Pecorino Romano Sourced Imagery Feature #1

In Defense Of The After-Dinner Cheese Course

Dessert cheese, don't @ us.

Rarely do great meals end all at once, full-stop. Instead, they trail off, peter out, like an ellipses. Once entrees have been cleared away, opportunities for lingering present themselves without fail: perhaps a digestif, something sweet, one more glass of wine while folks delay to trade anecdotes and candle stumps flicker down into nothing. 

However anticlimactic, there’s a specific tenderness to these moments, well worth drawing out. So, when it comes to the project of prolonging dinner’s epilogue, what better approach than an added course? The perfect mise-en-scène for — you guessed it — dessert cheese. Think: thin slices of sheep’s milk cheese with gooey sections of poached pear, or salty crumbles of Pecorino Romano PDO. “Imagine finishing up a dinner party, everyone’s a little tipsy, the room is dimly lit, and the cheese that’s been tempering on the kitchen counter appears at the table with a bowl of cherries and some squares of dark chocolate,” says Caroline Hesse, cheese monger and owner at beloved Brooklyn shop and wholesaler, C.Hesse Cheese. “Absolute luxury and minimal fuss! That’s the ethos of the dessert cheese course.”


Sure, in the United States we’re far better adjusted to the notion of cheese as a meal’s preamble — appetizers on which we ill-advisedly stuff ourselves prior to the dawn of a meal, itself. And surely, we can’t be blamed. Exercising restraint around something so pointedly savory and decadent as cheese is a near-impossible endeavor. But across the globe, a cheese course — say, Pecorino Romano PDO with roasted fig compote — as the final addendum to a meal is typical. But regardless of the variety in question, the after-dinner cheese course will sate any lingering post-meal hunger, help balance out our palates, allow us to enjoy flavor without falling prey to the “tide me over” appetizer trap.

“There's something so luxurious about finishing a meal with cheese. It says, I'm not ready to put an end to the savoring, indulging and languishing over a meal,” says Caroline Schiff, Executive Pastry Chef at sought-after Brooklyn steakhouse, Gage & Tollner. “A cheese course also puts the cheese on a pedestal, so to speak. It becomes the main event and not just an ingredient; something to pay attention to. For a long time we didn’t really celebrate cheese that way in this country.” That said, fortunately, chefs like Schiff are here to re-invigorate our domestic affection for fromage, as well.

“We have a fantastic pastry chef, and a beautiful dessert menu — but sometimes you just want to linger over a few wedges of cheese with what’s left of some beautiful Barolo or Burgundy in your glass,” adds Steven Satterfield, the head chef at Atlanta’s much-celebrated fine dining spot, Miller Union. “It’s such a nice way of stretching out your meal.” 


As Satterfield sees it, semi-soft goat cheeses will pair beautifully with fruit compote — especially when they’re crusted in a layer of something complex and loud like ash. Cow’s milk cheese will play brilliantly alongside sour cherries and otherwise dried fruits — and on the other end of the spectrum, aged firm sheep’s milk cheeses of the Pecorino Romano PDO variety can make for perfect post-dinner treats. “Cheeses like Pecorino Romano PDO are a bit nutty and sharp, which can be wonderful at the end of a meal — especially paired with good sugar-roasted nuts, and some dried fruit like fig, prune, good quality raisins, or dried currants plumped in a little brandy,” he explains.

For Hesse, too, an after-dinner cheese course gives room for experimenting with creative pairing options. “Since cheese, by nature, will have a salinity to it, you don’t have to worry about pairings being cloying,” she says. Think: salted caramel with goat’s milk cheese, or chocolate chip cookies with Maldon salt and brie. “Pecorino Romano PDO is incredible with honey, there’s a great one I carry that has a high fat and moisture content, so the acidity is balanced, making it excellent for cheese plates. Maybe throw a sweeter citrus fruit on there for a pop of color?”

Hesse also recommends utilizing an after-dinner dessert course as an excuse to have some fun with wine selection. If you typically lean towards dry, mineral-forward, acidic wines, consider trying an off-dry bottle, without going full dessert wine, to counterbalance some of the savory, high-fat flavor of the cheese.


Of course, that’s not to imply that a cheese course precludes you from enjoying more traditional, capital-S Sweet desserts. Per Neelam Varia, pastry chef at Manhattan’s much-lauded Frenchette, a cheese course before dessert is a worthwhile move. “Cheese is never an afterthought for chefs — rather, it’s a component of a very thoughtfully curated menu,” she explains.  “And I am of the strong opinion that cheese is never to be utilized instead of dessert, but rather, as a wonderful bridge between savory and sweet.”

As Varia puts it, cheese in this particular context operates like a transitional phrase, a semicolon between courses. Much like good writing, good music, good conversation, segues are important as you move from one concept to the next. And a bit of most-meal fromage surely has the power to do that, rather poetically. 

“I have a cheese in the warehouse right now that's a triple creme with just a hint of apple brandy in it, which lends it some sweetness,” Hesse muses. “The cheese is incredibly rich on top of that, and I feel like its place in the sun is between the last bite of pork chop and the first cigarette once you’ve settled your bill and spilled onto the sidewalk.” 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or of the granting authority. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.


For further dessert cheese inspo, check out the Pecorino Romano PDO Instagram account:

Or, check out this recipe for tasty sweet Pecorino Romano PDO cheese dumplings from Owen L’Aquila (a twist on the traditional Sardinian dessert “Seadas”):


Fresh Chinese Dumpling Wrappers (Shanghai Style)

Pecorino Romano PDO- ½ pound (small diced)

Pecorino Romano PDO - 1 Tbl spoon (crumbled)

Flour - 1 Tbl Spoon

Honey - 1 cup

Pine Nuts - ½ cup (roasted)


  1. Heat Pecorino Romano PDO on low heat in a sauce pot until it begins to melt, stir in the flour, and let it melt fully.
  2. Place the “dough” onto a parchment paper covered tray, allow it to cool.
  3. Knead dough until smooth and portion it into small balls about 1 inch wide.
  4. Wrap the dough balls in dumpling wrappers, you can close in a semi-circle shape or fold the edges to make a dumpling shape, then cover and refrigerate.
  5. Heat canola oil in a pot to 350*F and fry the dumplings in the hot oil until golden and crispy.
  6. Toss the dumpling with salt, Pecorino Romano PDO crumbles and pine nuts.
  7. Garnish with honey and enjoy!

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