If there’s such a thing as “cheese season,” the holidays are most certainly it. I worked at a bustling family-run cheese shop throughout college and each year, a week or so before Thanksgiving, the line of shoppers started snaking its way out the door; the crowd didn’t let up until January. This should come as no surprise. For those who partake, cheese is at once a family-friendly comfort food and a fancy treat. It tastes best at room temperature, making the cheese board a no-brainer for holiday entertaining, and these days, many of the best cheese shops in the United States ship nationally, so the gift of top-notch artisan cheese is only a few clicks away, wherever you may care to send it.
This holiday gift box from the artisan cheese all-stars over at Jasper Hill Farm contains slices of two of the producer’s most celebrated wheels—Cabot Clothbound Black Label Cheddar and Bayley Hazen Blue—as well as a small wheel of spruce-wrapped Haribison, another of lush and buttery Sherry Gray, and a wedge of the farm’s newest award-winner, a mountain-style melting cheese named Whitney. The bundle also contains a few extra-special accompaniments to be enjoyed alongside this extravagant flight.
If the fondue fan in your life is looking to branch out, consider Raclette—Switzerland’s other communal melty cheese. A full-sized electrified Raclette rig makes for a fun party centerpiece, but those looking to enjoy their cheese on a more regular basis will most certainly appreciate Boska’s Partyclette. The tea light-powered tabletop griddle is perfectly-sized for a wedge of the cheese which, once heated, melts down to a sizzling sauce. This “Oslo” model has a heat-resistant oak handle; an included spatula makes it easy to scrape the gooey cheese over any desired accompaniment.
Cheese lovers who relish a showy spread will delight in adding a girolle to their arsenal. The classic hand-cranked device is the traditional method for serving Tête de Moine, a petite Swiss mountain cheese. When the operator turns the girolle (which was developed by cheesemaking Swiss monks) the wheel rotates and an attached blade shaves the cheese into delicate and fragrant ruffles that nearly melt on the tongue. Send a girolle and a wheel of carefully ripened TdM direct from Murray’s in New York City. When the wheel runs out, the shop stocks the cheese throughout the year—and the girolle also works great on a large block of butter!
Opinel has been producing its iconic wooden-handled knives in France’s mountainous Savoie region since the late 19th century and while the tool was originally marketed as a farmers’ utility knife, it’s also an attractive and lightweight option for folks who like to enjoy cheese and charcuterie on-the-go. When our chief content officer, Kate Berry and I met up in Megève this fall, we stopped at a local hardware store and both stocked up on blades for gifting. Thankfully, they’re also available online in the U.S. (For picnicking purposes, I suggest going with the stainless steel versions which are easier to maintain than the rust-prone carbon steel options.)
A kitchen cutting board may suffice for impromptu weeknight cheese service, but holidays and other special occasions call for a prettier pedestal. This big checkerboard option from Homecoming is handmade of reclaimed maple and cherry wood and its organic shape and pristine pattern give it a little bit of whimsy and make even the fanciest cheeses pop.
Rush Creek Reserve is a Wisconsin-made soft-ripened cheese which is similar in style to the Alpine holiday classic Vacherin Mont d’Or. Like its Alpine inspiration, the American-made version is produced only in the fall and winter, when Andy Hatch and Scott Mericka’s dairy cows are transitioning from a diet of fresh summer grass to dry hay for the cold winter months. This feed results in a cheese with a silky, spoonable texture that lends itself well to baking for a cozy holiday treat, so gift a wheel paired with this pretty serving crock from nearby Wilson Creek Pottery.
This gorgeous copper set from Swissmar contains all the equipment your giftee needs to serve cheese, chocolate, broth, and oil fondues. For old school fondue fans, consider pairing it with a slab of Gruyère, Emmental, Appenzeller, or all three of the classic Alpine melting cheeses. For those who like to mix things up, swap out one or all of the more traditional options with smoked Gouda, fontina, or even Camembert.
I love this Provençal-chic set of French-made cheese knives as a gift for all sorts of occasions, from holidays to weddings to housewarmings. The smooth, dense olive wood handles and full-tang stainless blades are easy to maintain through a lifetime of cheese-fueled entertaining.
Step away from the box grater. I picked up one of these old-school Italian Parmesan rasps at Paris’ La Tresorerie on a whim and have been gifting them to cheese- and pasta-obsessed friends ever since. The flat base catches cheese shavings while also holding the business side of the grater at a super-stable 45-degree angle—and the whole thing folds down flat for easy and compact storage.
This style of knife is the cheesemonger-approved tool for cutting into soft-ripened cheeses like brie and Camembert. Superfine serrations glide through the outer rind without smushing the creamy center, while the thin, skeletal blade resists sticking and smearing. Typically a utilitarian workhorse, the elegant German steel and pakkawood version from Hammer Stahl also looks swell on even the most formal holiday cheese boards.
Give one of these black oak boards to the cheese aficionado who favors a high-drama look. Snowy white triple crèmes, gray ash-ripened chèvres, marbled blues, and annatto-tinted cheddars all look their best against this naturally-tinted black backdrop, handmade by the Blackcreek Mercantile folks in Kingston, New York.