So yes. Cheese. I like cheese. You like cheese. So, today we talk about cheese.
This fall we went (as we often do) to Vermont to getaway into billboards-are-illegal, mountains-are-cool land and we decided to make it a tasting tour. Vermont has a fabulous world of small farmers, locally produced goods and excellent craftsmanship. Of course, Vermont is specifically known for its dairy energy.
There are few other states besides perhaps Wisconsin that can give it a run for its money in the world of bovine-centricness. I'm all about it. It means that Vermont, is a great place to eat cheese.
You've read before how I feel about food. Suffice it to say that I like it. A lot...and handily I'm married to a man who is similarly inclined. We love the pleasure that procuring, preparing and consuming food can give us and we love the adventure that can be involved. Sometimes its the crazy lengths we'll go to to get a cluster of oyster mushrooms down out of our neighbors trees but sometimes its the raw novelty of trying something reportedly fabulous that has never crossed our lips. Cheese, for us, is a great place to look for culinary adventure.
Heaven knows how many cheeses there are out there and we haven't tasted even a quarter of them yet! Hooray for unexplored worlds!
So, this fall when we went to Vermont, mid-stride through our food-tour I (iPhone in hand) started looking up cheese...and in particular looking for recommended cheeses that we ought to try...the kind of life-changing edibles that you have to seek out.
What I ended up with is what I now call affectionately, The Great Cheese List. I am keeping notes on what we've had and how we felt about the experience and slowly compiling my own private ultimate, favorites list. I keep it in my email so that I pull it up quickly at a moments notice, should we find ourselves unexpectedly blinking into the cheese display at a wonderful grocery. Heh. Don't laugh. Its happened.
This weekend we plan to have the first of what we hope will be a series of cheese focused gatherings at our house...we've asked a couple friends to bring their favorite rindy, bloomy, creamy, slice-able cheeses and we're going to go pick some off our list and hopefully, we'll have a new round of excellt favorites to add to the mother list.
In case you're curious...here's the dish:
- Auricchio Sharp Provolone
- Beecher's Flagship
- Berkswell (from Neil's Yard)
- Besace du Berger
- Boursin's sweet cheese w/ guava, raisin and nuts
- Brie de Meaux
- Brin d'Amour
- Camembert Chatelain
- Campo de Montalban
- Carpicho de Cabra (the goat version)
- Chevre Noir
- Clisson (Tome d'Arquitaine)
- Crottins de Chevre (let it get warm)
- Cypress Grove Midnight Moon
- Fontina Val d'Aosta
- Fourme d'Ambert
- French Sheeps Milk Feta (double creme)
- Gratte Paille Double Creme (Lauren Bacall's favorite)
- Hubbarston Blue Goat
- Jasper Hill Farm Constant Bliss
- Le Papillon Roquefort (black foil, not green)
- Maytag Blue
- McAdam Triple Cream cheddar
- Mignergon de Charlevoix
- Mont Enebro
- Morbier: We weren't terribly impressed with this one. Its quite mild and not unpleasant just not impressive. Admittedly, we tried it with some rather robust partners so we may give it another go in a different setting. We heard that if we liked Gruyere we had to try Morbier, but the tastes seem unrelated to me. Puzzling.
- Neal's Yard Ardahan
- Ossau Iraty
- Parrano Robusto (maybe the same as above?)
- Pecorino Foglia Noce
- Petite Basque
- Pierce Pt. (from Cowgirl Creamery)
- Pierre Robert
- Pleasant Ridge Reserve
- Queso de la Serena
- Red Cloud
- Red Square
- Roaring Forties: A blue I like! A wonderful, nutty cheese with lots of pleasant zing and a sweet background flavor. I can't say I roundly dislike blue cheese anymore.
- Romano Aged Gouda (from Holland): Whew! This stuff is so strong! Its good but a little stronger than something we would like to eat all the time. Kind of a novelty to try...totally different from "gouda."
- Roquefort Carles
- Sally Jackson Sheep Milk Cheese
- Selles sur Cher
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier
- Spanish Cabrales
- St. Andre
- St. Marcellin: Amazing! Totally melty with a tender rind that is almost like a crust over the pourable insides. Full of high flavor...so wonderful! A favorite for sure. Am kicking myself because we missed it when we were in Lyon. Its the signature cheese of the region and ubiquitous there, apparently. It comes in a little earthenware crock because it is too melty to stand alone.
- St. Nectaire
- Tipo Cabrales
- Turma Persa
- Vacherin du Mont d'Or
- Valdeon: A liked it. Too strong for me. Kind of an electric, zappy blue, presented wrapped in chestnut leaves.
- Vermont Coupole
My Current Favorites:
Appenzeller: (We like black label best, which is the strongest!) A firm, emminantly slicable cheese that is excellent with apple wedges. Perfectly sweet, sharp, fragrant, tangy, quite nutty. Like a Gruyere with its grown-up socks on! A flagship Swiss cheese we met when we finally strolled The Alps together, my childhood dream.
La Tur: A mixed milk cheese from sheep, cow and goat milk. A fabulously creamy smooth texture with a lovely complex flavor. Hints of tang, round flavors, wafts of mushroom, positively mind blowing. So good with honey and almonds. My cousin Drake introduced us to this cheese when we had dinner under his tutelage in Santa Barbara. You can read all about it in this post here!
Burrata: A cheese that I think I maybe heard about on NPR or else found in a book. I can't recall. We tracked it down in Zabar's in NYC. You can find anything in Zabar's. Burrata is creamy and smooth with a little smooth elasticity. It comes wrapped in a pouch of green leaves and is hard to obtain because it expires with such speed. It must be perfectly fresh. The live leaves its wrapped in are a marker of its freshness...if the leaves are still perky then the cheese is still good. I have found some versions sold in fake leaves but they are not nearly as good. The cheese itself is very like a soft fresh mozzarella, but has a hollow center that is essentially filled with a mixture of soft bits of the cheese and cream. I slice it in wedges and eat on thin bread, drizzled with honey.
Beltane Farms Chevre: I like to buy this cheese directly from the farmer because I like it young, young, young. Its a tender, moist cheese. Very tangy but with a round sweetness far in the background. I love it eat it spread on ciabatta and topped with basil leaves, olive oil and meaty, fresh tomato slices sprinkled with sea salt
St. Marcellin: So good...creamy, complex, a bit nutty but with a tiny kick, very liquid cheese, great for eating with a spoon. Has a tender rind and comes in a crock to protect it the mooshy little round.
Bonne Bouche: Pronounced bon-boosh. This is a Vermont cheese which is made by the same company that keeps us Americans in quark. Good, good people. Bonne Bouche is wonderfully brightly flavored and creamy, comes from goat milk, has an ash-coated rind and comes in its own little wooden box, to support the tender disk en-route to your car...which is all the further it got when we bought it. Mmmm...