Recipe from Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer in Kingston, N.C. Makes 1 large cheese ball or 2 small ones

¼ cup high-quality blue cheese
⅓ cup (5½ tablespoons) butter
¼ cup fresh goat cheese
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons cream cheese
¼ cup chopped dates (do not buy pre chopped dates)
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (both white and green parts work here)
½ teaspoon hot sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup Salt-and-Butter-Roasted Pecans (recipe below), roughly chopped
1/3 cup crispy bacon, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Take the blue cheese, butter, goat cheese, and cream cheese out of the refrigerator to soften at least 30 minutes before making your cheese-ball mixture.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the ingredients except for the pecans, bacon and parsley. Mix on medium speed until homogenous. It will be loose and sticky. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so. During that time the cheese mix will firm up enough for you to pat it into a sphere with clean hands. Once it's stiff enough to hold up, form two balls. Roll one ball in the pecans, followed by parsley. Roll the second ball in the chopped bacon, followed by parsley.

Cheese balls can be prepared up to a week ahead of time if wrapped and refrigerated.

Let cheese ball sit out at room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with crackers.

Presented by Anissa Shull, Tellico Grains Bakery