It was the holiday season and Durham, North Carolina, where I lived as a graduate student, was enduring the after effects of an ice storm. A friend asked me if I might be willing to help him clear his yard of some heavy branches that had fallen down during the storm and I agreed; it wasn’t too much work. Later, he said he’d like to take me out for dinner as a thank you and as a holiday gift. It was one of my finest dining experiences at the time. What stands out is the dessert: a light creamy blue cheese transformed into a delicate pudding and surrounded by holiday flavors.