3 Exceptional Cheeses You Should Consider Adding to Your Kitchen
With all of the cooking we’ve done in the past few years, one of the biggest changes is the revelation we had about the value of good cheese. There have been three cheeses that stood out as exceptional. We still have a lot to learn about this culinary sub-category, but when you come across a wedge that is a winner, it’s a thrill because you add an entirely new flavor profile to your repertoire.
Though we certainly use, and enjoy, more than these three – I’m partial to a very hot, incredibly spicy jalapeño and pepper jack cheese – they have something unique about them that are totally unexpected. The next time you are in a good supermarket or niche grocer, and have a chance to find one, consider giving it a go to see if you fall in love with it. If you do, you’ll get to enjoy it for the rest of your life. If you don’t, you can use it as a starting point to discover which types of cheeses you do like.
One warning: Once you begin to enjoy good cheese, you’ll never buy the pre-packaged, mass-produced stuff, again. You’ll suddenly realize how bad it is – that what is sold in the United States as Parmesan is not the real stuff, Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is so far above and beyond in quality, flavor, texture, and fragrance that it’s almost offensive. (Seriously, don’t ever buy anything except Parmigiano-Reggiano. By law, only the real stuff can be called that. If it doesn’t say it on the packaging, drop it and keep moving. In fact, Kraft can’t even legally sell its powdered cheese product as “Parmesan” in Europe, where the food standards are higher.)
1. Red Apple Cheese Smoked Gouda
When we went on an obsessive quest last October to create the perfect fall sandwich, it wasn’t until we discovered the Red Apple Cheese smoked gouda that we hit the jackpot. This cheese tastes like autumn smells when the leaves have just begun to turn and you can tell someone has lit a fireplace off in the distance as the smokey, wood-burning scent dances through the crisp air. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s the most comforting, nostalgia-inducing cheese I’ve ever had, as it instantly reminds me of the apple orchards in the Midwest, back-to-school, and the days growing shorter. It tastes like autumn feels.
I cannot imagine a kitchen without this stuff in it. Our family goes through a significant amount between October and February of each year, when it just fits the mood of the area in which we live.
2. BellaVitano Merlot Reserve Cheese
If you love great French food, with the rich tastes of red wine cooked into it, you’re going to be crazy about the BellaVitano Merlot reserve. I’m half tempted to order a larger wheel of it from the Sartori site and give away cuttings to friends and family. You can practically taste the fresh fruit in this stuff. It makes me want to break out the cookbooks, put on the chanson of my college days, and start browning meats to prepare a red wine stew, or roasting a duck.
It’s so novel, and unexpected, it’s like discovering Winter White Honey all over again. I’m going back to the cheese counter tomorrow to order one of every variety from this fromager. They even have a peppermint cheese that I imagine could be great for the Christmas season.
If you like blue cheese, this is one of the best blue cheeses in the world. (If you don’t, run; you’ll hate it.) The story goes that it was discovered by accident when a shepherd boy saw a beautiful girl and ran after her. He forgot his lunch in the cave where he had stored it. Months later, he returned to find what is now known as Roquefort. It’s potent, creamy, and delicious. Some scientists think it is partially responsible for the French cardiovascular health as it turns out, despite its high fat and salt content, Roquefort appears to work as an anti-inflammatory agent once digested.
Made from sheep’s milk, when you develop a craving for it, nothing else will hit the spot. It’s wonderful on the right cracker, and doesn’t take much given its strength. The charming thing about Roquefort is that, despite being a member of the blue cheese family, it’s actually emerald green. And it’s still grown in those caves, which just looks cool.