You dodged a bullet—no underwhelming restaurant Valentine’s Day prix fixe this year! The plan is a night at your place. You could spend hours shopping and cooking, or you could let cheese do all the talking instead.
All you need is the right cheese, some crusty bread, a bottle of wine, and maybe some honey, fruit, and chocolate. This night of nibbling is sure to top any rushed, watered-down restaurant meal, but what cheese should you serve? And, more vitally, what does the cheese say about you?
Or more accurately—what does the cheese say about your expectations for this date? The texture, price point, approachability, aroma, and boldness of your cheese selection all send subtle messages. You want to light a spark in a long-term relationship? There’s a cheese for that. Want to effortlessly impress someone new? An entirely different cheese strategy is in order.
We talked to cheesemongers from across the country, gathering their picks for pairing the perfect fromagewith the mood of your date. Instead of panic ordering at the cheese counter, rely on this handy list for choosing the cheese that sends the right message—appropriate level of decadence and all.
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Seducing Subtly: When seduction is the goal, you want an approachable cheese that won’t intimidate, but surprises with richness and a lasting finish. For this, Laura Archer, cheesemonger at Bedford Cheese Shop in New York, recommends La Tur from the Piemonte region of Italy. “It’s the Andrea Bocelli of the cheese world,” she says. “A mixed-milk creamy cloud of mystery and seduction.” Your date won’t see this move coming.
Trying to Impress: If your date expects the best, choose a cheese with an element of over-the-top luxury. Archer from Bedford Cheese Shop suggests Sottocenere from the Veneto in Italy. “It’s studded with black truffles—need I say more?” Another more local option is Winnimere (pictured) from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. This soft and creamy cheese, washed in local beer and wrapped in a spruce band, is best eaten by “cracking open the top of the cheese and spooning out the woodsy, beery, decadent paste from within,” suggests Rachel Kempf of Fairfield Cheese Company in Connecticut.
Trying to Impress (part two): One additional pick from Hannah Fitzmorris of Seattle’s The Calf & Kid is Sunset Bay River’s Edge Chevre from Oregon with, “a line of paprika that gives a subtle smokiness to the tangy and earthy interior” of this soft ripened goat cheese.
Impress on a Budget: A taste of luxury from closer to home can help keep costs down. Rachel Kempf of Fairfield Cheese Co. points to a petit double-cream brie-style cheese from Lazy Lady Farm in Vermont, called Oh My Heart. “This small cheese packs the impressive taste of a more expensive French double-cream,” she says, “but is made by a Vermont cheesemaker on her wind and solar-powered farm.”
Drowning Your Sorrows: “Butter is the ultimate comfort food, yet eating it straight is frowned upon in polite company,” says Fitzmorris. When you’re feeling low, she recommends Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes California, a decadent soft ripened triple crème cheese that will provide rich, gooey comfort—a much more socially acceptable alternative to butter.
Spicing Things Up: Break out of your comfort zone and challenge your partner’s palate with something on the verge of stinky. A tangy Spanish blue cheese, Valdeon is a blend of cow and goats’ milk with a “distinctive punch” says Kempf of Fairfield Cheese Co. This exciting twist on blue shows that, “the Spanish really know how to heat things up.”
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Letting Someone Down Easy: You’re just not that into them. Soften the blow by making the best damn grilled cheese sandwich they’ve ever eaten. For this, Kempf of Fairfield Cheese Company recommends Challerhocker from Switzerland. An oozing grilled cheese made with this smooth cheese, washed in wine and spices, will ease the pain. Another option is Boerenkaas from the Willamette Valley Cheese Company in Oregon. Hannah Fitzmorris thinks this cheese mirrors certain kinds of relationships: “Sharp and exciting at first, with an underlying sweetness, and sometimes a slightly bitter finish.”
Skipping the Small Talk: The cheese is just a pretense. You want to get down to business. Make it happen with Époisses from Pierre Bethaut in Burgundy, France. “This classic French stinker will leave them speechless,” says Fitzmorris of the Calf and Kid. “Its meaty flavor and oozy texture” will speed the evening along to its inevitable climax.
Keeping It All to Yourself: You don’t need a companion as an excuse to splurge at the local cheese shop. In fact, when you don’t have to share, there are a couple cheeses experts recommend. Hannah Fitzmorris points to a fresh chèvre from Logsden, Oregon, called True Love. Encrusted in rose petals and jasmine, this, “light, creamy, floral cheese” is such good company, you won’t feel like you’re spending the night alone.