Photo: Murray's Cheese
From bright red strawberries with smooth whipped cream to seductively buttery and sweet chocolate paired with wine, the thought of aphrodisiacs conjures up an array of tastes, aromas and images that are sure to romance that special someone this Valentine's Day. And sharing cheese is another great expression of love. Whether eaten alone or with chocolate or, better yet, with a celebratory flute of Champagne, the right cheese can express just how strongly you feel about your valentine.
We've checked out cheese pairings, gift baskets and heart-shaped fromages from the nation's leading cheese shops to find the best Valentine's Day cheese gifts that can be mail-ordered and shared with that significant other.
After the jump, our three favorites.
Formaggio Kitchen's Going Steady Gift Basket, $75.00
From Minneapolis to Lodi Vecchio, Italy, this package is an international assortment of mouthwatering goodies, such as chocolate, crispy amaretti cookies, jam and, of course, succulent cheese. All the products are hand-selected by Formaggio Kitchen's owner and specialty foods importer, Ihsan Gurdal. This basket pairs Bonnie's delicious strawberry jam, made in Cambridge, Mass., with a mild, creamy French goat's-milk cheese, Boule de Quercy -- a combination that mimics the effect of strawberries and crème fraiche. The beauty of this pristine, white cheese is brought out by a bright green raspberry leaf that delicately covers the top of the cheese, developing a slightly tart taste with a hint of lemons.
In addition to Boule de Quercy, the basket includes a particularly fruity tasting Sambirano chocolate bar from Rogue Chocolatier, based in Minneapolis. The bright flavor of this chocolate can be attributed to three cacao varietals from the Sambirano Valley of Madagascar: Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero. In short, this gift is the perfect way of saying "I love you" to the person who appreciates cheese and high-end chocolate.
Cowgirl Creamery's Cheese & Chocolate Valentine, $78.00
What could be more romantic and appetizing – in an admittedly over-the-top way -- than a triple crème cheese, shaped like a heart, served with mini-chocolate squares? For Valentine's Day this year, Cowgirl Creamery has come up with a heart-shaped version of its celebrated Mt Tam, appropriately called Heart's Desire. This pairing is all about deliciously rich and buttery bloomy-rind cheeses. In addition to the Valentine's Day triple-crème concoction, this package includes Jasper Hill Farm's sweet and nutty tasting Constant Bliss and Redwood Hill's camembert-style goat's milk cheese Camellia. To top it off, the pairing comes with a gorgeous Howard Foote cheeseboard made of salvaged wood from the north coast of California.
Murray's Cupid's Collection, $80.00
This assortment consists of three distinct smooth, creamy cheeses – Délice de Bourgogne, Truffle Tremor and Fleur du Maquis – that are sure to captivate and delight the taste buds. Whereas Délice de Bourgogne stands out for its thick triple crème texture, Truffle Tremor, a goat's milk cheese from Cypress Grove, is unique due to its truffle-spotted paste. That's right, there are actual pieces of black truffles in this cake-y cheese. What's more, the collection includes Fleur du Maquis, a soft, raw sheep's-milk cheese from Corsica that has an edible rind completely covered in herbs, mostly rosemary, chili pepper and juniper berries.
The cheeses alone make this bundle a decadent gastronomic treasure chest. Additionally, the package includes sunflower honey and chocolate from renowned French chocolatier François Pralus. Both condiments can be easily paired with all three cheeses.