The World’s Best Cheese comes from a little place called…Norway!

Yep, you read that correctly. The World Cheese Awards were held in Spain in mid-November, and a farmhouse blue cheese from a little farm on the west coast of Norway took home the grand prize.

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The cheese wunderkind is called Kraftkar. It’s a blue cheese made from fresh cow’s milk with a little added cream. The cream seems to be what really separates this cheese from other blue cheeses. It’s not as crumbly as some of the blues we’re used to, and did we mention creamy? Oh my! This cheese also hits all the blue notes that are required – deliciously salty, earthy and well, creamy!

Kraftkar was sold out for a few days after the winning announcement, but I was happy to finally find it at one of my local cheese shops. I also remembered that Stilton and I had eaten this cheese during her visit in 2015! We know a good thing when we taste it.

If you’re in Norway now or planning a future visit, make tasting this delectable local cheese a priority! It can be found at both Flâneur Food and Fromagerie in Oslo.

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Did someone say truffle?

I owe my love of all things truffle to Stilton. I can’t put my finger on exactly when she introduced me to truffles and their oil, but for the past 5 years at least, I can’t pass up truffle fries or a pizza with truffle oil on it. Recently I was on the hunt for a Dutch cheese, but when I spotted this Brie with bits of truffle in it, my decision was made.                                                                                      

Brie on side

If you love cheese, then you have surely tasted Brie: a cow’s milk cheese named after the region in France where it was originally created. Its satisfying texture and mild taste make it a very go-to cheese for any plate or picnic. It’s important to eat Brie (and all cheeses!) at room temperature – the flavor will be much more potent and who doesn’t want that just slightly gooey goodness introducing itself to all of your tastebuds?

Photo Apr 23, 16 06 32This truffle brie was very good (from my neighborhood Fromagerie), with the truffle flavor being very subtle. Looking back at my pictures and researching other Bries online, I think the middle layer might have been truffles mixed with mascarpone, but I didn’t notice that while eating it. A cheese well-worth trying! Next time I’m planning on pairing it with something sparkly (drink-wise) and seeing where things go from there.

 

 

Just add Comté: A recipe

It’s easy for me to get stuck in a how-I-eat-my-cheese-rut. Meaning, I usually slice or cut my cheese into small bites and just eat it with crackers, bread, a pear or by itself. It sometimes never crosses my mind to include the cheese in a recipe. So when I spotted a sandwich on the menu of a local bakery that included my beloved Comté, it was a revelation to consider that a sandwich could be graced by this cheese’s presence. I quickly read through the sandwich’s ingredients, realized I had most of them in my fridge, then grabbed a chunk of Comté on my way home. A few minutes of preparation later, I was digging into this delectable sammy. Can I also say what a joy a cheese slicer is? Norwegians always have one on hand to slice their brown cheese thin, but using it on harder, savory cheeses is a beautiful thing, especially for sandwiches. It’s officially on my list of must-have kitchen tools.

This sandwich would be very easy to make vegetarian friendly, or if you’re not a pesto fan, spicy mustard would also be very tasty (oooh, and then you could add pickles!). So the next time you have a visit from Comté, invite it to come on over to your sandwich and let me know what you think!

Out of my rut Comté sandwich:
Serves 1 (or 2 if you feel like sharing)
1 Small Baguette (or any thick bread of your choice)
1 Tablespoon Green Pesto
2 Leaves Romaine Lettuce
2 slices Prosciutto
Few slices Red Onion
Thinly sliced Comté (how many slices is up to you!)

Spread 1/2 tbsp pesto on each side of bread, layer with lettuce, prosciutto, red onions and Comté, put the sandwich together, enjoy!

Comte sammy

 

Let’s talk about Comté

How have we been talking about cheese for almost one year without mentioning Comté? It has definitely been eaten in the last year, so let’s remedy that absence today. Comté first appeared on my radar in 2010 while living in Paris. A food blogger I love mentioned a 30-month aged Comté that he had picked up on rue Montorgueil. My curiosity piqued, I ran out the following Saturday, bought a chunk and brought it back to my little apartment in the 20th (of course picking up a crusty baguette on the walk home. Sigh…) From that night on, I have been very loyal to Comté – it’s my cheese-y boyfriend, my comfort snack, the cheese I eat on repeat.

Comte 1

Comté is produced in the Jura Massif region of Eastern France using unpasteurized cow’s milk. It is matured to perfection in caves where something magical happens in the silence and darkness to give it its nutty, buttery flavor and (usually) silky texture. It is ripened for a minimum of 4 months up to 30 months. My local cheese shop sells 15 month-aged chunks, so I have a feeling the 30-month aged is rare and perhaps sold only in France. I could be very wrong about that, so on your next Comté shopping trip, look for the old stuff!

Comté is a very nice cheese on its own, but it also pairs beautifully with a variety of wines, fruits and other delectable things that I will soon be sharing in this very space. Stay tuned!

Take another little piece of my heart-shaped goat cheese

One of the wonderful benefits of having a cheese blog is that people enthusiastically recommend cheeses, or better yet, BRING you cheese! Such is the case with today’s cheese, a goat’s milk cheese from a small farm in northern Norway. Aalan Gård (Aalan Farm) was founded in 1951 in the amazing-on-the-eyes Lofoten Islands. The farm makes 8 different cheeses and is home to over 200 goats that are milked twice a day. If you make a visit to the farm, you can even try your hand at milking a goat!

My fellow cheese-loving friend Carolyn discovered Himmeltind on a Hurtigruten journey to Lofoten. She liked it so much, she kindly brought back a chunk for me to try. A lovely red-wax covered, heart-shaped chunk at that!

Himmeltind

Himmeltind is semi-soft and has a short ripening period, so it has a very mild flavor as goat’s cheeses go. I personally loved the lack of tartness and smooth texture. It’s still a crumbly cheese, but doesn’t fall apart like other goat cheeses I’m used to. As the farm’s webpage mentions, this cheese is good as a cracker/bread/salad topping, or you can even cook with it. I’m envisioning a Himmeltind grilled-cheese in my future…maybe with some fig or apricot jam?

However I eat it, I’m so happy to know about this beautiful cheese from my new homeland. A big thank you to Carolyn for this cheese discovery!

Himmeltind 2

Taleggio and Rosé: a pairing

I first heard about (and tasted) Taleggio at a cheese and beer pairing class at Central Market in Dallas back in 2011. The combination was a home-run for my taste buds – I actually have no idea what other cheeses I tasted that night. Somewhere in my yet-to-be-shipped boxes for Oslo is the list of everything we paired in class, so instead of taking a chance on the wrong beer for my recently purchased Taleggio, I decided to pair it with a Rosé which I had sitting in my fridge. It turned out to be a really wonderful pairing!

Made in the northern Valsassina foothills of Italy since the 9th century, Taleggio is a mild, semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that has a fruity tang, which might come as a surprise since its rind is so pungent. How does that rind get so stinky, you ask? Well, to quote Murray’s delicious sounding description:  the cheese is “washed with a brine to foster a sticky, orange edible rind while air pumped from the original caves causes a dappling of soft and earthy tasting grey mold.” A dappling of soft and earthy tasting grey mold? Has cheese ever sounded so poetic? I’ll take two, please!

I had a very happy belly after my spontaneous pairing, and I can only hope that you will too if you decide to try Taleggio and Rosé. Close your eyes, take a bite…I can see those Valsassina foothills from here, can’t you?

Taleggio and Rose

Époisses Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Époisses grilled cheese

As I mentioned in my previous post, a recipe lead me to wanting to try Époisses, so of course I had to try the recipe for myself! I adjusted the recipe to work with what I had in my pantry and fridge. I read that Époisses worked really well with raisin bread, and we always have some raisin and apricot Muesli bread on hand, so I used that for the bread in my grilled cheese. The original recipe calls for hot pepper jelly, which we didn’t have. I replaced it with the orange marmalade we had in the fridge and added some thai chili to it for an extra kick. Époisses melts like a dream, so this grilled cheese was an ooey-gooey delight, as you can imagine. I’ll definitely be making this again, and might even skip the marmalade; cheese, bread and butter on their own have always been just fine with me.

Époisses Grilled Cheese and Orange Marmalade Sandwiches
(adapted from Vivian Howard)

Serves: 2
Ingredients:

1/4 c pecan halves

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Four 1/2-inch-thick slices of raisin bread (or your bread of choice)

2 Tbsp. Orange Marmalade (I used Marks & Spencer’s Sicilian Orange Marmalade) + 1 tsp. finely chopped thai chili mixed in

1/2 chilled round of Époisses cheese, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Directions:

1. In a heated skillet, toss the pecans with the salt until they start to brown slightly and you can smell the nuttiness – about 2-3 minutes.

2. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Spread 1/4 Tbsp. of the marmalade on the other side of each slice. Put the Époisses on the marmalade side and top with the pecans. Cover each sandwich with another slice of bread, butter side facing out.

3. Heat a skillet over moderate heat. Add the sandwiches and grill for about 4 minutes, cooking them on each side until golden brown and you see the cheese melting. Transfer to a plate, slice diagonally (if that’s your thing), and enjoy!

The King of all Cheeses?

This week’s cheese was inspired by a recipe I read in Food & Wine Magazine earlier this year. The cover photo featured a delectable looking grilled cheese made with Époisses. I don’t remember eating any Époisses during my time in France (oh, the shame!), so I thought it was about time to right that wrong.

epoisses 1

Formally called Époisses de Bourgogne, this soft, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese comes from the town Époisses in the Côte-d’Or region of France. It has a pungent odor, due to its rind being smear-ripened. It is washed in marc de Bourgogne (the local pomace brandy) three times a week, and brushed by hand to spread the bacteria evenly over the surface. The yeast and fermenting agents produce its orange-red color as it develops over a six-week period.

Époisses was quite popular at the turn of the 20th century, almost non-existent after the Second World War, then in 1956 was re-launched by Robert and Simone Berthaut, a pair of small farmers in the area. Their family is still the main manufacturer, as you can see on the circular wooden box that encases each round of this soft, tasty cheese.

Now…for the taste! I tasted mine fresh out of the fridge, so didn’t need a spoon like I had seen in some pictures and how it is served at restaurants. But, I loved it nonetheless. The texture is wonderfully creamy, and the flavor is much milder than (but totally aided by) the smell of the rind. Napoleon was a fan of this cheese and the gastronomist Brillat-Savarin declared it the “king of all cheeses.” I can definitely taste why – I declare Époisses one of my new favorites! What a wonderful gift the Berthaut family gave to France and the rest of the cheese-loving world by saving this cheese. Merci à vous!

epoisses2

In a few days I’ll be posting my take on the Food & Wine grilled cheese recipe – stay tuned!

Old cheese is new cheese to me

I’m currently visiting my in-laws in Northern Norway, where the nearest grocery store is 8 km away and a specialized cheese shop isn’t in high demand. So, I was a little uncertain what cheese I could share with you this week until I saw my mother-in-law reach into the cheese case during our Easter grocery-shopping trip yesterday. She grabbed a small, black-wrapped crescent moon of cheese called Gamalost (“old cheese”) – it’s a semi-soft blue cheese made from skimmed cow’s milk. I’m not sure if this cheese was called “old cheese” when it was first produced – the name now hints at its lack of popularity and production. Gamalost was once a staple of the Norwegian diet mostly because it could (and can) be stored for a long time without refrigeration. Making gamalost is quite laborious, so it is no longer made in large quantities and is rare to find outside of Norway. It is only made in the town of Vik in Southwestern Norway.

gammelost pack

The first look at this cheese was a little off-putting because of the texture. It’s grainy and almost looks like it has been rubbed in bread crumbs. The taste is not bad though – the moldiness really shines through in a good way and I could imagine going back for more of this when I want something a little different from my usual blue cheese. I should also mention that Gamalost really packs a protein punch with a low-fat content. I’m so happy to add one more Norwegian cheese notch to my belt. I encourage you to do the same should you ever find yourself on these shores. Just don’t let the weird texture discourage you from trying it!

Gamalost close up

Waffle and Brown Cheese Friday!

It wouldn’t be right to spend a week with brown cheese and not eat it on a waffle. It’s a favorite Norwegian snack to have alongside afternoon tea or coffee. I’d go so far as to say that Norwegians love waffles with brown cheese as much as they love hot dogs, but that’s a different story for a different blog.

This waffle recipe comes from my mother-in-law, and she added a little touch from her sister-in-law, so it’s got strong Norwegian bones. My husband makes it every Friday for work and I always get a few leftovers at the end of the day. I don’t want to know a week without a Waffle Friday.

Waffle and brunostMamma’s Waffles*

(Metric measurements in parentheses)

Ingredients:
2 eggs
7 tbl sugar (100 ml sugar)
4 tbl melted butter (75 ml melted butter)
2 1/4 c milk (500 ml milk)
7 tbl sour cream (100 ml sour cream or crème fraîche)
2 1/4 c flour (500 ml flour)
2 tbl club soda or sparkling water (30 ml club soda or sparkling water)

Instructions:
Beat the eggs and sugar until creamy then stir in melted butter, milk, and sour cream. Slowly mix in flour until batter begins to thicken. Gently mix in club soda or sparkling water.

Let the batter set for 15-30 minutes before cooking in a waffle maker.

*Just a little note for any readers who are used to firm, thick Belgian-style waffles…this recipe makes very soft waffles. They are more like a pancake with a waffle imprint. But that makes them so much easier to fold over (and therefore portable).

Håper det smaker! (Enjoy!)