Although cheese is technically a perishable item, firm and semi-firm varieties are quite suitable for shipping by mail. Many top-notch cheese vendors will ship a selection of gourmet cheeses for you, either as a one-time gift or as part of a repeating club membership. There are also a variety of attractive cheese accessories that make for a memorable gift from far away.
Cheese clubs offer a monthly delivery of artisan cheeses to your gift recipient. Zingerman's offers a three-month club with each month focusing on a different country--Spain, Italy and France. Cowgirl Creamery offers three-, six- and 12-month "cheese of the month club" packages with a variety of cheese selections from around the world.
If you'd prefer to give a one-time gift, there are dozens of gourmet vendors willing to ship an artisan cheese basket to your chosen recipient. Choose a "cheese passport" from Zingerman's, showcasing various countries and styles of cheese, including "mountain cheeses" and goat cheeses. Cowgirl Creamery offers a gift package highlighting the best of California artisan cheese. Fromagination offers a similar gift package of Wisconsin cheeses.
One Big Cheese
Rather than a sample pack of several different cheeses, you can offer one large piece of one excellent cheese, perhaps with bread, crackers, charcuterie or fruit preserves as an accompaniment. A large wedge of authentic parmesan, a block of aged cheddar or a whole wheel of bleu makes for a dramatic gift.
You can also send a cheese serving board as a gift. Slate is a popular choice, as is olivewood. These serving pieces are both practical and elegant choices for any cheese lover.
Many vendors offer sets of cheese knives for gifting purposes, containing two to five blades designed specifically for cutting and serving different types of cheese. Knife sets range from plain and utilitarian to sets adorned with mother-of-pearl handles. Get a set that includes at least one knife for soft cheese--usually a perforated blade--and one knife for hard cheese, often wedge-shaped.
Make Your Own Cheese Kit
Some cheeses are surprisingly easy to make at home. If your gift recipient is the do-it-yourself kind, a homemade cheese kit may be the ticket. Zingerman's offers a reasonably-priced home cheese-making kit that will allow your recipient to craft his own handmade ricotta or mozzarella with only a little effort.
For the literary cheese lover in your life, consider a book selection as a gift. Clark Wolf's "American Cheeses" offers a tour of the burgeoning domestic cheese scene. Gordon Edgar's "Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge" is an unusual memoir of an "accidental" cheese professional and his democratic attitudes toward cheese appreciation. For a more whimsical choice, find a recipe book dedicated solely to macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese sandwiches--there are several in print to choose from.
- cheese plate image by Diane Stamatelatos from Fotolia.com