On an important feasting and drinking day like Christmas, my mind races. So many choices!

I’ve had the pleasure of sampling many amazing wines and cheeses over my career, how can I possibly pick one worthy pairing? I can’t! I won’t! But I can narrow it down a bit to ensure I save room for the oranges in rum and caramel, sweet potato gnocchi and porchetta to come.

To make it through I need to focus and choose wisely. You should too. Let's be sensible. Take it one step at a time. I hope you'll find my plan useful as you plot your own day of epic eating and imbibing.


Ok, this is a no-brainer. Vermont Creamery’s stellar Cremant - a soft, unctuous double-creme cheese made from cow and goat milk. Imagine the tang and nuttiness from their crème fraîche mixed with the creamy texture of classic French goat cheeses with a touch of cream, and you’ve got the idea. I serve this with orange slices in syrup and a mimosa, because I'm in it to win it. Game on.

snow wine
When the house (and fridge) get crowded, you don't want to run out of chilled wine. Time to get creative.
Catherine Smart

Opening Presents Mid-Morning

My family gets together around 10 a.m. to exchange gifts. And this calls for more cheese. Because it takes a while for all of us to arrive and get settled, I have time to prepare a little something. In under thirty minutes, I concoct adorable Parmigiano-Reggiano baskets, and fill them with goat cheese mousse. I cannot stress enough how ridiculously easy this app is to make, nor can I emphasize more strongly that your siblings will look like utter deadbeats to your parents when you whip this up in minutes. It really is that easy. To drink, I’m serving something low on alcohol but big on flavor. Fun n’ frizzy Moscato d’Asti is perfect. The tiny bubbles keep things breezy, and the light white fruit flavors play off the milkiness of the cheese quite nicely.

When Everyone Has Arrived, But It’s Not Quite Time To Eat

You know that awkward time when everyone’s been greeted and settles in, but it isn’t quite time to eat? The uncles have all staked out their nap chairs in the living room, and random people are filtering through the kitchen, half-heartedly asking if they can help. It’s time for a pre-dinner snack. Sure, you could put out the same old cheese & cracker plate, maybe even splurge for some shrimp cocktail. Or you could unleash a Gruyere and cider fondue and watch everyone excitedly converge on a pot of molten cheese. This dish is incredibly easy to make and doesn’t take much time. (See a pattern here? Keep it simple and delicious.) Alongside, serve well-chilled Bantam cider. It’s made locally in Somerville and will pull out the fermented apple notes in the fondue. Great stuff.

fondue fire
How do you fondue? Don't worry, the massive open fire is a nice touch, but not necessary for Adam's recommended recipe.
Catherine Smart

After the Meal, When Everyone is Hovering Around the Dessert Table

The dinner dishes are cleared and it’s pies as far as the eye can see. Now, anyone that knows anything about me knows I would never, ever, sully the good name of pie. But pie had its moment in the spotlight just a few weeks ago at Thanksgiving. It’s time to step up the game a level. For me, there can really be only one answer here.Stilton and port. As my friend and enchanting wine & cheese nerd James Hullputs it, “Call me crazy, but I prefer the real deal stuff. This combination is beyond sublime.”

One of the world’s greatest blue cheeses, the king of all British cheeses, Stilton, is made from pasteurized cow milk. Originally the recipe called for raw cow milk, but an outbreak of illnesses in 1989 were blamed on Stilton, and so the recipe was changed to require pasteurization. If you’d like to try a raw-milk version, taste the incredibleStichelton. Local cheese paradise Formaggio Kitchen stocks amazing versions of both from Neal’s Yard Dairy. Stichelton is basically the Stilton recipe, but made with raw milk so it keeps the funky, farmy notes. As for port, make mine Quinto do Infantado’s Reserva from Portugal. It sells for around twenty-five bucks at The Wine Bottega in Boston. Rich and opulent notes of dried plum, raisins and dark chocolate waft up from the glass and flavors of dried fruits and smoky spice coat the tongue. It’s a perfect foil for the heady notes of the cheese. Serve this combination with toasted hazelnuts. Or dried fruit. Or a shoe. It doesn’t matter. This is truly a world-class combination that will make you forget all about pie.

So there you have it. Just a few ideas on how I kick it up a notch when getting your holiday cheese on. Remember - what’s important is you unapologetically eat and drink what you like. Whether fancy or foil-wrapped, if it makes you happy, you win.

Bantam Cider Company - 40 Merriam St., Somerville, 617-299-8600, bantamcider.com

Formaggio Kitchen - 244 Huron Ave., Cambridge, 617-354-4750, formaggiokitchen.com; also at 268 Shawmut Ave., Boston, 617-350-6996

Vermont Creamery - 20 Pitman Ro., Barre, Vermont, 800-884-6287, vermontcreamery.com. Cheese available locally at Whole Foods Market and independent cheese shops.

The Wine Bottega - 341 Hanover St., Boston, 617-227-6607, thewinebottega.com