Charlie and Michael Kalish, aka the Cheese Twins, are a cheese and wine power couple.
The 34-year-old gourmands grew up near Sonoma County, where they worked on vineyards and in cheese shops, but pursued different paths to cheese connoisseurdom.
After college, Michael, who started out working in commercial beekeeping, got an opportunity to study cheesemaking in France for three months. Then he “missed his flight” home and stayed for four years, learning the trade throughout Europe. Meanwhile, Charlie, at the time an aspiring English professor on a Fulbright studying the playwright Henrik Ibsen in Norway, ended up joining Michael in France, where he was managing an underground cheese aging facility.
Since joining forces, the identical twins have gone on to become finalists on ‘Chopped’ and even win Season 7 of the‘Great Food Truck Race
‘. Now, the California-based twosome travels all around the country tasting and talking cheese and wine. Not a bad gig.
The Kalishes stopped by our offices with Meiomi wine
, of which they are brand ambassadors, and a bevy of artisanal cheeses to show us the secrets to holiday entertaining.
For cheese laymen like you and me, “serving” a cheese plate at a gathering consists of unwrapping the cheeses and placing them on a cheese board with a knife, so that everyone can help themselves.
But doing it that way, Michael says, often leads to a sticky mess. “When you invite people over for cheese, you learn things about them,” he jokes.
Instead, make your cheese party mobile by creating cheese ‘vehicles,’ as the Kalishes call them. For example, spread blue cheese on a fig or a cracker, or a piece of bread, which folks can ‘grab and go’ and then mingle. It encourages socializing—and eliminates the mess.
Despite its name, no, a cheese harp is not something you play to serenade your guests. It’s a practical tool that saves you the mess of slicing through, say, a wedge of crumbly blue cheese that inevitably falls apart, or a creamy goat that will muck up your knife.A cheese harp has a thin, stainless steel wire that allows for a clean, precise slice through.
And most importantly: “You don’t lose any cheese on the knife,” Michael says.
It also comes in handy managing the aforementioned mess on the cheese board. Typically, if you put out a cheese round with a knife, guests will scoop out the insides until there’s nothing left but the rind.
“It gets really ugly, fast,” Charlie says. Instead, use the cheese harp to slice the round into ‘pizza slices’ for your guests to pull away.
What to serve
The standard quantity is an ounce per person if you’re doing up to four cheeses. Three different kinds of cheeses is plenty. If you want to dazzle a crowd, go with six. Anything above that, and people forget and it becomes “’just cheese on a plate,” they say.
Also, aim for variety. “You don’t want to have all stinky cheeses,” says Charlie.
According to the Twins, there are roughly six families of cheese: fresh cheese (like queso fresco or a farmer’s cheese), soft ripened cheeses (Camembert), goat or sheep’s milk cheese, washed-rind cheeses with more funk, alpine hard cheeses, and blue cheeses. “Representing different milks on the board is a nice touch,” they say.
The key is to arrange the cheeses from mild to bold. The stronger-flavored cheese is going to linger in your mouth, and you don’t want it to overpower the rest.
Keep it at room temperature
A common mistake is serving your cheese cold, say the experts. If you pull the cheeses straight from the refrigerator, you’ll lose a lot of the aromas and flavors. Let the cheese sit out at least a half an hour before serving to get it up to room temperature. If you can, purchase the cheese not too long before the party.
Play with wine and cheese pairings
On the red side, they’ll do the Meiomi Pinot noir, a party-pleasing jammy red, with a nutty, earthy cheese, like the Manchester, a rustic goat cheese tome from Vermont’sBardwell Farm
But it’s up to you to experiment and see what matches you like.
“We’re identical twins, and we’re cheese experts, and we have roughly the same history and yet we still have different preferences,” they say. “The cheese world is trying to fight [their reputation] of being snobby. We don’t see it as snobby. Whatever works, works.”