For The Love of Cheese

For The Love of Cheese

If you want to make someone swoon this Valentine’s Day you don’t have to spring for expensive gifts or glitzy tchotchkes. What says “I love you” more than a selection of artfully paired Washington artisan cheeses?   Recently, Sheryl Wiser from Tilth Alliance checked in with Dr. Courtney C. Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington State Cheesemakers Association on ways to serve up farm-fresh love and happiness from local cheesemakers.

 According to Dr. Johnson, whether your Valentine has a sweet tooth or a savory tooth, there are plenty of options. “One way to impress your special someone is by building a flight of local cheese pairings to harness Washington’s agricultural bounty. With a couple of flavor-creating principles in your back pocket, you can give your loved ones an experience of the best our state has to offer this Valentine’s Day.”  Ready to pair? Read on. 

Principle 1: Balance is Everything

Look for complementary flavors that highlight what each partner has to offer. Pair like with like to bring out key flavor elements: a sweet, creamy fresh cheese with fruit or preserves, or local hazelnuts with aged, sheep’s milk cheese. Or find combinations that go together in the same way that peanut butter and jelly or spaghetti and meatballs do. For example, balance Twin Sisters Creamery’s Whatcom Farmhouse with Peppercorns with K’ul Chocolate’s Himalayan Sea Salt Dark Chocolate bar for a salt and pepper pairing. 

Assorted soft and hard cheeses, nuts, and chocolate on a white plate on wood surface

Principle 2: Savory and Sweet

Valentine’s Day naturally celebrates the sweetness in our lives, but your choice doesn’t have to focus on sugar alone. Pair baked goods, fruit preserves, dried fruits and honey with spicy or savory items. You’ll be surprised at how just a little bit of spiciness or a savory tone can take sweet treats to the next level. Appel Farms’ Jalapeño Gouda lights up with Girl Meets Dirt’s Tomato Jam or Ruby Red Apple Cutting Preserves, and Flying Bird Botanicals’ Cacao Vanilla Orange Drinking Chocolate would provide a striking candle-lit companion to Samish Bay Cheese’s smoky Chipotle Cheddar. 

The Fine Art of Farmstead Cheese

Principle 3: Play with Texture

Finally, try to pair up different textures: chewy and crunchy, creamy and crispy, crumbly and gooey. For example, Glendale Shepherd’s fudgy Blue Ewe with Breadfarm’s crumbly Cocoa Nib shortbreads, or Mountain Lodge Farm’s creamy fresh Chèvre on Barn Owl Bakery’s firm Sourdough Butter Crackers. And don’t forget that liquids and solids are another option as you pair a variety of local wines, ciders, or teas with any texture of cheese! 

So where to start? Dr. Johnson recommends putting together at least three to five of these pairing principles as a dessert or cheese course, incorporating different combinations of each to make things interesting. Or focus on the moment with one pairing you really love and augment it with a carefully chosen beverage. Her advice to cheese lovers? “Take your Valentine’s taste buds on a road trip through Washington–a thoughtful and sweet experience, unlike anything you can pick up on the candy aisle.”

Photo of Appel Farm Jalapeno Gouda – credit to Appel Farms Cheese
Photo of Twin Sisters Creamery Whatcom with Peppercorns – credit to Twin Sisters Creamery
Photo of Glendale Shepherd Blue Ewe – credit to Glendale Shepherd
Photo of cheese plate – credit to Courtney Johnson, Washington State Cheesemakers Association
Photo of Mountain Lodge Farm cheeses – credit to Rylea Foehl