In Search of the Ideal Cheese

Some months ago Perlagrigia told me about a sweet deal available for Ideal Cheese. Of course I signed up, but it’s a bit off my beaten path, so getting there required some careful planning. Suddenly, the expiration of the discount coupon was fast approaching, and that helped me get my cheese-lovin’ tush in gear.

I had actually visited this cheese shop some years ago, long before this blog was but a twinkle in Jarlsberg’s eye. I think I got some rare cheddar then, because I had recently returned from Scotland and was craving a certain Western Isles cheese.

Anyway, on my return visit I was more adventurous. I had perused their virtual shop in advance and made a list of the most appealing cheeses I’d read about. I couldn’t get all of them, but I queried the counter clerk about each and he steered me towards this one and away from that one. I took home six different cheeses in all, which felt like an impressive haul.

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Then, yesterday afternoon and today, Perlagrigia & I feasted upon these beauts on the patio at work. Starting in the lower left is Paski Sir, a sheep milk’s cheese from Croatia. I urge you to read about it, and perhaps you will see why I had to try this one. Also, my conservation teacher in Florence was a Croatian named Nenad (it’s probably the equivalent of Bob, but it sounds exotic to Anglocentric ears). Ultimately, this one didn’t exactly live up to its mythical description, but we didn’t absolutely hate it.

Above Paski Sir is Testun al Barolo, an Italian cheese made from a blend of cow and sheep’s milks. When it’s ripening, its exterior is surrounded by smushed Nebbiolo grapes, which are the same ones used to create the celebrated Barolo wine, thus it acquires a burgundy-dyed rind. We liked this one a lot, even though it wasn’t that boozy, more fruity.

I had a couple of different truffle-infused cheeses on my list, but I decided to try the Truffle Gouda this time. It did not disappoint.

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On day two, we tried the Ubriaco al Prosecco, which translates to drunk on prosecco–yep, that can happen very quickly and easily! Like the Testun al Barolo, the rind is coated with the Prosecco grape skins imparting an “intense and delicate scent, with a fragrant and fresh flavor”. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Above the drunken cheese is Jersey Girl from Autumn Valley Farm, which is actually made in upstate New York. I guess its name comes from Jersey cows? This one was wonderfully creamy.

Finally, there is the Quadrello di Bufala–clearly I was on a kick to try all the Italian cheeses with lyrical names! Described as a buffalo milk taleggio, it was one that I knew we would love and we did.

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But wait, there’s more! Because my opportunities to visit Trader Joe’s are somewhat random, I never can pass by the cheese section when I’m there. On my most recent visit, I got an old favorite, Italian Truffle, which makes fantastic grilled cheeses. I also tried a new one, Formaggio Lagorai, which hails from Trentino, a region of das Boot near and dear to my cuore. Not only was its origin appealing, but this one is going on my top 10 list. It’s rather delicate, but quite tasty. After being a Spotlight Cheese, I think it has become popular enough to be a regular on their shelves, so I urge you to check it out for yourself.

Now, I know you’re wondering, who wins out of the eight we sampled over a few days?? Well, I’m not sure we can declare a sole winner. Paski Sir was the only real miss, I’d say. The others were all intriguing in their individual ways and I expect I would try them again, but first I need another coupon to materialize!

Down in The Cellar

I’ve been wanting to go down into The Cellar, the basement of Beecher’s NYC shop, ever since I discovered it on a walk several months ago. I thought Jarlsberg & I might check it out when she was here last May, but we ran out of time. 😦

Thankfully, Hamakua was in the city for a conference and she was totally into visiting Beecher’s. She was, in fact, the person responsible for introducing me to my original favorite cheese restaurant, Artisanal.

ctmy125-hipster-lighting-cheese-makingOn the first floor, there is a glass-walled room where you can see folks making Beecher’s flagship cheese.

ctmy124-cheesy-decorThere are wacky paintings on the walls in the cellar featuring the animals that make the milk that becomes cheese.

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Right behind us was wheel after wheel of cheese being slowly aged in the cellar.

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There was a happy hour special going on when we arrived, so our first cheese plate featured some stock choices. They were good, but I didn’t take careful enough notes about what they were–sorry!

Our afternoon reunion underground ran on, but Hamakua and I were quite happy to order more cheese! We got Humboldt Fog from California that we knew we liked and then I proposed Pleasant Ridge Reserve, made in Wisconsin, which is where Hamakua’s mother lives and also, it’s the Cheese State!

We were washing everything down with some delicious drinks that happened to be the happy hour special. I think we might have had 3 a piece . . . thus not the greatest notes exist on our afternoon! But in the name of cheese, I happily volunteer to go back and do more turophilic research. Who’ll join me?

St-Albert’s Sampler & More

I have returned from my roadtrip through the Adirondacks, across the Canadian border, and behold the terrific turophilic souvenirs I brought back with me!

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This is the St-Albert‘s sampler featuring so many different varieties of their homemade cheese. I loved all of it! Maybe the smoked was my favorite? I’m just always happy when there’s cheese at hand.

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And this was the other thing I figured could travel pretty well. Yeah, it’s processed cheese, but I’m not that much of a snob, except when it comes to that sawdust in a green can. Also, I couldn’t resist the fun packaging and the flavors: bleu, mushroom, and onion. I was spreading them on whatever crackers or bread I had available, sometimes just popping the little cubes whole in my mouth. Delish.

Merci, St-Albert, j’espère retourner bientôt pour une autre visite!

Tea & Cheese? Yes, Please

I had plans in the city this afternoon but before they began I met up with Menage Cheddar at Harney & Sons teahouse in SoHo. We hadn’t been there in ages and I don’t think I’ve ever featured it here on the cheese blog, but I believe it’s where I first tasted Kunik, so it holds a special place in my heart. Also, tea is always a nice accompaniment to cheese. Coffee and cheese–meh. Tea & cheese, yes, please!

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I think this bag, which was on sale in the boutique adjacent to the teahouse, requires no further comment.

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Of course, I got the cheese plate. These days there’s no Kunik (alas!), but from the left, we have the Coach Farm triple cream, the Tomme de Savoie, and two triangular slabs of the Harpersfield tea cheese, made with Harney’s own Lapsang Souchong! They also make another tea, well tisane, cheese with the Raspberry Herbal blend, but in the past, I have found this one too sweet, so I always ask for more of the robust L.S. variety. I usually get a pot of the smoky Russian Country to go along.

I enthusiastically inhaled everything before me. Menage stayed busy with her usual order of sweet scones. Her taste runs to the more delicate, though she bravely had a taste of my sampler. All in all, it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon on a steamy September day in the city. I expect we’ll be back.

Maple Leaf Cheese

I was on a little roadtrip in upstate New York and when I took a second glance at the map, I realized I wasn’t that far from the Canadian border. I didn’t have my passport with me, but I took a chance and they let me in! First, I briefly visited a nature preserve in Quebec and then after dipping back into the States, I crossed again into Ontario. It was still the part of the province where French speaking is not uncommon.

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I had read about a cheese restaurant called St-Albert and knew it was a must-visit for this turophile. I drove through lots of farm land and eventually found the cheese mecca in the middle of seeming nowhere. I got a sandwich made with their homemade cheese, carmelized onions, and apples. And it came with a side order of poutine!

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If you didn’t know, poutine is a crazy Canadian invention where french fries are tossed with squeaky cheese curds and then gravy is poured atop. It’s admittedly a bit disgusting, and yet absolutely delicious!

Attached to the restaurant is a shop overflowing with cheese-related products. I probably spent an hour in there trying to decide what to take home with me. Stay tuned to future posts for the revelation…