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Looking for extraordinary cheeses

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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.

                        2. Humbolt Fog must be on the list! If you can find it, Brillat Savarin, is absolutly stellar!!!

                          1. I've always loved Drunken Goat.

                            1. Semisoft (cow)- Pave d'Auge from northwest France - washed rind, semi-soft dense paste, mildly stinky but rich and mellow flavors.
                              Goat - Garrotxa - aged goat from Spain - real character.
                              Berkswell - firm sheep cheese from England - the only cheese I've ever had with the complexity of the great Alpage cheeses.
                              Instead of hard Italian - Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Wisconsin - similar to the great Alpage cheeses.

                              1. Semi-soft: St. Andre all the way! St. Andre all the way!

                                Now, I know you're looking for a hard Italian cheese, but, you should look into Manchego cheese. It's a spanish cheese that has a better flavor than the Reggiano. The 12 month Manchego is a nice one, with a little bit of quince paste and merlot.

                                I can't give you a recommendation for goat cheese, they are not my favorites. Probably why I don't really like the reggiano, I believe reggiano means that it was made from goat's milk or something like that.

                                1. I would highly recommend any cheese from Washington State University Creamery. I especially love the Cougar Gold. It is a white sharp cheddar. It is a favorite at any party that I host. www.wsu.edu/creamery

                                  1. I love a good Manchego... nice an salty and on the firm side.

                                    1. Thanks to everyone who's responded so far! So many good recommendations. I'm either going to expand my menu from six to eight cheeses, or start planning for a second tasting in a couple of months!

                                      So far, here's what I'm thinking:

                                      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

                                      Either Midnight Moon or Humboldt Fog, possibly kicking the Redhawk if the Humboldt Fog is too close, and is a better representative of that class of cheese.

                                      Either an aged Gouda or an aged Manchego (which I love, and totally hadn't thought of). Another one I'm going to have to sample both of before deciding. As I said above, oh, woe...

                                      A Berkswell from Ram Hall Dairy

                                      Thanks again,
                                      Ben.

                                      1. Humboldt Fog is one of my favorites - tangy and sharp but still palatable for those who shy away from stinky cheeses. One of the most outstanding cheeses to ever cross my palate is made by the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company. It is an artisnal cheese called Coupole. It's an ash ripened goat cheese that is creamy, mild and very dense. It is very pricey but very appreciated by people with a passion for cheese. You must add it to your list. It is extraordinary.

                                        1. Do try the Drunken Goat (even if it doesn't make the list) - you won't regret the experience!

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: odkaty

                                            I'll be sure to check it out! I'm working on a second tasting menu, if my first tasting goes over well, and if you're right about the Drunken Goat, I'll be sure to give it a spot there.

                                          2. for your hard italian fix, find a ROCCOLO. its not hard hard like parmigiano but its not too soft, either. anyway, its a cow's milk from Italy. awesome

                                            1. I'll second (third? fourth?) the Humboldt Fog. An excellent goat.

                                              Instead of a Parmigiano which everyone's had, would you consider an aged gouda or a boerenkase? They have the same crystalline texture as the Parmesan, but a creamier flavor.

                                              1. I'm also a Humboldt Fog fan, but my recommendation is for the Italian...you may want to try an aged Asiago. It's more piquant than the fresh Asiago, and is somewhat similar to an aged Gouda, but better.

                                                Cheers,
                                                Niki

                                                1. I am not sure where you are located, but if you are in San Diego, you might want to check out this great shop, TASTE. The owners are very helpful and have a great selection. They offer classes too.

                                                  http://www.artisancheeseshop.com

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                                                    Thanks for the shop rec, Normal. I live in Tucson, but will be visiting SD late next month. It'll be after my tasting, but I'll be sure to check out the shop!

                                                    Ben.

                                                  2. 6 cheeses? A fun way to serve cheese is to emphasize the basic classification.

                                                    1) Soft Cows’ milk cheese with white mould - think Brie. Camembert Le Chatelain. An easy start.

                                                    2) Soft Cows’ milk cheese, washed rind. Yes, halfpint and theJulia, Epoisses, of course. Slimy, looks like Brie gone really really bad. Fell in love with it at Taillevent. Melts in your mouth. Recently had some raw milk Epoisses at the Ritz Dining Room. Not sure how they import that stuff. Pave d'Auge mentioned by beef is a good choice for a firmer cheese.

                                                    3) Cows’ milk Blue cheese. Fourme d’Ambert is my favorite. Rogue River Blue will be excellent.

                                                    4) Cows’ milk hard cheese. Your 10 year old cheddar from the Carr Valley Cheese Company should do the trick.

                                                    5) Sheeps’ milk cheese. If Roquefort is too familiar (and another blue cheese would feel redundant) how about a good Pecorino Toscano or Pecorino Siciliano. Or Berkswell mentioned by beef. Or Manchego. So many choices.

                                                    6) Goats' milk cheese. Nutty flavored Valencay mentioned by sweetTooth. Besides being good, it is also a crowd pleaser at a cheese tasting because of its pyramid shape and charcoal dusting. Humboldt Fog or Midnight Moon would be good choices as well. Or Garrotxa.

                                                    If you want to do more than 6 cheeses you can further classify goat and sheep milk cheeses – soft, washed rind, blue and hard.

                                                    1. try Brunet from Italy, or La Serrena from Spain. Both awesome

                                                      1. Whole Foods had the Cypress Grove cheeses...if you can get to one.

                                                        1. I had something at a cheese tasting last year called Comte. I know nothing about it except that a year later, I still remember how good it was.

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: Velma

                                                            Comte would actually belong in another class of cheese - the "cooked" category. Gruyere and Emmental (Swiss) belong here. Tasty cheese.

                                                            (Please refer to my previous post)

                                                            1. re: grocerytrekker

                                                              I don't know much about cheese so are you saying that you would not just snack on this cheese as a rule?

                                                              1. re: Velma

                                                                Oh, no. I meant it would be a #7), an important category all by itself.
                                                                (Or #5, I should say, and make 6) sheep 7) goat for organization's sake. And then the blends after that...

                                                                Comte is a valued cheese, of course. Lovely fragrance.

                                                                Here's another tasty cooked cheese, Beaufort. http://images.google.com/imgres?imgur...

                                                                1. re: grocerytrekker

                                                                  Thanks for the clarification. I have a lot to learn as a Chowhound!

                                                          2. I also love Comte, it is excellent. It is a Gruyere style from France and it is regulated in quality and standards. Defiinately look at it.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Quine

                                                              I too, love Comte. Also, not mentioned are some of my other favorites: Dubliner (which is salty, sweet, nutty, also has those hard crystals of salt which I love) and Parrano which I can't remember much about other than that I love it.

                                                              1. re: chemchef

                                                                Parrano is a "medium-aged" (20 weeks) gouda. It's outstanding for a cheese in that price range (TJ's usually has it for about $8/lb).

                                                            2. Why not try Portuguese cheeses? In my opinion they are severely overlooked.

                                                              Two of my favorites:
                                                              Serpa - sheep's milk cheese,- slightly sweet in flavor with hints of local herbs and grasses.
                                                              Azeitao - also sheep's milk - earthy, tangy, creamy

                                                              Garden of Eden, Whole Foods and Citarella always have one or two to choose from.

                                                              1. No one's mentioned my current favorite, La Tur. It's Italian, from a blend of cow, sheep and goat milk. It starts out with a sort of chevre-like texture, with a wholly edible rind (I call it the "wrinkly skin"); as it ages, it becomes creamier and creamier, until it is virtually liquid. At a recent dinner, I served cheese beforehand; I had two pieces of La Tur that were a week apart in age. Of course, the older one was much creamier, but they were both absolutely wonderful. As with the Humboldt Fog, it becomes tangier as it becomes creamier, but it's less likely to get that bitter edge. Whole Foods carries this.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: LT from LF

                                                                  I mentioned it! I think it's a fabulous cheese.

                                                                2. Cowgirl Creamery's SF Drake
                                                                  Wonderful stuff. Here's a review that does it more justice than I can.

                                                                  http://www.forkandbottle.com/cheese/c...

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Spike Costa

                                                                    The SF Drake is a wonderful cheese. Unfortunately, those mean ol' Cowgirls won't ship it out of state, and I won't be back in SF for several months. I will, however, be haunting their Ferry Building shop frequently next time I'm there. Just can't seem to stay away.

                                                                  2. A couple of my current favorites:

                                                                    * Bouc Emissaire
                                                                    "Chaput's Bouc Emissaire, made in Québec, is a fresh goat's milk cheese in the large format of a tomme. Its rind is tender and changes seasonally from green to gray. Bouc Emissaire has a fine, smooth texture and mild taste, with the lean and clean flavor of a first-class chévre. We select wheels of Bouc Emissaire for their smoothness and age them in our caves until they lose a little moisture and develop a nice, mossy fur and tighter texture. Pair it with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Albarino, Reisling, Fiano, or Tempranillo."

                                                                    * Hoch Ybrig
                                                                    "This mountain cheese is made from cow's milk in Canton Schwyz, Switzerland during summer months. It is in the Alpage family of cheeses, developing its unique character from being washed in a white wine brine. The cheese has a slightly granular texture and a wonderful full nuttiness! It is excellent in a fondue or accompanied by mostarda (grape mustard) on a piece of baguette with a glass of Riesling."

                                                                    * Comte (covered above, but it's just SOOO good)

                                                                    * Colston Bassett Stilton
                                                                    "Colston-Bassett Stilton, from Nottinghamshire, England, is the finest and creamiest example of Stilton available today. Made with the mill from five herds of cows grazing near Colston-Bassett dairy, this hand-made Stilton develops a fine, bark-like natural rind and ample blue veining. Aged for four months, Colston-Bassett Stilton tastes best from October to February, when wheels produced from rich August milk are released. To achieve full and deep flavors this Colston-Bassett Stilton is specially made with traditional rennet with Neal’s Yard Dairy. Served with port at dessert, Stilton is wonderful in salads and sauces."

                                                                    * Ubriaco Prosecco (really yummy but best in summer)

                                                                    (above descriptions borrowed from www.artisanalcheese.com)

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: sethnanyc

                                                                      While all sound great (artisanal cheese descriptions certainly worth cribbing), the Colston Bassett Stilton has my mouth watering. We love Stilton with port. If you haven't yet, try drizzling a touch of honey over the Stilton too. The flavors of the cheese, honey and wine together are perfection.

                                                                      1. re: sethnanyc

                                                                        I have a Christmas tradition with friends of eating a stilton with honey, apples and wine. I'll see if I can't track this one down next winter to share with them!

                                                                      2. I can't recomment Dorothea from igourmet.com enough. Absolutely sublime firm/semi-firm white goats milk chevre flavored with basil oil and potato skins.

                                                                        I'd ordered a 4lb sampler of cheeses from them through Amazon for a Christmas gift and this was the blowout winner in the bunch. Everyone in our family from the inexperienced (in particular my 9year old and my husband, whom I believe might be a "supertaster" and is therefore quite picky) to the very experienced palates loved this cheese.

                                                                        I wasn't expecting to like it more than the cave aged gorgonzola or an interesting sounding aged gouda, but I did.

                                                                        Fabulous stuff from Holland, if I remember correctly. Yes, Holland:
                                                                        http://www.amazon.com/Dorothea-1-Poun...

                                                                        1. Soft: Gorgonzola Cremificato

                                                                          1. Haven't read all of the posts, so pardon any duplication... try Memoir (sp?), it's a fantastic semi soft gouda loaded with pieces of black truffle. I think it's french, but not 100% sure.

                                                                            1. I'm with everyone on the Humboldt Fog, and it's pretty easy to find now. A great snacking cheese is Druken Goat (Cabra al Vino), which is a semi-soft goat cheese that's been bathed in red wine so the outside is purplish. The latter is great with some olive tapenade.

                                                                              1. Soft: St. Marcellin. Needs to rest only a few minutes, lest it get too runny. It's like the center of a ripened brie. Only downside: the mice will invade from all directions.

                                                                                1. Have you though about a DRY Spanish cheese like manchego?

                                                                                  1. okay, another suggestion (I am a slow thinker) a good alternative to a Parma would be a Piave vecchio -- a bit nuttier

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: orangewasabi

                                                                                      Yup, second the Piave. The store had run out of my favorite Grana Padano Stravecchio and suggested Piave as a substitute. Yum! Nutty like brown butter!