The visitors and the holidays are almost here. The doorbell will soon ring as guests and relatives arrive for food and cheer. A cheese selection can serve as a welcoming centerpiece as your family, friends and neighbors proceed to the table, be it buffet, dinner or dessert.
A cheerful table of informal hospitality can be centered around Cheddar cheese, a favorite classic appropriate for any and all occasions.
In 1869, Queen Victoria received a half ton wheel of cheddar for a wedding gift. You can impress your guests just as grandly with a smaller but equally imposing piece of this abiding cheese.
This holiday time of year the cheese cases at Lakewinds hold more varieties than ever of this beloved standard. The locals are here, of course; Prairie Breeze from Iowa, Fini that has aged in a Minnesota cave, Rochdale Aged Cheddar from Wisconsin. Widmer Four Year is joined by the Six Year and Eight Year. These homebodies now share the case with out-of-town guests such as Beecher Flagship and Bravo Chipotle from out West and Cabot and Vermont Grafton Maple Smoked from back East. From across the pond have sailed Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve, Farmhouse cheddars from small producers in England, Collier’s from Wales and Dubliner from Ireland. The English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions makes a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich. Cheddar also makes for a flavorsome, hearty soup. Mix several of your favorites and add beer. Combine broccoli and melted cheddar on your baked potatoes. Arrange cheddar, grapes, pears, dates and nuts on your dessert tray. Offer slices of an aged version with baked apples and apple pie. And cheddar is dandy with gingerbread and shortbread cookies.
Present a Scandinavian version of the Italian antipasto platter. Keep your eye out for two varieties of the deservedly popular Havarti; the Horseradish and the Peppadew. Both are creamy, lively and festive. They lend themselves to the smorgasbord table. Join them with a square of Norwegian Gjetost, a caramelized goat cheese and a generous wedge of the award winning Marieke Gouda from Wisconsin. We love her versions with cumin or foenegreek. Include hearty breads and crackers, pickled herring, smoked salmon, deviled eggs. If you do not have time to make a salad or two, stop at the Lakewinds Deli for a great salad selection including beet and apple salad. Here you will also find three newly made varieties of Lakewinds pound cake including the Swedish version. Delikat!
Often we are reluctant to invite guests to our home and table until the house is immaculate and an elaborate feast is being prepared. Forget that.
If your carpet is not shampooed nor your walls freshly painted, then dim the lights, place something red, green or gold on the table and light the candles.
People love a hearty supper as much as a gourmet feast. Two winter favorites are Mac ‘n Cheese and Fondue.
Mitch Hedberg, the late comedian from St. Paul, said that “Fettucine Alfredo is just macaroni and cheese for adults.” Now we love Fettucine Alfredo as much as anyone, but we think that Mac and Cheese is every bit and bite as suited for the grown up table as it is for the kids’ table and can be as gourmet and gussied up as you wish. Combine and shred some of these and add to your next version; Cheddar sharp and smoked, Gruyère, Asiago, Fontina, Provolone, Gouda, Parmesan, goat crumbles. Recipes abound in books , magazines, on websites. Share your favorites with us and we will pass them on to the Lakewinds community.
And tis the season for Fondue. Dig out the fondue pot and your favorite recipe, then come to Lakewinds. First stop is the cheese case. Choose Gruy Gruyère and Emmentaler to shred yourself or find an already shredded blend in a bag. Then veer to the bread area for a French baquette or Italian loaf from Lakewinds own Bakehouse. Finally stroll through the magnificent produce department for broccoli and cauliflower florets, mushrooms, sweet red and orange and yellow peppers, apples, pears. New potatoes and cloves of garlic can be roasted to become fondue worthy. Gather your bounty and head home to shred, melt, heat, slice, spear, dip, savor and enjoy.
Buon Natale and Joyeux Noël
For a limited time, you might be lucky enough to find Baked Lemon Ricotta in the cheese case. Made in Italy from the milk of the water buffalo, it is a beautiful dessert or brunch cheese, served sliced by itself or adorned with Harvest Song Tea-Rose Petal Artisinal Preserve, Gracious Gourmet Spiced Sour Cherry Spread, or fresh berries and mascarpone. Favaloso!
For the goat lovers we have the fabled Humboldt Fog and Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove in California. Look also for lovely versions of fresh chevres from goats frollicking through the pastures and hills of Europe. Serve with Mother Rucker’s Cinnamon or Lemon Brittle Cookies.
The triple-cremes from France, always divine, are even more revered this time of year with their rich buttery lusciousness. These are the cheeses that love and are loved in return by Champagne. D é lice de Bourgogne, Brillat-Savarin, Charouce are just a few that are found center stage in the cheese case. Don’t worry if you mispronunce the name. Just say triple-creme and point. These cheeses can be served as they are or with a sweet/tart accompaniment. We love them topped with the Amarena Fabbri Wild Cherries from Italy. As with all cheeses, leave them out until they are room temperature so the full flavor and texture can unfold. Délicieux.
Home for the Happy Holidays
The fromage from France has been the inspiration for two renowned cheeses made here at home; Minnesota’s Bent River Camembert and Wisconsin’s Rush Creek Reserve.
Bent River is made in Mankato, using what many believe to be the best milk in the USA-Minnesota’s own Cedar Summit Organic milk from grass-pastured cows. Dominique, our French cheese monger in Minnetonka, has declared this to be the most authentic Camembert she has ever tasted outside of her home country. And across the border, a remarkable seasonal cheese is available for several months late in the year. Rush Creek Reserve is a bloomy soft rind cheese that was inspired by the Holy Grail of French cheese; Vacherin Mont d’Or. The American version is made from rich autumn raw milk and aged 60 days. Wrapped in a circle of spruce bark, you can slice off the top rind then eat with spoon when it is ripe. Add a fresh loaf of crusty bread, a bottle of sparkling or sweet wine, and your favorite companions to ring in a Happy New Year and Bonne Année.