Matzoh and Cheese Pairings for Passover

is everyone’s favorite food holiday. Well, kind of. We celebrate the power of food in our lives, and share a ritual meal where food serves as both a symbolic presence and as nourishment. We gather around. We eat. The first night is a wonderful experience with family and friends.

But now we’ve arrived at the Passover hump. The matzo has been open for a few days. It’s dry; it started out dry. You’ve eaten fried matzo for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the gefilte fish in the fridge is developing a personality. And you live in San Francisco—the foodie’s paradise, never mind your friends are Instagramming Tartine breakfast buns and The Mill’s monster pieces of toast. 

Matzo may be a fact of life for the remaining days, but there’s no reason to not gourmet up your Passover. Bread may be off the table. But there’s always cheese! So we’ve asked some of our favorite cheesemongers to think about some tasty Passover pairings. 

First stop Bi-Rite, where an employee enthusiastically shared a taste of Vermatzah—a handmade matzo from Vermont made with Emmer, an ancient wheat varietal. It tasted exactly like the burnt undercrust of a Delfina pizza! However, Zach Berg, Bi-Rite’s unofficial Jewish expert and official head cheesemonger considered both taste and symbolism when he suggested the following options.

Zach Berg, Bi-Rite with his cheese selections to pair with matzo
“In terms of three cheeses that I thought would go great with any matzo, I decided to do a cow, goat, and sheep cheese:

Nuvola di Pecora: Sheep’s milk cheese that translates to “Cloud of Sheep”—mild with a yogurt-like tang; this would be great with toasty notes of matzo.

Little Napoleon: A small goat cheese with a pretty big punch. From the Zingerman’s creamery in Michigan. This goat disc has a slight tang that tastes of all the leavened foods you can’t have this time of year like yeast and beer.

Cheese selections to pair with matzo
by Bi-Rite
Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: to represent the time we were in bondage. This is a cheddar made from Cabot Creamery in a more traditional English style. They take young wheels of cheese and bind them with cloth (instead of wax like in the states). The cloth protects the cheese but still allows for a lot of oxygen exchange. This really allows the cheddar to develop some very pronounced horseradish notes.

Rainbow Grocery had one of the first gourmet cheese departments in San Francisco. The long time cheesemonger there, Gordon Edgar gave us three more symbolic and tasty options.
Horseradish Havarti, for obvious reasons.* (*Horseradish is a staple on the seder plate—it represents the bitterness of enslavement.)

Sweet Alyssum because it is a fresh sheep milk cheese that is available starting on Saturday April 4 (*just in time for second seder). It's like the sheep were bred to start giving their 2015 milk just in time for Passover. Goes great with honey.

Mt. Tam because the milk comes from the Straus Creamery, the first organic dairy farm West of the Mississippi (and they are Jewish dairy farmers). Vivian Straus even did a one-woman show called “E-I-E-I-OY.”

But nothing is more crucial to the reputation of the Bay Area as a foodie’s paradise than Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto and The Cheese Board Collective who gave us three more delectable selections.

Cheese pairings with matzo
by The Cheese Board Collective
The Cellars at Jasper Hill: Harbison
Harbison is an extraordinarily silky cheese that oozes everywhichway. The cheese itself comes wrapped in spruce bark which not only looks beautiful on a platter, but lends a woodsy flavor to the cheese. Just slice the top rind off the cheese and dip pieces of Matzah right into the lush paste. 

Vasterbottensost with cornichons, pickled onions, and horseradish
This firm Swedish cheese is slightly granular with a sharp, tangy bite. Paired with crunchy cornichons and pickled onions, your mouth will water and your taste buds will sing. Since Vasterbottensost also has a sweet finish, why not try it with some bitter horseradish?

Point Reyes Creamery Bay Blue with Charoset
Bay Blue is a sweet and nutty blue cheese, very reminiscent of Stilton. Since blue cheeses generally pair well with honey, nuts, and sweet dessert wine, Charoset is the perfect match.

Point Reyes Creamery Bay Blue cheese pairing 
by The Cheese Board Collective
If you aren’t ready to shell out for Vertmatzah but still want something a bit new, the Cheese Board also shared a few of their favorite recipes.

Deconstructed matzah Brie 
Spring Brook Farm's Ashlyn, melted onto matzah and topped with a soft cooked egg and chives. Ashlyn is the newest offering from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont. This Morbier inspired cheese has a layer of vegetable ash in the middle, and a velvety semisoft texture. Tangy, lactic and just a tad pungent, this cheese would be great melted over matzah with a soft cooked egg (fried or poached) and a sprinkle of chives. 

Breakfast matzah: Gjetost with Bellwether Farms Jersey Ricotta topped with jam
Make this the year where you don't fall into a PB&J matzah slump. Gjetost is a Norwegian goat cheese made of reduced whey and cream, traditionally eaten on toast. Its cheese candy: caramelly sweet with a fudgy texture, it goes great with fluffy ricotta and a schmear of jam.

Harbison and Vasterbottensost cheese pairing by The Cheese Board Collective


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