June 23rd, 2018

From Our Table: Cheesy Christmas gifts

By Medicine Hat News on November 22, 2016.

This Christmas, give the gift of cheese. A cheese board, cheese samples and a selection of olives and crackers can be a great hostess or Christmas gift. --Submitted Photo

OK so it’s not “beginning to look a lot like Christmas” but even with our weather unseasonably warm lately Christmas is still just around the corner.

Soon the shopping will start and with the busy Christmas season the parties will also begin. What a wonderful time of year to get together with family and friends to celebrate the season!

The other day my husband Kent came home from a haircut with a variety of delicious cheese, olives and crackers. I really love all those tasty treats and these were exceptionally scrumptious. It got me thinking about what a wonderful hostess gift or even Christmas gift this would be. Maybe a beautiful board with two to three different types of cheese some olives and crackers. This would be an excellent hostess gift if you are celebrating American Thanksgiving this Thursday or going to a Grey Cup party on Sunday or for all the upcoming Christmas parties.

I really love it when people talk to me about a food or recipe they thoroughly enjoy. It’s wonderful to see the way their eyes light up and to watch them get animated with their excitement as they share.

I had this privilege recently with Paul Hemsing at Salon Purity, where my husband purchased the fantastic food I mentioned earlier. I asked him to share some of the incredibly interesting information he is so passionate about and here is what he had to say:

Hello Joanne,

I thought I would give you some information about only the “most local” i.e. Canadian made cheeses. (He and I share a love for local!)

I understand that Canadian made cheese is given a logo of the white cow. This indicates that the milk is from Canada and that the cheese is made in Canada. Canadian milk producers do not use hormones that cause the cow to produce much more milk. Most cheese sold in Canada is actually from American milk which allows this practice. Also most European cheese is also made without milk increasing hormones.

You wanted to talk about how to give cheese and accompaniments as a hostess gift.

I believe that a successful cheese and charcuterie board should be kept relatively simple.

You need 2-3 cheeses only that are each unique.:

1) A soft creamy camembert or Brie. Poplar Grove in the Okanagan makes an exceptional camembert that has a soft white rind and a soft mushroom undertone.

2) A firm salty cheese. We carry three types of Gouda from Sylvan Star Gouda in Alberta. Grizzly is a super aged variety that has a crunch from the salt crystals that form during the aging process. A bit younger is their aged Gouda I call it Alberta’s Parmesan.

3) A blue cheese. Many people shy away from this category as their only experience is in the form of a salad dressing or condiment that has been super processed. Many blues are surprisingly mild and deliciously creamy. This is the case of Poplar Groves award winning Tiger Blue. Made in Penticton on the Naramata Bench from milk from a herd of cattle at Dutchman’s Dairy in B.C. This herd is a free range grass fed group. Kinda cool.


1) You always need something with crunch. Italian breadsticks, cheese toasts with fruit and seeds, marconna almonds, pistachios, imported British water crackers. We carry all of these

2) Something sweet. Fig and port jam, onion marmalade, pure Alberta honeycomb that we carry from Okotoks. Sweet pairs especially well with blues.

3) A bit of savoury. We carry smoked buffalo tenderloin, pepper pate both from a European deli in Canmore called Valbella’s, and we also carry several duck pates and foie gras from Quebec.

As a hostess gift you can purchase a wood board , a slab of slate, any ceramic platter. Arrange the cheese and accompaniments and tie with cello wrap. On your way to the event the cheese should come to room temperature where it’s flavours will develop and shine.

Maybe suggest that this is a unique way to impress rather than the usual bottle of wine?

Hope this helps!

Paul Hemsing

Taste Gourmet Pantry & Fine cheese

2A Strachan Crt. S.E.

In the front of Salon Purity

Big, big thanks to Paul for sharing his food passion and knowledge with me and for convincing Kent to try the brie, the blue and the aged Gouda which are fabulous new favourites and for inspiring me to write this column about a delicious hostess gift. Please remember to support our amazing local businesses and buy food as close to home as possible.

Enjoy the start of the seasonal celebrations everyone!

Joanne Smith is a registered dietitian.

Brie on Bread

24 1-inch slices baguette

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

12 figs cut in half lengthwise

12 small slices Brie cheese

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350 F.

Spread a bit of mayonnaise on the bottom of each baguette slice, place on lined baking sheet and bake 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile toss each fig half in the balsamic vinegar.

Remove baguette slices from oven and top each with a slice of Brie cheese, a fig half and a small sprinkle of walnuts.

Return to oven and bake 1-2 minutes or just until Brie is melted.

Serve warm

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