A married couple I know (their identity is protected) once turned up to a 1960s fondue party in matching purple caftans! Now I’m not suggesting you go to that retro extreme, but Kiwis are definitely now reviving fondue parties, which were mega trendy in the 1960s and 70s. And it is such an easy and relaxed way to entertain during the chilly months.

Guests sit around dipping bread or vegetables into a communal pot (or two or three) of creamy melted cheese fondue. It can be very messy but is great fun and for keen ‘op shoppers’ like me,  wonderful (usually in a garish orange hue) fondue sets are often selling with very affordable price tags. Of course, Food International has a huge line-up of cheeses to fit the fondue format.

Fondue originated in Switzerland and so the cheeses most commonly used to make it are Swiss – such as Emmental and Gruyère. Raclette and Gouda also work well in fondues and there are many other possible combinations of cheeses and recipes available.

By now, you will have noticed the switch in restaurants and cafes menus throughout New Zealand to serious winter food – steaming soups as starters, more substantial mains and hot desserts. Your home cooking will have changed now too and with the cooler temperatures, your repertoire will include more warming and hearty dishes.

Think grilled cheese bubbling on hot toast, French Onion soup with a huge chunk of baguette lathered in cheese, a Monsieur Croque sandwich using the best quality tasty cheese, wholegrain mustard, shaved ham and sourdough bread, our famous “Southern Sushi” (Mainland cheese rolls) or good old Macaroni Cheese… While the uses of your selection of Food International cheeses might be different from those on balmy summer days, they are an essential part of a varied winter diet.

Food International is also importing some sensational cheeses from Somerdale International, one of the largest UK exporters of very high-quality English and Irish cheeses.

Look out for these three names in particular for hearty winter eating:

El Truffelino Cheddar:
This really has to be tried to be believed. Somerdale Il Truffelino is a premium cheese combining the creamy texture of classic English cheddar with the complex and luxuriant flavour of Black Summer Truffle. Il Truffelino is suitable for vegetarians and does not contain Gluten.

Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar:
Aged for at least 24 months, Vintage Reserve has a creamy texture and smooth finish, containing naturally occurring crystals that give it a distinctive crunch. Refined sweet notes balance out its tangy sharpness. The Barber family has been making cheddar since 1833, which makes them the oldest surviving cheddar-makers in the World!

A New Irish Addition –  Claddagh Bó:
Claddagh Bó is a handcrafted Irish aged Cheddar made in County Limerick using milk from grass-fed cows. The name comes from two traditional Gaelic terms. The design of the ‘Claddagh ring’ is said to symbolise the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown), while Bó is Gaelic for Cow and its partnership in nature. Claddagh Bó’s Irish provenance is complemented by its stunning hand waxed packaging in the colours of the Irish tricolour.

YOLO also has some exciting new flavours including Gouda with Lime and Chilli and another Gouda with Truffles. Both are excellent and I’ve heard the latter described as “orgasmic.” How can we argue with that?

Keep warm, healthy and happy,