By JIM WILLIS
For the Thanksgiving host, there’s always the question of what snacks to put out for the guests while they wait to sit down to the big meal – something that won’t spoil the appetite but will keep the crowd conscious enough to feign interest in a Lions or Cowboys game.
PieHole checked in with some Red Bank-area cheesemongers to see if they could come up with an alternative to the ubiquitous Chex Mix or chips and veggies with sour cream and onion dip. And cheese, they sure did.
“There are a range of cheeses that would allow you to offset the richness of the Thanksgiving dinner plate,” says Caitlin O’Neill, cheesemonger at Sickles Market, in Little Silver.
“You can serve a really fresh, bright cheese, like a goat chèvre topped with cranberry chutney or a pumpkin butter,” she says. “You’re going to be getting those flavors later on in the meal in the stuffing and in your cranberry sauce. Introducing those flavors early on in a different way. I think could be really nice.”
Stephen Catania, owner of Red Bank’s Cheese Cave, suggests celebrating the quintessential American holiday with an all-American cheese plate.
“A cheddar with a chutney is British combination, but you could do it featuring American products,” says Catania. “One of the pairings we like to do here is a Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, a traditional farmhouse cheddar, with a spicy plum chutney from Virginia.”
Another cheese suggested by both O’Neill and Mike Vaccaro, cheesemonger at the Cheese Cave, is Harbison from Jasper Hill in Vermont.
“It has a vegetal quality to it,” says Vaccaro. “You’re going to get notes of mustard in there, and you could pair it with a crudité.”
The Harbison comes wrapped in bark, which “gives a good earthy or woodsy presentation,” says O’Neill. Whereas Vaccaro pairs his with a vegetable platter, O’Neill also suggested pairing with some fresh walnuts preserved in a light syrup.
With a full afternoon of eating in front of us, surrounded by family and friends, you might consider supplementing these with a a glass of bubbly. O’Neill suggests a Prosecco or Champagne.
“Something crisp and white, to cut through the richness of the flavors,” she says.