Impress your family and friends this holiday season with six of our favorite cheesy appetizers. These snacks, sides, & bites are easy to make, don’t require a crazy number of ingredients, and boast deliciously complex and festive flavors thanks to Emmi’s award-winning cheeses.
Spinach Balls with Gruyère
A Midwestern classic, we’ve updated our Spinach Balls by adding nutty Le Gruyère cheese for an extra special holiday treat.
At Emmi USA, we know that where your food comes from matters, because it’s important to us, too. That’s why we’re committed to telling you a deeper story about where our traditional cheeses from Switzerland come from.
Each new label on our traditional Le Gruyère, Emmentaler, Tête de Moine, and Appenzeller cheeses depicts icons that represent the region the cheese is made in Switzerland. These symbols are inspired by the ancient Swiss folk art of Scherenschnitte, which translates to “scissor cut”, the traditional art of Swiss paper cutting.
This folk art emerged in Switzerland in the 1800s and remains a tradition today, perhaps because its symbols – cows, mountains, and fir trees – fit the art form perfectly.
The inspiration of Scherenschnitte also symbolizes the art, craft, and skills that are part of our cheesemaking culture here at Emmi.
NEW YORK, December 3, 2019 – Emmi, the nation’s largest importer of specialty cheese from Switzerland, is partnering with Chef Elizabeth Falkner for the first-ever Swiss Cheese Pizza Tour. The duo will travel the United States to bring true Swiss cheese flavors to an American audience through pizza pop-ups at chef-owned restaurants across the country.
The evening pop-up events will feature Chef Falkner as a guest chef, menuing unique pizzas made with Emmi cheeses. Guests can also snack on custom cheeseboards to sample a variety of Emmi cheeses including Le Gruyère AOP, Emmentaler, and their line of Kaltbach cave-aged cheeses. Each event will be customized to each city, including chef-against-chef pizza competitions and more.
“I love playing with various ingredients and flavors, especially when I am able to be creative in a space with some of my favorite chefs and pizzerias,” says Chef Elizabeth Falkner. “Bringing Emmi Swiss cheeses along for the tour is going to be an exciting experience.”
About Emmi USA Emmi USA brings artisan cave-aged cheese, ready-to-serve fondues, and traditional and exclusive cheeses from Switzerland to the United States. Steeped in custom and culture, our expert cheesemakers use centuries-old methods to create only the finest specialties, including Kaltbach cave-aged Le Gruyère AOP, an epic cheese with an exceptionally intense flavor, stemming from extensive curing in our natural sandstone cave near Lucerne, Switzerland. Learn more at emmiusa.com.
Caroline Schiff is a Pastry Chef in Brooklyn, New York. The following is transcribed from an interview with Caroline.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your current projects?
Yes, my name is Caroline Schiff and I am a pastry chef in
Brooklyn, New York. And, I am going to be the pastry chef at Gage & Tollner
which is reopening shortly in Brooklyn. Gage & Tollner was a legendary,
famous chophouse in downtown Brooklyn. It opened in 1890s and it closed in
2003. It has this incredible legacy, and it was the place to go for more than
100 years. So many people of influence came through the doors and kitchens. Edna
Lewis was the chef there at one point, which is an absolutely incredible thing.
It has a landmarked interior, which is rare and really, really special. It’s
probably the most unique project I could be working on as a chef, and the most
exciting. It’s something that feels really creatively inspiring to be given
something that has so much history and so many stories.
How did you get your start as a chef?
I’ve been baking forever, since I was a little girl. I have
always loved pastry and being in a kitchen. It’s always been my greatest
passion. After college I started working in kitchens. My first job was with Sohui
Kim at the Good Fork who is the chef and one of the owners at Gage &
Tollner – that was almost twelve years ago. It’s amazing to come full circle
with someone who mentored you in the beginning. Pastry was the natural and
instinctual thing for me and it’s, I feel very lucky I get to do the thing I
love for a living.
You’ve traveled extensively, did this play into your love
I’ve been to Switzerland, I lived in France for a year, in
the Alps. I spent a lot of time in Italy, and if there’s anything I love
anything as much as pastry, it’s probably cheese. When I was right out of
college and interning at the restaurant, I also worked as a cheesemonger.
Cheese is the best thing, it’s the best food. When I lived in France, I lived
really close to the Swiss border. I had access to all of these incredible
cheeses and local things, the selection was totally mind-blowing. I got totally
into it and was spoiled and addicted. People close to me know that I have a
cheese plate for dinner probably three times a week.
Recently, you’ve crafted a new recipe using Emmi Le Gruyère – tell us about that.
Yes! A little bit about Gruyère – it’s an Alpine cheese, it’s really iconic. It is Switzerland’s national treasure. It’s really buttery, it’s really nutty. It’s firm, but it’s really fatty, and it’s creamy once it melts. Because of that nuttiness, I think it can walk the line with sweet and savory. So, there’s certain applications that work so beautifully with it – on the sweeter side, apples, nuts and honey. On the savory, caramelized onions, bread and all of those delicious things. I wanted to with this recipe show how versatile it is and how it is a beautiful partner for all of these different kinds of ingredients. I made a Gruyère Apple Tart– there’s sage. The crust is a blend of buckwheat and whole wheat, and I did that because there’s a lot of flavor in buckwheat, it has a great earthiness to it, it is a little more interesting than white flower. Whole wheat also has more going on and I love the rustic quality that brings. It all tied together really beautifully, there’s some white wine in there because, you know, why not. I think the flavor combinations work together so well, and it’s pretty easy to put together. You don’t have to be a pastry chef to do it.
How do you feel cheese and sweets can play together?
I think with cheese we sometimes feel a little stuck with
it, like it’s a cheeseboard, it’s a snack, and then you present it with all of
these savory items that are delicious, but then that’s it. I think with the
aged Swiss cheeses and the Alpine-style cheeses, Gouda and especially the Kaltbach
varieties, there’s so much nuttiness, complexity and butterniness that they can
go so well with tart fruit, nuts and honey. Things that are natural pairings
that complement each other; I also love certain chocolates with cheeses. The
Kaltbach Gouda has almost a butterscotch flavor and as a dessert with some dark
chocolate, it’s pretty knockout; it’s pretty outrageous. I think people can
think outside the box with cheese. Let’s not relegate it to a savory ingredient
or as a snack or cheeseboard.
I think in terms of using cheese in pastry and in dessert,
taste it! Just try to figure out what notes you are getting, are you getting
nuts, caramel, butterscotch, even fruity, and what would you want to eat that
with? Try it! It might be really good – the stakes are really low. The worst
that happens is that you don’t like it. Cheese is like wine. There are so many
flavors. It may start one way on your palate and finish in a completely
different way depending on its age. Play around with it and have some fun.
90 percent of the wine made in Switzerland is only domestically sold, but we found the best available in the U.S. and asked expert sommelier, Victoria James, to pair Emmi cheeses with them for the ultimate Wine & Cheese Day (July 25!) celebration.
Lack of availability and marketing means that Swiss wines remain mythical and undiscovered for many outside the charming country. Little wine is produced, and what little is made very rarely crosses the Swiss border—Switzerland is so wealthy, they really needn’t push their wines into the international market; in fact, 90 percent remains domestically sold. Further, there isn’t a large, international PR group educating the trade and marketing the wines. Beyond that, after my first visit to Switzerland, I learned why the Swiss seem almost secretive about their wines… perhaps for good reason—they might be too good to share.
For the United States market, a majority of the wines imported hail from the French cantons in the west, specifically the Valais and the Vaud. The Valais is nestled into the heart of the Alps, and the vineyards here, flanking both sides of the birthplace of the Rhône river (the right bank is most important), benefit from steep slopes and terraces. The Valais is responsible for a third of the country’s production. The mountains form a rain shadow that makes the Valais Switzerland’s driest canton with just 24 inches of precipitation a year… coupled with 2,100 hours a year of sunlight. For reference, Alsace, an infamously dry and sunny region in France, sees 20-25 inches of precipitation and 1,800 hours of sunlight annually. Indeed, some similarities in the styles of wine from Alsace and the Valais are noticeable: vibrant acidity, gobs of honeyed notes, racing minerality, white flowers and sometimes earthy/mushroomy aromas.
Unlike the Valais, which, to its own detriment might have too many “specialties,” the focus of the Vaud is solely Chasselas. In 2009 it was proven that this canton, resting on the shores of Lake Geneva, is the actual birthplace of the grape. Chasselas always reminds me of fresh spring water and is the perfect palate cleanser with rich and funky cheese.
Really, what grows together does go together. So many of these wines perfectly match their dairy counterparts, both carrying with them a sense of place.
Kaltbach Gruyère + Cave Caloz Cornalin, Les Bernunes, Valais, Switzerland
Made since the 12th century, Gruyère is a Swiss favorite. To go with this nutty and crunchy delight, I like to pour a slightly unusual pick–– a red wine. Most sommeliers cringe when guests drink red wine with cheese, as the former usually overpowers the delicate nuances of the latter with tannins and a blast of red fruit. However, this Gruyère, aged for a minimum of 150 days can take a bit of red wine. Chilled just a bit, the Cave Caloz Cornalin is the perfect quencher alongside this cheese.
Anne-Carole and Conrad Caloz (who took over for his father, Fernand) now manage the family domain while their eldest daughter, Sandrine, is the winemaker. 2013 is Sandrine’s white-winemaking debut after years of studying under her father and at enology school.
Although Switzerland is quite liberal, very few females are in the wine industry. As the story goes, when Sandrine was born, her grandfather excitedly opened a bottle of Champagne to celebrate his successor who would one day take over the winery. Minutes later, upon learning that his grandchild was a girl, he was reported as fuming, “Do you know how hard it is to put a cork back in a Champagne bottle?” Luckily, Sandrine’s hard work and skill put his skepticism to rest, and today he—along with a legion of fans—seems impressed by her wines.
Only otherwise seen in the Valle d’Aoste, Cornalin is hard to grow and very susceptible to sickness, commonly ripening unevenly or suffering from millerandage. Cornalin must be made carefully, but a well-made one like Sandrine’s seems to play a Syrah-like charade on the palate while boasting the inky color of Dolcetto. A true Alpine red, the Cornalin is structured and age-worthy and smells of wet soil, sticky pine trees, small red berries and dark flowers. A delicious and earthy wine makes a fruity contrast to the dried fruit and nutty elements in the Gruyère.
Kaltbach Crèmeux+ Jean- René Germanier, Amigné de Vétroz, 2 bees, Valais, Switzerland
A cheese as lush as the Crémeux deserves an equally decadent wine. Made from the local Amigné grape, the sweetness level of the wine is charmingly notated by bees. Two bees means between nine to twenty-five grams per liter residual sugar, so just slightly off-dry. With a ton of floral and stone fruit aromas, it contrasts the earthy sweetness of the cheese.
Urban Germanier first started making wine in Balavaud in 1896, and today Jean-René Germanier and his nephew, Gilles Besse, are the third and fourth generation to maintain the estate. Everything made at the winery follows traditional methods, while integrating modern technology. They are environmentally conscious and work closely with small growers to maintain the highest quality. Vétroz is a grand cru of the Valais that’s full of calcaire and schist; it’s also arguably the most important vineyard in the region.
The Amigné tastes like a saffron-infused honey pot, and with a silky and rich texture, coils perfectly around the creamy and decadent Kaltbach cheese.
Tête de Moine + Jean-René Germanier, Petite Arvine, Valais, Switzerland
From the same producer as the Amigné, comes the Valais specialty of Petite Arvine. Named after the nearby Arve river, the grape is chock full of notes of grapefruit, wisteria, and rhubarb. The Germanier Petite Arvine has a rich and concentrated mid-palate but with refreshing acidity, it manages to also be equally refreshing.
With such a Valisian specialty, an equally valuable cheese should be served. The Tête de Moine, once considered so valuable that farmers would use it as currency to pay landowners, is incredibly unique. Pared with a girolle, a tool that helps aerate the cheese, little rosettes of this cheese are both funky and sweet. The highly aromatic cheese is the perfect tangy accompaniment to the powerful Petite Arvine, together it is a parade of zesty extremes.
Appenzeller + Louis Bovard, Dezaléy, Chasselas, Grand Cru, Lavaux, Vaud, Switzerland
On the shores of Lac Léman (Geneva), lies the Grand Cru of Dézaley. The hill is mostly planted to Chasselas and is probably the world’s most ideal place for the grape as the clay soils retain rainwater before it can run down the slopes, and the sun grills the vines to create a generous style of wine. The lake also moderates the climate, lending a long maturation period with no frosts and moderate summers.
The quintessential Swiss grape, Chasselas is considered by many as ‘neutral,’ almost like a glass of cool water. A sip of the Bovard Chasselas might prove otherwise, as it is often considered the country’s best example of the grape.
Louis is the 10th generation of Bovards and currently owns 16 hectares—70% of which are dedicated to Chasselas. He also has one of the oddest wine labels in Switzerland: At first glance, one might think it boasts a strange man dressed in a wild, cheetah-print dress. But no, instead it is an image of Albert Bovard, who was cast as Bacchus at the 1905 winegrower’s festival in Vevey… today, the image remains an icon in the Vaud.
With the iconic wine, a similarly iconic cheese is only fitting. Appenzeller is both crunchy, savory, and spicy. The secret recipe of over 700 years yields a cult classic. The wheels are washed with a mixture of herbs, cider, flowers, and wine, adding local herbaceous aromatics to the final product. With notes of grasses, tea, ginger, and cloves, the Chasselas from Bovard helps clean up the palate, leaving you ready for more.
Victoria James is the Beverage Director at Cote Korean Steakhouse. She has worked in restaurants since she was thirteen. She fell in love with wine and when she was twenty-one and became certified as a sommelier. She has worked at some of the most prestigious restaurants in New York City including Marea and Aureole. Victoria’s name has appeared on many notable lists: Forbes “30 Under 30,” Food & Wine’s “2018 Sommelier of the Year,” Zagat’s “30 Under 30,” Wine Enthusiast’s “40 Under 40,” Wine & Spirits’ “Best New Sommeliers,” and The Back Label declared her “New York’s Youngest Sommelier.” She is also the author of DRINK PINK, A Celebration of Rosé (May 2nd, 2017, HarperCollins) and a contributor to Cosmopolitan, Munchies and The Daily Meal. In her free time, she makes Amaro from foraged plants.
With one taste (and glimpse) of Tête de Moine, you’ll quickly understand why it’s a favorite among chefs and a delicious conversation piece at any gathering. This unique Swiss cheese is traditionally served in the form of elegant flowers shaved off the wheel with a tool called a girolle, or cheese curler. The delicate rosettes are the perfect shape to convey the full-bodied flavor and aroma of the cheese, and make a striking addition to salads, soups, charcuterie boards, and more.
Tête de Moine was first produced by monks at the monastery of Bellelay over 800 years ago. The cheese was made from cow’s milk “of impeccable quality from the best grasses and herbs of the country,” according to a 1628 description, and was considered so valuable that it was frequently used as currency. Today, Tête de Moine is produced by just eight dairies using milk exclusively from the mountainous areas of Switzerland’s Jura region and the French-speaking parts of Bern. The name translates to “monk’s head,” which the wheel begins to resemble as cheesy petals are pared from the top.
Acclaimed California-based chef Aaron Grosskopf, a long-time lover and twirler of Tête de Moine, has developed several creative recipes incorporating the cheese that will dazzle guests at your next dinner party or take weeknight family meals to new floral heights. He recently shared his thoughts on why he finds Tête de Moine so tantalizing.
How did you fall for Tête de Moine?
It’s such a delicious cheese, but it’s also a very fun cheese! I’ve been a fan since the first time I saw it. After I graduated from culinary school, I had an externship at Domain Chandon, a French restaurant in the heart of Napa Valley wine country. During training, I remember how protective the chef de partie (“station chef”) was of the wheel, and that created a great respect for the cheese. When she handed me my first taste, I was hooked! The nuttiness and flakiness…it has a great al dente texture. And I was amazed when I saw the flowers being curled. Since I became a private chef, any time I do a cocktail party, it’s always such a cool focal point. You can twirl the cheese in front of people, and it looks so pretty—everyone wants to try it.
Why does the cheese work so well in these recipes?
Tête de Moine is very versatile. It has that nuttiness, but also a deep richness. The nuttiness goes great with salads and potatoes, while the richness can carry something more acidic or flavor-forward. The cheese also really stands up to spice as well.
For the warm fingerling potato salad, you do full curls, bake them on a sheet pan, and they become the perfect chips. When you get down to the end of the wheel, you can stop a little shy and grate it, as I did on the fried egg with frisée and bacon. In the trout dish, the Szechuan curing kind of numbs your tongue a little bit, so the cheese balances it out as a great background flavor. Tête de Moine can be a stronger cheese—it’s got a little funk to it; on the cheese plate, the fermented ramps and fermented green strawberries get that funk, too, so they play into the flavor of the Tête and have that matching earthiness.
So you think Tête de Moine has a place in both home kitchens and fine dining establishments alike?
Absolutely! It’s so beautiful, and delicious. Once you try it, you’re going to like it. And you’re definitely going to have a good time when you’re eating Tête de Moine. Everyone wants to know about it when they see it on a platter or on the girolle. They think it’s for decoration, and then you show them how it works, and they’re all taking photos. It’s definitely worthy of any special occasion, and if you’re a cheese lover, I would add it to your staple of cheeses!
Aaron Grosskopf is a graduate of Napa Valley Cooking School and has over 15 years of restaurant experience in Napa, San Francisco, and New York. He was part of the opening team at Per Se, Thomas Keller’s renowned restaurant in NYC. During the time he worked there, Per Se was awarded four stars by the New York Times and three stars by the Michelin Guide. Currently based in San Francisco, he is the chef at Supercell.