You don't typically think of cheese as a viable present. Cheese is perishable, and most come in large wheels. If they're among the class of small-format cheeses, they tend to be soft and delicate, like little goat cheeses or gooey triple cremes.
But Epoisses comes contained in its wooden box, wrapped in plastic (unless the cheese store takes it off), and if you don't truly have to worry about its refrigeration for quite some time. It can easily stay out for at least 8 hours. Even better that way, if the recipient wants to eat some at the hour of opening.
The stats: Epoisses is a Burgundian washed-rind cheese that comes in an 8-ounce puck. In the States, we can only find it made from pasteurized cow milk, but originally, it's made with raw milk. Berthaudt is the most commonly-carried producer, and it's a terribly reliable one. I've eaten a lot of Bertaudt Epoisses, and it's consistently superb. Even when it's less ripe, it'll ooze and run from beneath the rind. The texture seems nearly melty. Unctuousness in cheese form.
The first time I had Epoisses, the manager of the cheese shop where I'd just begun working told me it was the best cheese to take home to California for the holidays. And she was right: it's totally transportable, and it looks impressive, in its little French wooden box.
At its best, Epoisses typifies those sweet-meaty-fermented fruity-eggy-fondue-heavy cream flavors and aromas. It's festive, too, with a burnished orange rind. Presented with a baguette or crackers, it's ready to go, just as long as your gift givee likes to share.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and private chef in New York City.
(Image: Murray's Cheese)