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Cheeses for summer's backyard get-togethers

Thursday - 5/9/2013, 8:52am  ET

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Carolyn Stromberg, owner of Righteous Cheese offers some tips on picking the right cheeses for backyard fetes. (Courtesy Righteous Cheese)
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Carolyn Stromberg, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - As the weather continues to warm, more and more hosts will throw outdoor parties and cookouts. When deciding on a dish to bring to a summer get-together, consider something that doesn't require a lot of time in front of a hot stove on a summer day -- like a cheese plate.

Carolyn Stromberg, owner of Righteous Cheese offers some tips on picking the right cheeses for backyard fetes.

When choosing cheeses to bring to an outdoor party, consider two factors: seasonality and setting.

You want to pick cheeses that are meant to be eaten in the spring and summer. Animals begin producing milk in the spring, so soft goat and sheep's milk cheeses are at their best during the warmer months.

Warm weather can make cheeses sweat, droop and slump, so pick cheeses that can hold up to the setting. Harder sheep's milk cheeses will sweat, and cheeses that are too creamy will ooze.

Carolyn's summer cheese picks:

  • Robiola Tre Latti (Robiola Rocchetta)

    This cheese is a creamy, fluffy blend of cow, sheep and goat's milk from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is a super creamy cheese, but it won't ooze all over the place in the heat. There are many kinds of Robiola out there, so make sure you grab the one that has three milks.

    The taste is a bit more complex and bold in flavor than many other surface-ripened cheeses, and it pairs best with a chardonnay, an Arneis, a Barbera and Saison beers.

  • Piave Stravecchio

    A firm cow's milk cheese from Veneto, Italy, this cheese has delicious crunchy bits. It's sharp like a Parmesan, sweet like a Gouda and nutty like a Gruyere.

    This cheese is firm, but it won't sweat in the heat. It pairs best with pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, pilsners and Kölsch ales.

  • Monocacy Ash

    Try this soft goat's milk cheese from Maryland -- it has a layer of ash in the center. It's flavor is bright and tangy, but it's texture is soft and creamy. And it won't fall apart in the heat. Monocacy Ash pairs best with Vinho Verde, sauvignon blanc, pilsners and Kölsch ales.

  • Tumbleweed Cheddar

    This cheddar-like cow's milk cheese from New York has a grassy, tangy and sharp flavor. It's a great alternative to grocery store cheddar. It's not too crazy and funky, but it is unique, delicious and artisanal. This cheese pairs best with a cabernet franc, pale ales and IPAs.

Make a better burger

Hamburgers and cheeseburgers don't have to be limited to just American cheese slices. Here are a couple of cheeses that melt really well and will add flavor to your favorite grilled patty.

  • Mahon Semi-Curado: This cow's milk cheese from Spain is salty and tangy. It's great for adding flavor, particularly to a turkey burger.

  • Tumbleweed Cheddar: If you're looking for a great alternative to mass- produced cheddar, this New York cheese is a must. It's flavor is tangy and sharp and it melts better than traditional cloth-bound cheddar.

  • Idiazabal: The tanginess and smokiness of this Spanish cheese adds umami, particularly to a veggie burger. Or for meat eaters, add it to a burger with bacon.

  • Blu del Moncenisio: This Italian cow's milk cheese is spicy and earthy. It's great if you want your burger to pack a punch. Try it will some caramelized onions or sautéed mushrooms, too.

  • Sottocenere: This Italian cow's milk cheese is studded with truffles. It's great on a handmade burger with aioli or mayonnaise as a condiment.

  • Midnight Moon: For a bit of sweetness, try this California goat's milk cheese. It's fruity and rich, similar to a goat Gouda.

For more tips on cheese pairings and presentations, visit Righteous Cheese's blog or follow @RighteousCheese on Twitter.

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