Two South Sound cheesemongers can help assemble a platter or gift box packed with Washington cheeses or any other cheese you desire: Kris Blondin of Stink Meat and Cheese in Tacoma (628 St. Helens Ave., 253-426-1347, stinktacoma.com) and Laurie Sanders-Polen of My Cheese Shoppe in Puyallup (202 S. Meridian, 253-841-2011, Facebook). You can find Tacoma cheesemaker Backcountry at My Cheese Shoppe. At Stink, you also can find a broad selection of meats and wines.
I asked the cheesemongers to give advice to News Tribune readers for assembling killer cheese baskets or platters. Here’s how to do just that:
Advice from Kris Blondin of Stink Cheese and Meats in Tacoma:
Q: What’s a good gift selection of three or four cheeses for a stinky cheese lover?
A: There are so many different types of cheese, it’s nice to have a good representation. You can go with texture: REALLY HARD (ex. mimolette), FIRM (ex. cheddar), SEMI-FIRM (ex. taleggio) and SOFT (ex. brie). You can also go with TYPE – cow’s, goat or sheep.
Q: What would you assemble for someone who likes meat and cheese?
A: Here at STINK we have a really nice antipasti plate. We use three meats (usually a salami, a cured pork meat and pate or specialty sliced meat). There is one chunk of cheese, a caprese mixture (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil), marinated vegetables and cornichons, good balsamic and olive oil, and sliced bread.
Q: If you were putting together a basket of wine and cheese, what would you include?
A: I would try to find out if the person receiving the gift is a red wine or white wine drinker, or include a bottle of each. I feel that white wine goes best with most cheeses, and beer works even better. Again, I would start with a diverse selection as I mentioned above.
Another thing to keep into consideration is if the basket needs to stay refrigerated. Harder cheeses can stay a room temperature for much longer than soft cheeses.
Good things to add would be crackers (longer shelf-life than bread), some sort of fruit compote (I prefer one with figs) or a fresh pear/apple or two, and maybe a holiday themed cheese spreader.
Q: Besides cheese, what are some cool things to tuck into a cheese basket?
A: I think a log of hard salami is nice. Maybe a Christmas tree ornament, a wine key (opener), a couple of nice wine glasses, good chocolate or Christmas cookies
From Laurie Sanders-Polen of My Cheese Shoppe in Puyallup:
Q: If you were going to assemble a basket of mostly local cheeses, what would you assemble?
A: Mt. Townsend’s Seastack cheese, Backcountry Creamery’s seasonal cheddar, Beecher’s Yule Kase cheese,along with Essential Bakery’s organic crackers, King Caramel sea salt & Decadent Delight caramels to start.
Q: If you were to give a gift of any kind of cheese to the cheese snob on your holiday gift list, what are 3-4 cheeses you would give them?
A: For the person who would really appreciate a good, farmstead, artisan cheese I would first take Tin Willow or St. Helens (from Black Sheep Creamery in Adna, Wash.) Second would be a tie between England’s Wookey Hole Cave Aged Cheddar or Beecher’s Yule Kase. Third would definitely be Bonne Bouche (Vermont Creamery). And lastly, but definitely not least, Midnight Moon (from Holland made exclusively for Cypress Grove in California).
Q: Are there any accompaniments you like to give with cheese as a gift? Meats, honey, nuts? Anything else besides cheese?
A: One of our all natural fruit preserves; a good olive medley mix (with pits for a crisper texture and fresher flavor). Spain’s dried fig and mixed nut bread or some fresh fruit and Marcona almonds. And Wild Boar or Toscano Salami from Olli. And some good crisp warm bread!