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your favorite cheese

  • a

yes, cheese. I've recently been exposed to a bunch of new imported varieties at a local gourmet/wine store. I've tried some wonderful hard and soft asiago, a great creamy Taleggio, an intriguing mustard cheese called Red Dragon, etc. I've always loved a good provolone, (mild) swiss, gouda, cheddar, colby or jack. But some of these imports are truly divine. My fave thus far: a German cheese called Bruder Basel, smoked by monks. It practically melts in your mounth, imparting a smoky flavor.

when i want to eat like a king on Fridays without any cooking, I go to the aforementioned store, pick up several kinds of imported cheese, some fresh bread (usually baguettes or focaccia), some fruit and nuts, and some beer and wine, go to my girlfriends (who often boils up some shrimp) and go to town. I usually eat quickly to a fault, but when i linger over my tray of delectables by the glow of the TV (ahhh, Friday Night Fights) I often nibble for hours, but never to excess. It is a feast that takes about 5 minutes to prepare (heat bread, arrange tray, maybe boil shrimp, and cut cheese as i go) and makes me (and the girlfriend) really happy. It costs less than $20 or $30 (with drinks).

now the question--- what is your favorite cheese? does anyone else engage in rituals like this? I'm not a wine lover (as of yet), but when i eat like this i could see how one could get carried away. pure enjoyments.

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  1. Your Friday night ritual is one we've often done on festive occasions, especially New Year's Eve--relaxing, little work, great flavor. My favorite now is imported aged Asiago and Maytag blue (in fact just finished a chunk. Best blue I've ever had --creamy, yet still winningly crumbly, and sharp.Great as is, wonderful with a ripe pear, adds a real kick to filet mignon crumbled over the top.

    3 Replies
    1. re: berkleybabe
      yvonne johnson

      mmmm, blue cheese, Shropshire Blue is my favorite along with stilton and a nice port.

      1. re: yvonne johnson

        A super-creamy Dolcelatte is my current crush - melts instantly into a beautiful sauce on hot pasta, bit of olive oil, chopped walnuts and cashews, oooooh baby.

        As with all the previous correspondents, however, I like cheese and cheese and cheese. Wensleydale with pears... squidgy mozzarella... little chunks of mature cheddar and apple mixed into a freshly-made coleslaw... stinky Saint-Agur...

        Excuse me, I have to go and ram-raid the deli.

        1. re: joe muggs

          To all of you who crave the blues, beg your cheese monger to get Le Vieux Berger Roquefort. Thee best Roquefort, no exceptions. I love Gorgonzola Dolcelatte, Stilton, almost all of the blues. This Roquefort rises to the top.

    2. j
      Jason "bite off the bat head" Perlow

      I like all cheeses, but:

      Gorgonzola. The stinkier the better. No blue veined cheese comes even close.

      1. b
        bill pisarra, jr

        This is like trying to name my favorite Beatles song.

        Once a French in-law, fresh off the plane from Paris, dumped a pile of live cheeses on my table...that night was one of my peak experiences.

        Brie, I think.

        No...pecorino Romano.

        No...a raw milk cheddar.

        No...She Said She Said.

        Cheese is god. I have some pretty serious health probs that demand moderatation with fatty foods, and I do well with those demands and still eat well...but the one and only place I fall down, willingly, is cheese. I just can't compromise on that. I don't want to live without it, even if it kills me.

        A stinking blue cheese, with port and walnuts.

        No...the little cubes of provolone mom would slip me.

        Or the warm mozzarella chunks you'd steal off the kitchen counter when grandma was setting up pizzas and not looking.

        Or..grating Ricotta Salata on a fresh tomato sauce.

        Forget it, I can't decide!

        >>a German cheese called Bruder Basel, smoked by monks

        I smoked that too, but recommend a pipe. It is really hard to roll.

        1. I live for cheese, and I repeat a slightly more subdued version of your ritual most nights. Early in the evening I take the night's cheese out of the refrigerator so it can come to room temp (not sure who said that cold cheese "is not fit to eat," but I agree).

          I can eat it solo just fine, but lately have been really into my home made version of quince paste (quarter quince, cook in red wine...sauternes-like dessert wines also work well...run through food mill or process without skins, sweeten with a bit with honey, add lemon juice and zest, maybe reduce the cooking liquid before adding fruit back...eat with cheese).

          This is unbelievably good with almost any cheese...my current faves are a local full cream extra sharp cheddar from Bandon Creamery, Juniper Grove's Tome (a very nice goat cheese from Redmond, Oregon), and any young pecorino I can find or convince someone coming back from Italy to bring me (pecorino and honey is another great combo).

          I had French explorateur (triple cream) with Champagne grapes, toasted walnuts, and Bosc pear at Bluehour recently, and it was great, too.


          Link: http://www.realgoodfood.com

          1. l
            Leslie Brenner

            Livarot, Pont L'Eveque, Epoisses, Muenster--unpasteurized and artisanally produced, if possible. Really fresh chevres, especially the little ones from Dordogne and the Lot Valley called cabecou. Can't get them here, because they're not fresh enough. Great Roqueforts, great Stiltons. Brebis (sheep's milk cheese) from Basque country. Runny Tallegio. Fresh mozarella that's still warm. I had a great artisanally-produced domestic blue, and I'm trying to remember what it was. Will rack my brain. Really ripe Teleme Jack from The Cheese Board in Berkeley.

            14 Replies
            1. re: Leslie Brenner
              yvonne johnson

              "great artisanally-produced domestic blue": Let us know if you remember, Leslie!

              Also I wish having cheese rather than or before/after dessert would really catch on in US. I'd rather do without s/thing sweet after a good meal and have cheese. (The myth that you have nightmares after eating blue cheese at night is unfounded!)

              1. re: yvonne johnson
                Melanie Wong

                If a restaurant has a decent selection of cheeses in good condition, I'll almost always choose the cheese plate with some fresh fruit instead of dessert. I enjoy finishing off the remainder of the dinner wine(s) with the cheeses and seeing how they change in the new combination.

                1. re: Melanie Wong
                  Alexandra Eisler

                  Today's SF Chronicle has a list of local restaurants with a cheese course...

                  1. re: Alexandra Eisler
                    Melanie Wong

                    I'm north of the Gate today and can't find it in the local edition Friday section or the web.

                    When I want something sweet with cheese, nothing beats a goaty Banon from Provence with some lavender honey and a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.

                2. re: yvonne johnson
                  Leslie Brenner

                  Okay, Yvonne--I'm racking my brain! It was something I bought a few months ago at Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC.

                  1. re: Leslie Brenner

                    Was it possibly Maytag blue?
                    In a non-blue vein, has anyone else tried a Dutch goat cheese called Dorothea? It's pure white, a great melter, and tastes as if it has garlic and sausage inside. (but of course it doesn't) I've gotten it delivered via igourmet.com and purchased it in person from Dean and Deluca. Have tried to tell the kind folks at Murray's about it as well.
                    And another vote for Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog!

                    1. re: Liza
                      Leslie Brenner

                      No, I do like Maytag Blue, but this one is a small, artisanally produced blue that comes from either Colorado or Vermont (weird, I know, but I hesitated between the two). It'll come back, I'm sure...

                      1. re: Leslie Brenner
                        wendy jackson

                        Could it be Great Hill Blue that you are thinking of? It's made somewhere in Massachusetts. I really loved this cheese when I first tried it 3 years ago. Lately, it seems that the veining hasn't been quite as developed as it was originally. Still delicious, though.

                        1. re: wendy jackson

                          Just sampled this today at the Portland Public Market. It's very nice -- soft & creamy, more reminiscent of Gorgonzola than Maytag, which tends to be crumblier. No match for Stilton (lacks the mellowness & complexity), but still pretty good.

                          1. re: wendy jackson
                            Leslie Brenner

                            Great Hill Blue rings a bell. I think it must be one of the two I was considering. The one I chose was more creamy than crumbly. Does that sound like Great Hill?

                      2. re: Leslie Brenner
                        yvonne johnson

                        i've been on a search for the mystery blue. Here are my results so far:

                        1. Berkshire blue, Great Barrington, MA: "made by one person’s hands…and one type [unspecified!] of cow’s milk. A wonderful, rustic, farmhouse blue" (murray’s catalogue). I don’t know if it was just the bit I got, but this cheese was really ripe. Yes, it was creamy in parts, but the veins were like rope, and the bottom of the cheese next to foil was so strong I couldn’t eat it. I’ll try it again tho, as I liked the consistency. Reminded me a bit of bresse bleu (which I can’t seem to find).

                        2. Bingham Rustic blue, Fort Collins, CO, also from Murray’s. I didn’t realize it till I got home, but this is a hard blue cheese. A bit like parmesan. This isn’t the mystery blue, but it is different and mellow tasting. A nice change. I see it won a Cheese Society Award.

                        Note on service at Murray’s: unhelpful and grumpy! I found this to be the case in past too.

                        3. Great Blue Hill, also from MA. I bought this at Gourmet Garage (NYC, 7th Ave). This tasted a bit like danish blue and so it’s not for me. I’m not a regular customer here so don’t know what the quality of their cheeses is like.

                        4. Foure d’ambert (french blue). Got a round of this from Jefferson Mkt. This is my favorite on this list. Texture is a bit like stilton, not creamy to the touch, but melts in your mouth. It’s taking me some weeks to get thru the big round (my husband doesn’t like blue cheese, so it’s all for me!), and it keeps very well indeed. And it tastes good even straight out of the fridge.

                        If you’re reading along, Leslie, I think the artisanally-produced blue might be the Berkshire Blue. I asked about a blue from VT, and the server at Murray's said they didn’t have one. Doesn't matter--this chowhounding is a lot of fun.

                        1. re: yvonne johnson
                          Leslie Brenner

                          By George, Yvonne, I think you've got it! I'm 99.9% sure it was the Berkshire Blue. It was, however, in perfect condition when I bought it. Not at all ropy, but creamy (which I'm actually not usually too crazy about, I"m more of a crumbly blue person), deeply flavorful.

                          Thanks so much for looking into this--I actually did lose some sleep over it!

                          I'm sorry to hear about your experiences at Murray's--I've always had great service there.

                          1. re: Leslie Brenner
                            yvonne johnson

                            yes, i think i was unlucky. I'm going to give the berkshire another go with a nice port. Cheers!

                  2. s
                    Steven Stern

                    I don't think I could single out one favorite, either, but a cheese that's been on my mind since a very kind person served it at a party last weekend: Vella Dry Jack.

                    Basically, your classic California cow's milk cheese treated like it was a serious Reggiano, hard and nutty and dusted with cocoa powder.

                    I've had more sublime cheeses probably, but none as consistently happy-making.

                    1. The 5 Year Gouda, a.k.a. Mona Lisa Gouda, has been described in Fairway's liner notes (or whatever you personally call the mash notes with which the mongers label their cheeses) as something like "fire and whiskey on the tongue all at once". Who was I to resist? I tried. It was. I am a better woman for it.

                      It's a vicious, sharp, cruel, unrelenting and utterly unforgettable cheese. It'll take your etorki, your artesianal cheddar, your tete de moine out into the woodshed and teach them a thing or two about what it means to be cheese.

                      Can't say no to a good morbier either. Mmmm...ashy.


                      1. m
                        Melanie Wong

                        Only one? In that case, I'd have to pick cru lait Epoisses. Last March I made my first visit to Chablis. The lunch buffet included the most exquisitely ripe Epoisses ever, from a round that was nearly a foot in diameter. They always say that wine and food tastes best at its origin, and it was certainly true in this case. While I ate Epoisses every day for the week I spent on the Cote d'Or, none were as fine as the example enjoyed only a few kms from its home.

                        Others that turn my head include -

                        Crottin - perfect with grassy Sancerre
                        Taleggio - ask me for my tart recipe when the first asparagus of spring are harvested
                        3+ y.o. Aged Mimolette or Gouda - wonderful with old red wines or sweeties, especially mature Riesling
                        Cabrales - sweet creaminess and intense blueness without as much salt
                        Teleme Jack
                        Humboldt Fog - delicious young or old
                        Ossau-Iratty - can cut a tough Madiran down to a velvety mouthful
                        Brin d'Amour - especially when fully ripe and starting to ooze, try it with Vermentino from Corsica

                        Here's a link to a current thread on the SF Bay Area board on favorite cheese shops.

                        Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I'm not sure i can wait for that tart recipe. Taleggio is one of my faves. Could you please post that recipe now? I'll never remember to ask you about it again. Thanks!

                          1. re: andy huse
                            Melanie Wong

                            I came up with my own home version after trying the asparagus galette at Cafe Rouge in Berkeley (4th St) last spring. It's been a hit whenever it's served - afterall , anything made with puff pastry is delicious, and the taleggio makes it even more so. It doesn't really taste strongly of the cheese though, no one ingredient dominates. I had to ask the kitchen what kind of cheese was used.

                            For puff pastry, I just use frozen Pepperidge Farm pastry shells which are readily available at supers and handy to keep at home. Follow the package instructions for defrosting to get that started while you're prepping the other ingredients. Preheat oven per package instructions.

                            Peel (absolutely required!) medium size asparagus (about one spear per tart) and cut on diagonal into one-inch sections. Dampen and sweat pieces in covered container in microwave about 20 seconds.

                            Slice spring onions (can substitute scallion bulbs) into thin rounds.

                            When defrosted, roll out each shell to about 8" diameter round. Don't worry about making the rim even, it looks more handmade if it's irregular.

                            Place pastry on baking sheet. Top with thin slices of Taleggio - not too much, just enough to lacquer the veggies to the pastry. Arrange asparagus sections and a little onion on top, sprinkle with kosher salt (and black pepper if you want another color contrast), bake according to package instructions.

                            Cut into quarters; serve hot.

                        2. If you ever find mozzarella curd for sale, buy some and try making your own mozz and from there you can make provolone. I make fresh mozz all the time and it is so easy but you need to have really fresh curd. All you need is 2 really big bowls, 1 with salted ice water, 1 into which you will pour 200 degree water. Dip your hands in the ice water for a minute then take a handful (6 ounces) of the curd, submerge the curd into the hot water, gently work as if you were pulling exquisite taffy. When the curd becomes one white mass of equal texture, plunge the whole thing into the ice water. For storage, transfer into another receptacle of fresh salted ice water and keep in the fridge for 7 days or so. Once you have this mastered, the next step is stuffing your mozz with fresh basil, thinly sliced cured sausages, pestos, dried tomatoes, etc. and making roulades or rolls. These are thin sliced and inside are these brilliantly hued fillings! For provolone, the mozz is rolled in sea salt, then cheese cloth, then hung in the fridge (or outside since it's so cold) or cooler for 7 to 10 days (the longer the cure, the longer it keeps) and presto: Homemade Provolone!

                          I also REALLY like a true Camembert or Brie, which are the same, only different, which is never imported into this country because the Fun Patrol (FDA) won't allow it in....something about raw milk and 60 days...

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: ChefJohn

                            sounds great! i may have to try that! Now it's just a matter of finding mozz curd in Tampa, Florida!

                            1. re: andy huse
                              Jennifer Becker

                              Try some of the old italian shops in Ybor City. When I was growing up in Tampa, we got all our supplies there. Good luck with the homemade mozz.

                          2. l
                            Leslie Brenner

                            Oh, I forgot a couple:

                            --Winter Parmesan and Spring Parmesan from DiPalo in NYC

                            1. Current cheese obsession: sottocenare al tartufo, an Italian cow's milk truffle cheese.One of the best things I've tasted recently. Firm cheese with an intoxicating aroma and a wonderfully sharp yet smooth flavor. Ash rind. But I haven't forsaken old loves - morbier, cabrales, and really ancient stilton. Also, I indulged over the holidays in the forgotten and rather guilty pleasure of supermarket brie baked with Smuckers apricot jelly and sliced almonds. Mmm...the joy of "elegant" suburban party food.

                              1. If anyone hasn't used up their decadence quota on the holidays, I urge you to try a triple creme called Pierre Robert. Sinfully unctuous with a dreamy, creamy flavor and texture, and a little more oomph and tang than St. Andre or Explorateur.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Heidi


                                  Just had my first sample of that remarkable cheese at Murray's.
                                  Will never bother with St. Andre again.

                                  1. re: Heidi
                                    Melanie Wong

                                    I suspect that one of the reasons Pierre Robert has more flavor than St. André or Explorateur is that it moves slower and has a chance to ripen before it's sold. You should also try Gratte Paille, the double creme version of P.R., and supposedly Lauren Bacall's favorite cheese.

                                  2. This thread made me very hungry--lead me to drool thru Steve Jenkin's cheese book for the one millionth time.

                                    There's practically no cheese I don't like--but three special ones I always seek out are:

                                    --Truffle cheese from the Boschavaggio region (uh, oh, that doesn't look right.)But it boscha-something. Italian. Comes in a round ball, pre-wrapped and loaded with truffles--more truffles and, imho, tastier than the other brand that looks like it. So expensive tho--$19 for a ball.

                                    --Cesar del Torta- Spanish. Get it when it's not too old and hard--this cheese can be underwhelming when not ripe--but heaven when it is! A most unusual flavor--a Vacherin-texture soft cheese covered in a very hard rind that I normally cut off. It's tangy and quite unique from other cheeses I've tried.

                                    --Sally Jackson (Sheep's Milk or Goats Milk--from the Northwest.) Again--check that it's not too dried out. Delicious tangy, "earthy-tasting" cheese covered in leaves.

                                    There's a whole lot more varieties coming to mind--but I think this thread has done justice to us cheese hounds. I've been reminded of some excellent choices I'd forgotten about!

                                    Cheese has always been my weakness--each evening I put out a sampling of about 4 or 5--let them warm up on a plate--and then crawl into bed to be alone with my sinfulness (high cholesterol) But it's worth it--cheese makes me very happy.

                                    1. well, that's tough!

                                      for me, it's goat, goat and more goat. fresh chevre with organic herbs de provence -- the lavendar is what makes it. crocodile tears -- also excellent.

                                      the very best cheese i ever had however was a live sheep's milk cheese from jura, a little stiffer than a morbier. there was a time when if you made friends with the cheese people at fairways in nyc you could get your hands on "illegal" live cheese brought over by UN diplomats in the pouches.

                                      i've heard the same said of dean & deluca. zabar's seems only to have legal "dead" cheese. although there's that little store that sells knicknacks and cheese....i've heard about that place, never been there???

                                      the gratte paille is great stuff. ricotta salata should be a staple of everyone's life. as for fresh moz, i thought you just heat the milk yourself, add the rennet, let it sit, and then do the "washing." am i incorrect? rennet is available in many large supermarkets and gourmet stores. the whole thing is so simple!

                                      see link below for recipe from start to finish, rennet and all, no curd required.

                                      finally, the banon goat with lavendar honey and the muscat sounds divine. i must try! i will immediately run to dean & deluca's this weekend.

                                      fun thread! thanks!

                                      Link: http://food4.epicurious.com/HyperNews...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: fortune

                                        You mentioned that ricotta salata "should be a staple of everyone's life." Sounds good to me! I've enjoyed this cheese in the past. Any suggestions on brands or places to buy where you've found the quality to be consistent? (I'm in Zabar's, Citarella's and Fairway country!) Thanks.

                                        1. re: Alice

                                          Best bet with cheese is always to ask for a sample before buying -- brands and sources are less reliable than your own observations on the quality of the cheese.

                                      2. Wisconsin cheese of nearly any flavor usually outshines any other cheese I have tasted, foreign or domestic. My favorite is bacon cheese. For those of you who would like to sample such tasty fair of bacon, hot pepper, baby swiss, colby, sharp cheddar and others including white cheddar cheese curds you can call the Eau Galle cheese factory in Eau Galle, WI 715-283-4276.

                                        You won't be disappointed - average per pound cost with shipping is $4.25

                                        19 Replies
                                        1. re: cheesehead

                                          You are either a shill or completely clueless. White cheddar curds are the cheese equivalent of Wonder Bread.

                                          1. re: MU

                                            If you feel that way, I suspect you haven't tasted cheese curd that's spanking fresh. Then you'd understand the "wonder" of transformation from milk to solid.

                                            Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                                              I don't think they're going to be spanking fresh by the time they're shipped to you in SF from Wisc. And I'm not terribly interested in even spanking fresh bacon cheddar, the poster's favorite.

                                              Wisconsin cheese is very popular as comfort food, and is great for making mac & cheese, but no cheese of theirs rivals decent English Farmhouse cheddar or nice Roquefort.

                                              1. re: MU

                                                There are in fact some utterly fantastic, artisanal Wisconsin cheeses that do in fact rival European cheeses. The best fresh goat I ever had was from Fantome Farms, and there are a few farms that make serious cheddars -- the best aged a full ten years -- that are out of this world. The best makers don't tend to ship out of state (or need to), but you can taste a lot of the best examples in season at Madison's fantastic growers' market.

                                                I am a regular at Murray's, and I like Montgomery and Mrs. Appleby's as much as the next person, but to tell the truth, the artisanal Wisconsin stuff rocks just as hard. Just because you have never heard of a product doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

                                                1. re: Pepper

                                                  Thanks for your nearly simultaneous posting.

                                                  Cheesehead's mention of Eau Galle brought back a nice memory of my one night at Lake Pepin in the spring of 1997. Stayed in a lovely B&B with a deck overlooking the water and had a great meal in town. The B&B offered me a cheese plate with a Rondele knock-off and the Eau Galle "Private Stock" cheddar with a glass of bubbly. I immediately demanded to know where I could get some, as I'd stopped at the factory store and not seen anything like this. The proprietor sent me to a gift shop in town, where I was to tell the owner I'd been referred by him in order to buy some. With these magic words, the "Private Stock" which was not in the display case was brought out from the back for me to sample and I was allowed to buy 3 pounds.

                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                    Melanie, I have no doubt that you enjoyed the cheese when you were there, and that the "private stock" was probably outstanding. Somebody there must give a damn. However, regardless of the quality of the "private stock," this is a place that specializes, like most Wisconsin cheeseries, in mass-market, low-character cheeses.

                                                    Please note that Cheesehead is trying to sell us bacon cheese and Midwestern-style cheese curds (which are usually served battered and deep-fried), and that every gift box available from Eau Galle (per their website) includes medium cheddar and either monterey jack or colby.

                                                    My favorite midwestern cheese was an artisanally produced rustic sheep's cheese called La Paysanne, which was available in the mid-90s. I've been unable to find out what happened to the people who produced it. If anybody knows, please give a holler.

                                                    1. re: MU

                                                      Duly noted, although I would not be as quick to question Cheesehead's motives and criticize his love of bacon cheese. We're all limited by our own experiences and entitled to our own opinion. My own favorites are very different from what others have posted in this thread but that doesn't make everyone else clueless.

                                                      Most of the cheese produced in the world, even in beloved France-home of more than 300 farmhouse cheeses - is mass market. This is an industry afterall. I don't begrudge Eau Galle whatever they have to do to keep the lights turned on in order to make their "private stock" cheddar.

                                                      La Paysanne sounds very interesting. With your opinion of deep-fried cheese curd (more of a MN state fair thing than eaten at home), I doubt it's the same as the Fondue Paysanne in this link. (g)

                                                      Link: http://www.fondue-paysanne.com/englis...

                                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                        Thanks for the link -- I think you found the intersection of the two! Sorry if I seem narrow-minded on this -- spending several years in MN (around people who thought orange meant sharp and white meant mild and Co-Jack was a great delicacy) left me somewhat jaded re Wisc. cheese. Now Cabot, from Vermont... that's good stuff. Don't remember if they have a bacon variety, but they might. Anyway, their "Hunter's Seriously Sharp Cheddar" is fantastic.

                                                        The La Paysanne cheese I remember was available by age -- the fresh peccorino was mild and semi-firm with a gentle sheepy aroma similar to a young Italian peccorino only with a thin brownish rind, and you could either buy their aged product or get the young stuff and age it yourself -- they gave you instructions for how to store it and everything. When aged 3-6 months, this cheese was nothing like Italian -- it got hard and pretty funky (in a good way) and the rind was dense and gritty (I preferred to remove it).

                                                        Link: http://www.cabotcheese.com/

                                                        1. re: MU

                                                          I hope you can find La Paysanne, the unfried kind, again.

                                                          I put in my time in MN too. It was a continuous state of discovery on my part to learn the new and abundant uses of cheese (cheese-filled bratwurst?) the locals had dreamed up. Yet, I surmise that Minnesotans take on orange, white and co-jack is not much different from the typical Americans, although they probably consume a whole lot more of it.

                                                          Personally, I really dislike sharp cheddar that I've tried from NY, Canada or Vermont. English farmhouse cheddar was a revelation to me that cheddar could have aged character and not share that awful acrid taste.

                                                          Friday night I stopped by at a dinner potluck with a cheesey theme. There were an assortment of cheeses and standard uses like goat cheese mesclun salad, heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozz, baked brie, goat cheese pizzas, fondues, etc. But there were a few interesting and exciting new things, as well as some real doozies. The two brie soups were fantastic. The chilled one had the texture of vichysoisse and was made with celery root and the merest whisper of brie flavor. The warm brie soup had sauteed fresh mushrooms, cream, chicken stock, chopped bell pepper and some onion. I asked how much brie was in this - about 6 oz. for 6 qts.

                                                          In the dessert category there were several cheesecakes and a tiramisu. No surprises there. But then the cake dubbed "Chocolate Nightmare" had a bottom layer of dense moist chocolate sponge cake make with Scharffenberger chocolate, a near 1/4" layer of gorgonzola dolcelatte, and topped with 3" of whipped creme fraiche blended with chocolate nibs. Loved the top and bottom and did my best to eat around the cheese layer. It wasn't the blueness that was so bad, rather the saltiness was jarring. Don't think blue cheese is going to replace raspberries as a partner for bittersweet chocolate!

                                                          Two other desserts were equally weird. A lusciously creamy tomato-stilton ice cream tasted awful. Neither here nor there, the flavors were muddled and overly salty. I suggested to the chef a little more acid and sugar to help the balance if he attempts this again to give it more focus. He'd also made a stilton-vanilla ice cream topped with toasted English walnuts that wasn't half bad. This was sweeter too and the walnuts added a lot to the mix.

                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                            Tomato-Stilton ice cream: Eeuw. To follow your flavor suggestion, maybe he could try persimmons instead of tomatoes.

                                                      2. re: MU

                                                        As an aside, I ran into my first cheese curds last year at the Madison growers' market (where some of the cheesemakers sell little bags of them as snacks) and I was amazed. First, of course, by the rather loud squeaking sound they make when you chew them, and then by the salty, milky blandness of them. Really, the fresh mozz at Joe's Busy Corner is practically chile-fired by comparison.

                                                        But when I took a sack of them to some friends at a local restaurant, and wondered aloud whether anybody had ever thought of deep-frying them, you could hear the guffaws all the way to Minnesota. I had performed the equivalent of walking into a bar in the Napa Valley and asking if anybody had ever thought about making wine with all those lovely grapes.

                                                        1. re: Pepper

                                                          That left me howling, Pepper!

                                                          Just shows you that some food preparation concepts are truly meant to meant to be. Unlike Scharffenberger chocolate and gorgonzola.

                                                          1. re: Pepper

                                                            hello.... my name is Susan and I am trying to find some information on cheese growers.... the process of making cheese.... where it is done and so on. If anyone has any information whatsoever it would be extremely helpful. Thanks! ~bybye

                                                            1. re: Susan

                                                              You may want to search for the American Cheese Growers Association web site. I have a really helpful brochure of theirs from a few years back that gives all sorts of handy cheese growing tips: when to plant, what to plant (hard cheese grows best in cold climates, while soft cheeses do well in warmer regions), which varieties to raise from seeds and which from cheeselings, etc.

                                                              If you can't find that :) try CheeseNet (http://www.wgx.com/cheesenet/), the New England Cheese Making Supply Co. cheesemaking site (http://www.cheesemaking.com/aboutch.html), about.com's cheesemaking page (http://cheese.about.com/food/cheese/c...), and this rather amazing "Cheesemaking in Scotland - A History" page (http://www.efr.hw.ac.uk/SDA/)

                                                      3. re: Pepper
                                                        Lucy Saunders

                                                        There is a new map-guide to Wisconsin specialty cheeses produced by the state's Milk Marketing Board, as well as the Wisconsin Craft Brewers Guild and the Wisconsin Winery Assn. It includes retail and mail order sources for places such as Simon's Specialty Cheese of Little Chute, where you can buy a wheel of bandage-wrapped, rind-washed aged Cheddar that rivals farmstead English Cheddars I sampled at Neal's Yard in London.

                                                        I wrote an article about the map for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and when I did the review, the only way to get the map was to send a SASE business (#10) envelope to:

                                                        Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
                                                        PO Box 1012
                                                        LaCrosse, WI 54602

                                                        It may also be available for sale at some Wisconsin breweries that offer tours.

                                                        1. re: Lucy Saunders

                                                          Last week I was invited to a dinner party in Santa Rosa dreamed up by one of Wisconsin's former citizens. The reason for the party was to cut into his 4 year-old cheddar, a ceremony that he said would be "like a bris, only different". An assortment of cutting implements - hunting knives, sabers, ice picks - were provided for the guests to take a wack at it. We didn't have Wisconsin beer but were asked to bring a wine of the 1996 vintage to accompany the cheese.

                                                      4. re: MU

                                                        Before you write off the whole state, please be aware that the artisanal cheese movement is alive and well in Wisconsin. Try the Lovetree Farmstead sheep's milk cheese if you can find it.

                                                        While very different from an English farmhouse cheddar, the "private stock" 6 year old cheddar from Eau Galle is lovely.

                                                        Durability in shipping is not one of my criteria for favorite foods. The intrinsic beauty of a Gravenstein apple enjoyed near its home in the Russian River Valley is indisputable, even if it can't survive a week-long train ride to the east coast. Fresh curd eaten at the source or within two days of production is a unique pleasure.

                                                    2. re: MU

                                                      I'm coming into this cheese thing late, but I've got to take exception with the slam against cheese curds (and not just because of it's tone). Fresh curds are quite wonderful, but they don't ship well at all. Can't say that I have much use for the flavored ones though.

                                                      And most folks don't eat them battered and fried because that's too much work.

                                                      Sure a lot of Wisconson cheeses are average. So are a lot of New York, California and elsewhere cheeses.

                                                      David Cook

                                                    3. re: cheesehead

                                                      I think I may have been to Eau Galle cheese factory. Sounds familiar? Is it near Pepin? I visited the Laura Ingalls Wilder house a few years ago.

                                                    4. Just returned from a short trip that included a stop at Trader Joe's. We love their rennet list, which shows the type of rennet (animal, microbial, or a combination of animal and something else) used in the cheeses at the store. Since we don't generally buy animal-rennet cheeses in my household (I'd be the only one who'd eat them), this is a godsend for family harmony. We can also use the list for reference when shopping elsewhere. It's amazing how many times I've had to explain what rennet is to people who work at cheese counters.

                                                      It's not completely hopeless. I'm posting this in case anyone else is in the same situation. Most of the varieties on the list are not available from health-food store vegetarian cheese suppliers like Organic Valley/North Farm or Alta Dena. Note the specific brands, because some types are also made by other manufacturers who either haven't specified their rennet sources or list animal rennet as an ingredient.

                                                      Highlights of non-animal rennet cheese:
                                                      Blue Castello; Royal Blue Stilton; Salmon Valley Gorgonzola; Finlandia Havarti Turunmaa; Chevalier Brie; Cappiello Mozzarella (several varieties); Great Lakes Smoked Gouda; Tipperary Irish Cheddar; Dubliner Irish Cheddar; Singleton's: Stripey Jack, Double Gloucester w/Stilton, and Sage Derby (ick); Tholstrup Saga Basil Havarti; Tillamook Medium Cheddar.

                                                      Beside the cheeses on the above list, many UK cheese manufacturers will label products "Suitable for vegetarians" if they are. Nobody else really bothers to do this.

                                                      Biggies on the TJ non-vegetarian list: St. Andre, Raclette, Morbier, Jarlsberg, Emmentaler, Port Salut, Fontina, Comte, Danish Blue, Gruyere.

                                                      Off the top of my head, some other animal-rennet cheeses (unless specifically labelled otherwise): Roquefort; just about all flavorful Italian-style cheese including Reggiano, Pecorino, Provolone, Taleggio; Feta (except maybe Israeli); Gouda; Manchego... well, you get the idea.

                                                      The latest TJ rennet list came out in November. They seem to update them every six months or so.