Cheese for Dessert? The Europeans have served it for years. Along with some fresh or preserved fruits, or a dessert wine, any fine cheese can be turned into a dessert course. And any cheese course can be greatly enhanced with a discovery we made at Trader Joe’s, of all places. There we found the secret of our successful cheese tray: Almondina Biscuits.
In her kitchens in Europe and Israel, Dina Zaliouk, zealously guarded the recipe for her crisp almond cookies which has some kinship with Italian biscotti but are sliced thinner. Dina called her cookies “Petit Gateau Sec” or “little dry cakes”, a description which hardly does justice to these exquisitely crunchy wafers imbued with roasted almonds, raisins and vanilla. Well that was the first of her offerings. Once she finally shared her recipe with her daughter and grandson, a world of Almondina biscuits took shape in Maumee, Ohio. There are now 9 varieties, all distinctly different but all packed with the roasted Almonds that made the original a family favorite for years.
Dina’s grandson, Yuval Zaliouk is one fascinating man. In addition to his family biscuit business, Zaliouk, is an internationally known symphony conductor. His career took him from London to Haifa to Paris and Edmonton, Alberta before his triumphant return to Toledo, Ohio where he was the Music Director and Conductor of the Toledo Symphony. It was only after a successful career as a maestro that Yuval turned to his other passion: cooking. He realized that his grandmother’s biscuit fell squarely into the “healthy yet delicious” segment of the food market.
Starting baking in his own kitchen, Yuval soon was creating a cookie available in all 50 states and seven other countries. Small wonder, Zaliouk was just this past June inducted into the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Hall of Fame. He greeted the news of his induction with the following words: “I am honored and humbled to be included with the Who’s Who of the food industry and those who have fed the world with great taste, high quality and flair”. He added ”To think that my additional career would not only honor my grandmother, but my whole family, is beyond my wildest dreams.” And he vowed to continue Almondina’s mission: To put a delicious healthful cookie on everyone’s table.
With 9 varieties to choose from, we selected several that paired with our preferred cheeses. Three different varieties of cheese are enough—no matter how large the crowd. Your goal is to highlight the cheese not to overwhelm your guests. Similarly, two or three accompaniments are plenty. We like the intensity of flavor in dried fruits like figs, apricots and dried cherries. Fresh figs, dates, apples, pears and grapes are wonderful paired with cheese. Nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts and toasted pecans bring an earthy quality to cheese platters. Honey will turn virtually any cheese into dessert. But please, always serve cheese at room temperature.
Some dessert wines to consider dipping your Almondina biscuit into include Moscatos, Gewurtzraminer and Sauternes. And a little glass of sherry is a natural with both biscuit and cheese.
As to the cheeses themselves, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese is a natural. Goat cheese is lower in fat than most cheese and goat cheese serves as a great partner with other flavors so you can layer on whatever condiments you choose without concern about whether they’ll work together. And don’t underestimate the power of Blue Cheese which creates a wonderful counterpoint to sweet preserves particularly. Reblochon, which is slightly funky it has a sweet, milky creaminess that is particularly appealing when served with almonds or Almondina. Triple Cremes like Brillat Savarin and Brie, manage to be both rich and light at the same time. And you might want to try Fresh Ricotta which is wonderful with any fruit compote.
If you are in search of Almondina biscuits, their website has a feature that lets you find them in your zip code or nearby. That’s how this writer discovered they were right down the street and not just at Trader Joe’s Here is the link: https://almondina.com/sl2