Ah, cheese. Where to begin. It has to be one of my favorite things in the world.
I love creamy cheese and stinky cheese and cheese that comes wrapped in leaves. I love cheese in things and on things and on its own. I even once made fudge with cheese. (I admit, that was more of a science experiment than a culinary adventure.) And don’t even get me going on fondue.
So, much like our recent chocolate tasting, here’s the first in a series of cheese tastings.
Cheese in and around Boston
There are a couple of really good places to get cheese in Boston. My favorite, hands down, is Formaggio Kitchen, a little cheese shop and gourmet market on Huron Ave. outside of Harvard Square in Cambridge.
Formaggio Kitchen ages a lot of its own cheeses. The folks there are really knowledgeable about what they sell. And they always let you taste before you buyâ€”a big bonus, especially where new cheese is concerned.
This week’s cheeses, however, come from Whole Foods, since we were recently there. I’ve found that their cheese selection is hit or miss, depending on which store you hit and how much cheese they turn over each week. These all looked pretty good.
Blue Cheese Tasting
Valdeon Spanish Blue
($18.99/lb or $3.61 for my little piece)
Valdeon is a fairly strong blue cheese. It’s got the characteristic dry crumble of a good firm blue. The paste is off-white and shot through with loads of blue-ish green veins. It’s salty and tangy.
Made in the Valdeon valley of Spain’s Castilla-Leon region, this cheese is usually a mix of cow and goat milk. It’s wrapped in sycamore leaves before aging (one sure way to tell it apart from its slightly stronger blue cousin, Cabrales, which is always foil-wrapped). My piece had a large piece of leaf stuck to the rind.
Valdeon is also supposed to melt really well, making it a good candidate for any kind of hot sauce or topping.
My verdict? I liked it a lot and would buy it again. One of my new favorites for a firmer blue cheese.
($19.99/lb. or $3.20 for my little piece)
Made in England, this 45% butterfat cheese is a mix of pasteurized cow’s milk and vegetable rennet.
It gets its distinctive orange color from annatto, a natural food coloring. Think of it as a kind of marriage of a Stilton and a Cheshire. (I also think of it as Halloween Cheese.)
My verdict? I tend to like my blue cheese to have a lot of bite. When compared to the Valdeon, I think it was just a touch too mild for me. Maybe it was just this piece, as I’ve read that it’s supposed to have a really sharp flavor. I liked it, but I wouldn’t say it’s a new favorite.
St. Agur French Blue
($21.99/lb or $3.74 for my little piece)
A 60% butterfat, double-creme blue from France, the St. Agur was my favorite of the bunchï¿½at least on the evening I tried them.
Made from pasteurized cow’s milk in Auvergne, France, this cheese is aged for about 2 months in an 2-kilogram, octagonal wheel. When ripe, it spreads like softened butter or gooey brie.
The spicy, strong flavor provides an excellent contrast to the rich, creamy texture. The white paste is dappled with blue veining.
My verdict? By far, this was my favorite of the evening. If I hadn’t stopped myself, I do believe I might have eaten the whole piece. (Hey, it was pretty small).
And what about you?
Like blue cheese? Hate it? Have a type you’d recommend for next time?