12 Cheeses of Christmas

This holiday season, it’s all about getting your cheese on. Bon appétit.

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There’s no such thing as a bad time for cheese, but celebrations and gatherings are prime time for cheese. The quality of cheeses made in America and imported from Europe and Australia has improved exponentially in recent years. New distribution channels enable Americans to eat cheeses from the smallest, great dairy farms in Europe.

But for those who prefer their food to have as small a carbon footprint as possible, the quality of American-made cheese has never been higher. Europeans—even the French—are embracing American cheese and for good reason; our cheeses now have the depth of flavor, nuance and clearly articulated overtones that distinguish the finest cheeses in the world. Notwithstanding all this, shopping for great cheese is still often a haystack-needle proposition. Most Whole Foods nationwide carry a superb inventory of cheese as does Dean & DeLuca, Cowgirl Creamery’s retail outlets and several smaller boutiques. Culture magazine, the quarterly bible of cheese lovers, has a search function to help you find a quality retailer near you. Here are The Root’s picks for the best cheese to be had this Christmas season:

Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Smooth and balanced, this cheese made in Dodgeville, Wis., by the Uplands Cheese Company, is an improvement on most Gruyères on the market. It has a distinct, nutty flavor in the middle and hints of fresh meadow air in its follow-through. It melts wonderfully (this is also prime time for fondue), and it accompanies almost any red wine, and the intrinsic sweetness of Pleasant Ridge’s flavor is a nice balance to a dry white wine.

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