Blog Food

Spring Hosting with Cheese Central’s Cindy Della Monica

Are you looking for delicious Mother’s Day brunch ideas that will surely WOW all of the moms in your life? Visit Lodi has you covered! We stopped by Downtown Lodi’s premiere (and only!) purveyor of fine cheeses, Cheese Central, and spoke to owner Cindy Della Monica, who dished all of her favorite recipes for mothers day, Spring, and beyond!

Read below as Cindy lets us enter into her world of Brie, Parmigiano, and Chevre… Oh My!

Spring! May Day… Mother’s Day… weekend days! Fresher, lighter flavors. The sharp acidity of gorgeous lemons add punctuation to a much anticipated Mother’s Day feast, both at after-church breakfast and the late afternoon family dinner. Crisp yet tender texture of Lavender Shortbread, sprinkled before baking with the lemon sugar I put up in January. Fresh lemon zest sparks gremolata that garnishes the season’s asparagus, easy baked mini crab cakes served with bubbly champagne, or garlicky white clam sauce over pasta. 

Even our cheese boards get a lift, steering away from the richer Winter flavors of nutty alpine-styles, crunchy crystalline cheddars and well-aged goudas. Instead, I like to perk up the board with fluffy fresh chevres, especially from Lodi’s own Spenker Farms. Not only do we get to enjoy their freshly-made chevre, but we can visit the nannies and baby goats, too!  Garnish the cheese with a sprinkling of fresh baby dill, the first fresh chives in the garden, and a grinding of pink peppercorns are just the ticket. 

This is also the perfect tray to highlight flower-spiked cheeses from France, or other favorites in California, such as from Harley Farms in Pescadero.  The fresh herbal flavors of savory Couer la Crème (a la Ina Garten), though traditionally a sweet preparation, would send you skipping through the long grass! Another great idea is brie stuffed with smoked salmon and capers, and just warmed briefly in the oven.  

Tender lamb gets special treatment, too. I love to remove the bone from a leg of lamb, butterfly the meat to make a rough rectangle, and give it a gentle pounding to even out the overall thickness. A simple herbal filling of spinach, green onion and garlic, and feta is spread over the meat, rolled up over the filling and tied into a compact roast.  A wine, olive oil and herbal marinade overnight has this roast ready for the outdoor grill, resulting in juicy pink and green spiral slices with just a touch of smokiness.  Ahhh, Spring…

Join me as I come out of “hibernation.” Celebrate Spring!

Below you will find some of Cindy’s favorite recipes for Spring entertaining, perfect for Mother’s day brunch and Spring get-togethers!


Choose an air-tight container of any size. Using a potato peeler, strip the yellow zest of a lemon and stir the pieces into one cup of sugar. Seal the sugar/zest mixture in the air-tight container. Let stand for at least two weeks before using. The oils in the zest will flavor the sugar, which now can be used for tea or baking. Sprinkle over Lavender Shortbread or classic Sugar Cookies before baking for a crisp and shiny finish.  Leave the zest in the sugar as it will not spoil. A simple, wonderful gift from your kitchen!


8 oz cream cheese, room temp

1 C shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided

1 large egg

1/4 C sour cream

1 t orange zest

1/2 t lemon zest

4 t plus 4 T chopped fresh chives, divided

1/4 t coarse kosher salt

large pinch cayenne pepper

6 oz fresh lump crab meat, picked over, patted dry, coarsely shredded

1½ C panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

½ C butter, melted

fresh chives, finely minced

Beat cream cheese in medium bowl until smooth.  Add 1/4 C shredded cheese and egg; blending well.  Beat in sour cream, citrus zest, 4 teaspoons chopped chives, coarse salt and cayenne pepper. Fold in crabmeat. (This can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Spray mini muffin pan with nonstick spray.  Toss together panko, 3/4 cup shredded cheese and 4 T chopped chives in a bowl.  Drizzle with melted butter, tossing with a fork until evenly moistened. Press one rounded tablespoon of panko mixture into bottom of each muffin cup (making a well with your thumb), forming crust. Spoon a tablespoon of crab mixture into each cup. Sprinkle more panko mixture over each.

Bake crab cakes in a 350* oven until golden on top and set, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Gently lift each crab cake out of the pan with a fork onto a serving platter. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Arrange on baking sheet, let stand at room temperature. Rewarm in a 350* oven for 5-6 minutes to serve.)   Arrange crab cakes on a serving platter; sprinkle with chives.


Assemble this appetizer up to 24 hours ahead; cover and refrigerate.

8 oz single crème Brie cheese

4 slices salmon lox

1-2 t capers

2 t finely minced shallot

1-2 t minced dill or chives

Grated zest of one lemon

2 slices salmon lox, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350*. Cut cheese in half horizontally. Place 4 slices of lox on bottom half of the cheese.  Sprinkle with half of the capers, all of the shallot, half of the dill or chives, and all of the lemon zest, and replace top half.  Using the remaining slices of lox, form a “rose” for garnishing the baked cheese when it comes out of the oven.  Set aside.

Place filled Brie on oven safe serving dish.  Bake, uncovered, for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is soft and partially melted.  Sprinkle with remaining capers and dill or chives. Garnish with the lox “rose” and serve with crackers. 

Whether you are planning to make these delicious recipes, complements of Cindy, for Mother’s day and into Spring, be sure to make Cheese Central a stop in your Lodi itinerary! There, Cindy and here wonderful cheese mongers behind the counter will guide you on a sensory journey of the finest cheeses around the world. And what’s even better? She offers gift cards and culinary classes that make a wonderful gift for the mother in your life. Cheers!