Saturday, December 26, 2009

For the love of cheese!

Outside of some of the common cheddar, mozzarella and "American" cheeses, I haven't got much experience with cheeses. But Karrin and I have picked up a bunch of cheeses at various places, and received a few others as gifts. We have something like nine different cheeses. Tonight I set up a platter with six of the cheeses, and I thought it might be fun to review them. I made a rule for myself: I have to actually have the cheese in my mouth as I'm writing about the flavor, so that I'm writing about the actual taste and not just my *memory* of the taste. So here are six cheeses, as experienced by somebody who's fairly inexperienced with cheeses. Applewood smoked -- spicy smokey flavor. Soft and creamy texture, only a bit more firm than spreadable cheese. The warm rich taste is very nice, largely thanks to the applewood I think. (Apparently smoking cheese over applewood is an Ancient Roman tradition.) I bought mine at Everybody's Store, a fantastic and unforgettable old-fashioned country grocer in Van Zandt, Washington. There was no brand name on the cheese. Finlandia Emmental -- An imported cheese from Finlandia Black Label, the aged Emmental is very like a swiss cheese. (Oh, wait... now that I look it up, Emmental *is* what is often called "Swiss Cheese.") It has a firm texture, rather hard for a cheese, with a very sharp and slightly bitter taste. Did I mention how sharp and tangy it is? Wow. It's got quite a lot more bite than the Swiss cheese I've tasted in the past. I wonder if it has to do with the aging? Honey & Pistachio cheese, by Australian cheese company Moondarra. Oh my god, I am in love with this one. It's soft enough to spread, but firm enough to eat with fingers if you like. Quite sweet in taste, with just a touch of tangy, smoky flavor. The pistachio adds variety to the texture and warmth to the taste. I'm instantly mad about this cheese, and can't get enough! Tillamook Sharp Cheddar -- I'm a longtime fan of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar (made locally in Oregon), so it's probably a bit unfair for me to review it. To me, it is the perfect cheddar. Tillamook's mild cheddar is very nice, but I prefer the slightly more adventurous bite of their sharp cheddar. Classic, creamy taste, and unlike many other cheddar cheeses, Tillamook's melts smoothly, not lumpy. If you are a cheese fan but you haven't had Tillamook, your cheese experience is simply incomplete. Get some! Queso Fresco -- Made even *more* locally at Gothberg Farms in Bow, WA, the queso fresco is a homemade goat cheese. It has a medium-firm texture, and a rich, milky flavor. Very nice; I love the simplicity of this pure, natural cheese, made from the milk of LaMancha goats. Dill Havarti -- very creamy taste, fairly soft but not spreadable. The cheese itself is very creamy and mild, while the dill adds a nice tangy zip to it. The contrast between the smoothness of the cheese and the bite of the dill is really nice. The Dill Havarti was also purchased at Everybody's Store, and had no brand name on it. We'll be having three more cheeses on new year's eve, including Norwegian Gjetost. (I actually got a little taste of Gjetost today -- it's intense and very unique, but I'll wait to write about it until we have it with the other cheeses next week.)

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