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!

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Whey

A while ago I’d heard about the cheese-focused restaurant, Lucy’s Whey, and knew that there was a branch in the general vicinity to where I work in Manhattan on the Upper East Side. Unfortunately, the trip there and back again would mean a rather rushed lunch hour, so I had postponed visiting it. Today was a quiet summer Saturday though, so I asked my pal Menage Cheddar if we could make the journey to it after work. She agreed and we were greeted with this lovely chalk drawing of a farm and its bounty.

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Tonight, there was a happy hour special running which enabled us to try some drinks–Menage got a wine and I a beer–with two cheeses featured on their board of daily specials. Now, I thought I took notes, but they’ve gone missing–doh! So, I’ll try to recall what we had: one of the cheeses was Spanish and had a name that hinted at its Basque origins, i.e. meaning x’s where an Anglocentric brain doesn’t expect them. The other, hmm, I can’t say. I think we liked them both and do recall especially loving that honey with a chunk of the comb still in it. I wanted to buy some, but was told the kitchen had used the last of it on our slate. 😦

ctmy111-happy hour cheese slate

Menage ordered Lucy’s Mac and Cheese made with her last name, Gruyere, & feta, and topped with burnt herbs and breadcrumbs. She inhaled it which is always the mark of something being really good. I got Lucy’s Favorite Grilled Cheese made with Prairie Breeze Cheddar and fig jam. Though I’m not a huge fan of radishes, I was pleased by the peas in the colorful small salad that accompanied the sandwich. I could only finish half and though we looked at their desserts and they seemed amazing, we simply couldn’t bring ourselves to order one. Yeah, we were that stuffed.

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But I expect that we will be back. It’s hard to say if I will be able to resist this wonderful sandwich again or perhaps be tempted by the mac cheese or another dish. I do know I’m going to be more careful next time and take better notes and not.lose.them. And also pace myself more steadily so I can try one of their fabulous desserts. Here’s hoping we find the will to get back to this whey soon!

Un Tour de France, avec Fromage

Bienvenue à Paris! I landed here this morning. Unfortunately, I don’t actually have time to leave the airport before my next flight, but I’m making the most of my brief layover in this country by inhaling some buttery pastries and sampling from this petite basket of fromages fantastiques.

ctmy95-les fromage de CDGWhen I first spied it, how could resist?! And when I opened the cooler in the duty-free shop, the aroma that wafted out let me know that I was in a country that takes its cheese creation and consumption seriously.

While I did not take pictures of each individual portion as I unwrapped them, I did take notes as I sampled each one. Let’s begin with the blue-boxed (Mini) Caprice (des Dieux), which means “whim of the gods”. Isn’t that a heavenly sounding cheese? It was oval in shape, designed to look like the Calisson, a French almond candy. This cheese was a very creamy, like a Brie, but there was no bitter aftertaste that you sometimes get with that famous French fromage.

Next comes the slice of Comté, one of Jarl’s all-time faves. I’ve had this cheese on several occasions before and I like it, I do, so I’m not sure I’ve ever actually bought some, until today. I’ll try to make more of an effort to remember that it is “strong, in the right way” and make more of a habit of tucking it into my basket on future cheese-shopping days.

ctmy96-pave x deuxOn either side of the basket are mini Pavé d’Affinois varieties. The white one is the standard; the other with the orange rind is called Brin. Like the Caprice, I found them both similar to a Brie, though perhaps somewhere between those two on the bitter-sweet scale. The Brin did not taste remarkably different, just slightly so.

Below the blue Caprice box was another packaged slice, this one called Emmen France. I can’t find any specific information online about it, so I’m going to guess that it’s simply a French version of the Swiss Emment(h)aler. I did discover that one can download an app to point out key spots whilst cycling through the Emmen valley of Switzerland, original homeland of this cheese. It’s very mild, by the way, perhaps like the inhabitants of this valley?

Société Crème at the bottom of the basket was a creamy, but undoubtedly strong spreadable cheese. The blue-green veins still visible in this more processed miniature version hinted at its derivation from a Roquefort. I first tried this cheese in a dish of pasta in Belgium and I remember it knocking my socks off, almost literally!

Finally, there is the Chavroux, with a little kid on the outside, to clarify its origins from goat’s milk. Not as strong as that boisterous bleu, not as mild as the Emmen, but with more of a kick (maa!) than the creamy, rinded varieties I sampled, this one was a nice finish to my three-hour tour, made without actually touching true French soil.

I do hope that I will get to make more than a mere layover here one day and soon, but for the moment, I can hint that the next post will be from a neighboring country that also takes its cheese seriously, molto serio . . .