Holiday meals can be very stressful, especially for those who have yet to master even the most basic of cooking skills. It would stand to reason that going to someone else’s home and having them do the cooking would be less of a burden, but then comes the age-old question of what to bring. The usual answer when asked is “Oh, nothing. Maybe a bottle of wine or a side, but we’re good. Thanks.” While I appreciate not having to enter Kitchen Stadium, which is what occurs in my boyfriend’s family kitchen every holiday, I still want to contribute to the meal. Thus begins the painstaking task of putting together a cheese board that will stand up to three kinds of turkey (smoked, roasted and confit) and side dishes fit for the cover of Food and Wine Magazine.
My go-to cheeses for the past couple years have been the usual suspects most would expect. A wheel of Rush Creek Reserve and Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Aged (both from Uplands Cheese Company in Dodgeville, Wisconsin) share the cheese slate with a wedge of Barely Buzzed from Beehive Cheese Company near Weber Canyon in Utah. It’s a great combination of rich, buttery, salty, nutty, sweet, tangy goodness from all of the cheeses and everyone seems happy. Yet something always seems missing. I may throw in a bell of Clochette for some goaty tang or a bit of Hooks extra aged cheddar for sharpness, but even with the addition of some high-end charcuterie and crusty breads from Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, my inner cheese snob always finds the whole thing a bit lacking.
This year I am in search of the perfect cheese board. The Uplands selections will be the foundation, but the supporting roles need to be innovative, unexpected, and phenomenal. It’s nerve-wracking, since the family has come to expect their old favorites, but change is a good thing, especially for the taste buds so the hunt is on. With only a week to get this right, wish me luck. Be sure to check back next week and see what the final board looks like. Feel free to send suggestions, too!