I'm fairly certain the only thing keeping me from becoming a vegan is my undying love for cheese. There is nothing that can substitute it, nothing that can replace that perfect combination of salty and creamy. I don't discriminate. I've never met a cheese I didn't like [though there are certainly some I prefer over others].
For this Thanksgiving, I decided to handle the lunch/pre-dinner snacking with a cheese board. I really don't do this enough, but it's entirely too easy to put together. If I'm having a party, I usually like to choose cheeses I know well and thoroughly enjoy. In the same way I wouldn't try a new recipe on guests, I wouldn't want to spend money on a cheese I haven't tasted. Thankfully, if you go to a great cheese shop [or in my case, Whole Foods], the cheese mongers are so knowledgable and do a phenomenal job choosing cheeses for you, and will let you taste before you buy.
While I was doing my Thanksgiving grocery shopping, I was inspired by this small basket of goodies, also known as "Cheese Orphans." This is by far the most affordable way to put together a cheese board, or just test a new cheese at home. Every wedge of cheese is less than $3 and they're just a delicious as their larger counterparts.
I grabbed one of everything. I couldn't help myself! I didn't use every cheese, since typically with a cheese board, I like to keep it to only three or four selections.
By far, my favorite cheese was a Parrano, which is a cow's milk cheese from The Netherlands. It's incredibly salty, but also buttery with a hint of sweetness. Surprisingly, it tastes quite a bit like an aged parmesan, but is only aged for five months and is quite affordable.
I decided to pair this cheese with some of my simple homemade cranberry sauce [I'll post this recipe later in the week], since I figured the salty bite would balance well with the sweet, citrus hints of my cranberry sauce.
Mahón was another cheese I sliced for my board [seen on the left in the below photo], which is a Spanish [specifically from the island of Minorca] cow's milk cheese. A fairly firm chesse, this one is much more subtle in flavor, and I think would work better in a sandwich, next time around. But it too tasted yummy with the cranberry sauce and a slice of apple [which also made a debut on my board, since I had a few extra slices leftover from my pie.
I also snagged a small portion [not from the Cheese Orphans bin] of one of my all time favorites, Gorgonzola Dolce, an Italian mild blue that is incredibly sweet, and pairs perfectly with caramelized onions [I used a jar of my go-to store bought variety]. One thing I should note, I like to bring my cheeses to room-temperature, so I leave them out for about an hour before serving.
I paired this board with a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Chateau Doyac. My friend, who is a wine specialist at Whole Foods, gives me a wealth of information on wine, and helped me choose this particular bottle for Thanksgiving [slightly pricier than my normal, but it was for a holiday after all...]
Finally, some Marcona almonds and rice crackers rounded out this perfect pre-Thanksgiving snack.