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Looking for extraordinary cheeses

I'm looking to host a cheese tasting featuring six extraordinary cheeses. I have three of the cheeses selected, and am looking for three more. Anyone have any favorites they want to share?

The cheeses I have already selected:

Rogue River Blue from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon
Redhawk from the Cowgirl Creamery in California
10 year old Cheddar from the Carr Valley Cheese Company in Wisconsin

I am looking for:

A semi-soft or semi-firm cheese
A goat or sheepsmilk cheese of some piquancy
A hard italian cheese such as Romano or Parmesiano
A substitute for one of the above that I haven't thought of... ;)

Thanks!

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  1. Are you trying to keep with American cheeses? If not, I discovered one of my favorite cheeses last summer in France. Epoisses is a creamy, pungent, DELICIOUS, cows milk cheese from Burgundy France.

    4 Replies
    1. re: halfpint

      Definitely not trying to keep it to North American cheese... in fact, I'd like to get at least one, maybe two off the continent. Thanks for the rec!

      1. re: halfpint

        i second epoisse, what a heavenly stink! the pate is much more mild than you'd expect from the smell.

        1. re: thejulia

          Epoisses is great, but for something truly special, go for the seasonal Vacherin Mont D'Or, a delicacy that delivers the complexity usually reserved for raw cheeses - Epoisses the way it tastes in Europe.

        2. re: halfpint

          If your Red Hawk is fully ripe I wouldn't add epoisses. Too similiar...

        3. Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove Chevre is very nice.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Quine

            Quine: Can you describe Humboldt Fog to me a bit? I read the description on their website, but it didn't give me a good sense of what the cheese is like. I've also had someone recommend their Midnight Moon... any experience with that? Cypress Grove seems to be impressing alot of folks! Thanks for the rec!

            1. re: Booklegger451

              A favorite of mine as well. Caveat- I'm not a cheese expert, but the interior is crumbly smooth chevre-like, while the outer 1/4-3/4 inch nearing the rind (depending on how long its been sitting out) is an oozy brie/camembert like texture and flavor. Like getting 2 cheeses in one. I personally don't love the rind, I think it's too bitter. There is a pretty vegetable ash line going through the middle for visual appeal. I love this cheese with apples or grapes, or on bread with a quince paste. Mmmm.

              1. re: Booklegger451

                I concur on the Cypress Grove. Humboldt Fog is great and I adore the Midnight Moon which is aged. People I've served it to are always surprised - in a positive way - by it.

                Also, Prima Donna aged gouda from Holland - very firm, strong caramel notes, intense. According to Murray's cheese website it's officially a "proosdy" and not a gouda but whatever, it's really good.

            2. Oh yes the Midnight Blue is excellent as well. It is sorta cheddarish,with a deep flavor that is not sharp. I almost want to say it is bluish. It is a solid cheese. I was going to recommend that first.

              The Fog is a soft and ripening cheese. Personally, I woudl include both. It stays light and not overly tangy. I think fresh baked bread and just picked fruits with the taste of this.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Quine

                Thanks, Quine. I don't want to feature two cheeses from the same creamery, so I guess I'll just have to order a round of each, and try them, and see which fits best. Oh, woe is me! Woe, I say! ;)

                1. re: Booklegger451

                  humboldt fog is an easy favorite for cheese beginners. the flavor is a very mild goat and it looks very adventurous. the physical descirptions are right on.

                2. re: Quine

                  Midnight Moon is a Gouda not a cheddar. The folks from Cypress Grove commission it from a Dutch dairy (the name is something they do not disclose) which is why it's never going to win any awards from the American Cheese Society. The cheese is aged about a year. Similar to other CG cheeses, this has a sweetness not found in other goats and to me, seems devoid of the typical goaty tang found in other goat cheeses.

                  Humboldt Fog is similar to a French Bucheron, although it's not shaped in the customary log. Our favorite way to enjoy Fog is to wait until it's completely ripe (yes, it's tough). When young, this cheese will be firm with only a slight goo-ing around the edges. At peak ripeness, it will be gooey almost to the ash line in the center, and practically collapsing. We serve this for dessert with Marie Lu bisquits which we purchase from most major grocery chains here in San Diego.

                  2 amazing US cheeses you might want to consider:
                  Red Cloud - an amazing washed-rind goat from Haystack Mtn Dairy in Ft Collins, CO. The cheese is made from raw milk so it's aged at least 60 days. Every time I've tried this I've been blown away by the deep complexity of flavors and pungent aroma. Always leaves me scratching my head that this is from Colorado and not somewhere in France.

                  and

                  Pleasant Ridge Reserve - this farmstead cheese is made at Uplands Dairy in Dodgeville, WI. It's remnicient of an aged gruyere, though where gruyere is sweet and nutty, PRR is earthy and slightly grassy. PRR won the ACS best in show award in it's very first year, then again in it's 5th year of production. It's the only one ever to win 2x. And it probably will deservedly win again.

                  And some imports you may want to consider:
                  Roaring 40s Blue (from King Island off the coast of Tasmania)
                  1. Ewephoria (Lovely Dutch gouda made from ewe's milk)
                  2. Ossau Iraty (from French Pyrenees...awesome sheep's milk cheese)
                  3. Affedelice (made by French producer Berthaut of Epoisses fame, but where Epoisses is washed in a semi-bitter spirit Marc du Bourgogne, Affedelice is washed in sweeter Chablis)
                  4. Pierre Robert (from French producer Rouzaire. The KING of triple cremes!)

                  Enjoy!
                  Mimosa

                  1. re: Quine

                    I think Midnight Moon is best described as a great chevre meets a great Gouda. IMO, there's nothing "blue" about it. More like a light nuttiness with a lot of depth - somewhat like a more refined Parrano or Vaasklass.

                    1. re: Quine

                      Quine, lots of posts on this regarding your reference to Midnight Blue and I'm confused. Many, myself included were talking about and recommending Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon - a firm, goat gouda (or gouda like) and it's not in any way cheddarish or blue. Perhaps you were recommending a different cheese from a different creamery or did you actually mean Midnight Moon?

                    2. For a hard cheese, a really good, really aged Gouda (they're sold under a bunch of different names like Borenkaase and Saenkanter). Better than Parmesan, IMHO.

                      For semi-soft, I really love the mixed milk cheeses from the Langhe area of Italy (robiola, la tur). They're very rich and creamy.

                      1. Here's a great Italian hard cheese that I found at Bristol Farms: Grana Padano Stravecchio. Try a little cube or chunk of this cheese rather than a thin shaving because other than the awesome nutty, brown-buttery flavor, its most outstanding feature is the texture - those crunchy crystals of salt. I nearly swooned the first time I tasted this cheese.

                        Heartily agree with the Humboldt Fog recommendation and description. Another chevre style French cheese that is also not as tangy as usual chevre is Valencay. It was fluffy and delicate.

                        My third recommendation would be one I tasted recently, also at Bristol Farms - Whitestone Windsor Blue. It is certainly at the mild end of the blue spectrum, the end I am more comfortable with. Just divine on a water cracker with a touch of honey.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sweetTooth

                          I am totally behid your Valencay reco -- especially if it can be bought in advance and ripened well before the event. It's savoury not tangy, as you mentioned and quite lovely.

                          I'd also like to recommend the triple cream Délice de Bourgogne -- it's a Brillat Savarin cheese of full-fat cow’s milk and cream. Very rich, again savoury, not tangy.