I’m right about my obsession with cheese. In many families, Thanksgiving dinner is about finally finding a turkey recipe that isn’t dry and trying to avoid an argument about the upcoming presidential election, even though it’s still a year away. In my family, Thanksgiving is all about “the cheeses,” usually 15 to 20 of them. Each one is assigned a number that corresponds to a legend that my uncle prints so that everyone can read their favorites and exchange notes. While I haven’t yet achieved a layout of that scale in my Brooklyn apartment, I never entertain without cheese and rarely go a day without at least one bite.
Like most cheese lovers, I get excited when a friend shows up at my house with a slice of a 3-year-old Comté or a small goat cheese like Le Chevrot as a gift any time of year, but holiday gifts should be a bit extra. If you’re shopping for one of your Parm-obsessed friends (you can also call us turophiles), consider splurging on a set of cheese knives from Wüsthof or a subscription to Jasper Hill Farm’s cheese club. You can also succumb to your kitsch tendencies and mail in a stuffed blue cheese toy or a turntable cheese board, or simply be more thoughtful and show up to our holiday party with a bag of ice and a few boxes of Raincoast Crisps. .
If you are the cheese lover in your life, feel free to “accidentally” place this link in the group chat.
Get them in the club
The Vermont-based cheesemakers behind cult favorite Harbison give their club members access to cheeses you probably won’t find in your neighborhood. Expect some like a sandeman’s port-washed Harbison, a spooky ash-crusted edition of Moses Sleeper, or developing cheeses, which the team calls “riddles.” Each shipment includes at least three cheeses and a couple of combinations, like pickled ramps made in collaboration with Pitchfork Pickle, smoked trout from Fishwife, or charcuterie from Fra’ Mani. You can request a month or several.
Murray’s Cheese Board Club is perfect for your cousin who loves to entertain, but isn’t going to go down a YouTube rabbit hole to figure out how to design a cheese board. Each box includes four or five cheeses, cured meats like Brooklyn Cured Finocchiona, sides like crackers and olives, and most importantly, a simple visual guide to building and designing a cheese board.
Even cheeses need friends
No cheese board is complete without fresh fruit, but getting good produce during the winter can be difficult. A few years ago, my best friend recommended Frog Hollow Farm to me and I joined a legion of fans like Alice Waters. Her boxes of organic mixed fruit, which come from her and her partners’ farm in California, come in a few sizes at prices ranging from three pounds for $39.99 to 10 pounds for $103.99. Depending on the season, the selection may include fruits such as pears, blood oranges or pluots.
Some cheese lovers are too picky to let someone else choose their cheeses, so let them do the selection while you offer them a charcuterie side from Portland’s Olympia Provisions. This box has Italian, Spanish, French, and Greek-style salamis, including a sweet, smoky Rioja chorizo and loukanika, a Greek-style salami with cumin, garlic, and orange based on owner and salumista Elías Ciaro’s family recipe.
Think of crackers like an ice pack: essential for a party, but easily overlooked. Introduce yourself to either (or both!) and you can expect to be invited back every year. Raincoast Crisps are extra crunchy, leave no trace of crumbs, and have cheese board elements like figs and olives, or dried cranberries and baked hazelnuts.
They improve their service game
No, your audiophile friend can’t use this turntable to play records, but it will make a fun appetizer centerpiece at your next party. Additionally, the “needle” also functions as a slicer. If your friends are the type to go to great lengths to design their cheese board for the ‘gram, stick with a simpler slab from Brooklyn Slate, which comes with chalk so they can label their offerings.
Cheese boards are like restaurant baseball caps: you need several in different styles for different occasions. These live edge walnut cutting boards are simple and dark enough for cheeses to easily stand out, but when not in use, they look like works of art. The manufacturer works with responsible loggers in the Northeast and they help plant a new tree for every tree they use.
I’m not sure what prompted my grandmother to mail me some of her beautiful cheese knives many years ago, but I love using them when I host. Ideally, cheese obsessives should have two sets of cheese knives: one to show off to guests and one to stay in the kitchen and do the heavy lifting. The Confetti cheese knife set from Brooklyn-based studio Fredericks & Mae is perfect for display. For a more professional option, there’s Wüsthof’s 3-piece set, which includes a hard cheese knife with a non-stick element on the side of the blade, a classic soft cheese knife with holes, and the German company’s version of a parmesan knife The Boska Matte Black Cheese Knife Set is a more affordable alternative that is designed to allow for a firm grip, which is useful when cutting harder cheeses.
Books about cheese
The new rules of cheese: a free and informative guide by Anne Saxelby, the late champion of American-made cheese, is a fun, accessible, and informative book to read by the fire during the holidays. It describes rules for storing and caring for cheese, guidance for pairing drinks, and recipes for borderline cheeses, like refrigerated macaroni and cheese. For your partner who really wants to try cheese, there are Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization by Paul Kindstedt, who recently retired from teaching cheesemaking science and technology and cheese history courses at the University of Vermont.
Like BA trade editor Carina Finn, I’ve been curious, if a little skeptical, about cheese grottoes. She wondered: “Was she really so obsessed with cheese that she needed an entire refrigerator accessory dedicated to cheese storage? Then I remembered that I carry a cooler every time I’m near Nettle Meadow, so yeah. I love the ability to store my cheeses unwrapped and find that they stay fresher longer.” Consider me converted
Something extra cheesy
Many of our favorite after-school cheesy snacks, from Cheez-It to Goldfish to Babybel, get the watercolor treatment in this cheerful poster. Get it for your little brother who just moved into his first “adult” apartment.
We live in the glory days of food-shaped candles. Part pop art piece, part functional party light, you can order this cheese slice unscented or with an olive and fig or citrus scent. There is no cheese scent option, but that might be for the best.
For an elevated decorative gift, choose this small brie, blue cheese, and sparkling Swiss glass ornament.