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Season in Cheese

Come bearing . . . Cheese!

Wine is a typical gift, but a cheese basket will make you the party star.

With the season of holiday parties in full effect, it's time to stock up on gifts to present to all those gracious hosts.

So when you get ready to head out to your holiday celebrations, skip the wine and impress your hosts with cheese. It's easy and unique. Here's a few tips to keep in mind:

Size up your basket or bag - The most aesthetically pleasing gift cheese baskets look like they are overflowing, so make sure you pick a basket or cheese gift bag that will look smallish when filled to the brim with delicious fromage.

A little variety - Keep it simple: Pick two or three types of fromage. It's best to pick from cheeses with contrasting textures. So an Ile de France brie cheese, which is a soft and luscious, makes a great combination with a harder cheese, such as an Emmental or Fol Epi. If you want to take your gift to next level, include a bleu cheese like St. Agur as well to round out your featured fromages.

You can add further variation by including a cheese from the three milk types: goat, cow and sheep's.

Include a complimentary snack – Once you've selected a couple cheeses to feature, now comes the tricky part: Picking the accompaniments. Since there's a wealth of items to choose from, it can be both simple and difficult to round out your basket.

It's best to pick the same number of accompaniments as fromages. Try selected one cracker or bread and one fruit, jam, preserve or sausage. One easy example: An Ile de France Brie and a St. Agur for the cheeses, a mini baguette and a small jar of fine honey or preserves, such as a apricot Bonne Maman.

Putting together a holiday cheese basket is a snap and will set you apart from all those bottles of wine other guests are sure to bring. And after all, since so many guests are sure to bring wine, your cheeses will be the perfect party compliment!

But don't feel like you have to limit your cheese gift basket giving to party hosts, either - a delicious holiday cheese basket is an excellent general gift for family and friends as well!