Rachel and Bob Pineda, Otto’s Cheese Shop strives to create a welcoming environment and unique experience for its customers. “Our driving force is working with the customers,” said Rachel. “We are a small town and a growing city, so it’s been fun getting out of town visitors looking for their standbys, and locals who are newer to the cheese shop experience.”

Since the shop’s opening two years ago, the Pinedas have become passionate champions of Texas cheese. The duo is currently working on a book and docuseries to highlight cheesemakers in the Lone Star State. “We’re constantly learning. We’re always trying to learn as much as we can about cheese.” 

Go-to party/entertaining cheese pairing?

I gravitate towards a good gouda. I like to do Brabander with Blake Hill Meyer Lemon with Honey Marmalade. I love introducing that combination to people.

Do you have a favorite “holiday” cheese?

Last year I got my hands on Truffle Shuffle from Blakesville Creamery. I think that’s going to be my new holiday cheese. It’s the perfect size, and it’s so decadent and gooey.

Josie Krogh

Josie Krogh is culture's Digital Strategy Lead. She earned her master's degree in Agricultural and Applied Economics from The University of Georgia. Josie developed a love of food while working at farmstands in the D.C. area as a young adult, and discovered her love of cheese while living and working on a dairy farm on Martha's Vineyard. She is passionate about the food supply chain, fresh stone fruit, and dogs. Josie currently lives in Catskill, NY.

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