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Feta Cheese

m
Martha Aug 26, 2008 04:51 PM

Last week I was in Duck and had an amazing watermelon salad at the Sanderling's Left Bank. I've been craving it ever since and tried to recreate it today. The main problem with my dish was the feta cheese I purchased at Whole Foods -- just too dry and dense. The Left Bank salad had a silky, light feta. Does anyone have recommendations on where to get good feta cheese? I live in Reston, so would prefer western Fairfax/Loudoun.
Thanks

  1. v
    venera Sep 1, 2008 09:16 PM

    Domestic feta* is junk. Don't go there. It's made from cow's milk, is dry and tastes like salty cardboard. Real feta is made with sheep's milk. If it you don't see sheep's milk on the label, don't by it.

    You want an imported feta. Believe it or not, French feta is amazing. It is creamy, briny, and goat-y without being overwhelmingly so. It's slightly milder than Greek or Bulgarian feta, but much softer/creamier. Despite having grown up on Balkan feta, my parents are now die-hard French Feta converts.

    Greek and Bulgarian fetas can vary depending on where they comes from. It's good to ask for a taste at the counter so you can see what you're getting (hard, soft, oversalty, mild, very sheepy, etc). Then you can purchase according to your taste buds' preferences.

    A good place will give it to you with some brine. That will keep your cheese good for a long, long time. If you find that the cheese is too salty, you can pitch the brine and just replace it with water---that will leach some of the saltiness out of your cheese. You can also put milk in instead of brine if you want to sweeten the cheese slighlty (de-saltifies it, but also makes it slightly creamier).

    I had luck one turning a hard, crumbly chunk of feta into something soft and creamy simply by chance. Mr. Venera wrapped a piece in waxed paper, stuck it in a ziplock bag, and we forgot about it. A month later, we ended up with something much softer than what we started with. It almost had a cream cheese/goat cheese consistency.

    Middle eastern stores also tend to carry fetas, so call around. If you do trek up to Prima foods, look for the Bulgarian 1 kg wheel of Kashkaval cheese. It rocks. It's similar to the Greek kefalotiri, the stuff they use for Saganaki. Yum yum. I have seen Mr. Venera cut through that in two days. :)

    Watermelon + a hunk of feta + a loaf of warm homemade bread = some of the best summertime dinners you can ever have. The wet/sweet of the watermelon + the briny/sheepy of the feta is an amazing combination.

    Enjoy!

    __________________
    * I know that there is the whole EU thing about feta only being able to be called feta if it's from Greece, but I'm not in the EU. And we don't really have another common English word for that type of cheese.

    3 Replies
    1. re: venera
      alkapal Sep 2, 2008 07:20 AM

      "Domestic feta* is junk. Don't go there. It's made from cow's milk, is dry and tastes like salty cardboard. Real feta is made with sheep's milk. If it you don't see sheep's milk on the label, don't by it."
      ------------------

      venera, i really, really, really beg to differ. i think you might want to try some artisanal fetas made here before you make such a broad denigration.

      and, not all fetas "have to be" sheep's milk to be "real", iirc my cheese research. that's why i found your statement confusing: " French feta is amazing. It is creamy, briny, and goat-y without being overwhelmingly so."

      did you say "goat-y"?

      1. re: alkapal
        v
        venera Sep 2, 2008 09:32 AM

        Alkapal, you are right--I should have qualified my statement as follows:

        Mass produced domestic feta is garbage.

        I mean the stuff you get at Safeway. I haven't tried local cheesemakers' feta, so I can't speak to it. But in desparation once or twice, I've gotten salty cardboard at my local grocer's cheese section labeled feta. And have pitched it after taking a bite.

        Some fetas are of sheep's milk, some are of goat milk, and some a combination of the two. That's why I messed up my syntax, above. :) Traditionally (meaning in the old country), they never use cow milk for feta. I honestly find the aroma/flavour of sheep/goat feta to be far superior to that of cow milk, but understand how it can be too strong for some people unused to such "earthy" aromas and flavours.

        And since I'm thinking about it, here's the EU bit:
        "Since 2002, under EU rules, only sheep- and goat's-milk cheese produced by a specific process and in specific parts of Greece can be called "feta."
        http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2...

        Good thing we're in the US! :) :) :)

        1. re: venera
          alkapal Sep 3, 2008 04:27 AM

          venera, re your grocery store feta point of reference, i'm with you there, gal!
          and you are right, original (and authentic "true") feta is ewe's and goat's milk cheese. this bbc info page was enlightening and entertaining about feta: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A872048

          try that blue ridge dairy (jersey cow's milk) "feta", though; it is quite nice!

          happy eating!

    2. v
      VPL Aug 28, 2008 06:48 AM

      Try the Reston farmer's market on Saturday mornings at Lake Anne, 8a-12p. The Blue Ridge Dairy Co. has a stand. Nice variety of very yummy cheeses, including feta.

      1 Reply
      1. re: VPL
        alkapal Aug 28, 2008 07:03 AM

        martha, look no further. there is your easy and best solution, the blue ridge dairy co. at reston's farmer's market.

        try all their cheeses (and the butter); you'll need a small tote bag for all the creamy goodies you'll want to bring home!

      2. monavano Aug 28, 2008 04:53 AM

        Keswick Creamery makes several of the best fetas you'll ever eat. Find them at area farmers markets.

        1. b
          beanodc Aug 27, 2008 01:00 PM

          Try Mediterrean Bakery and Cafe
          352 S. Pickett St
          Alexandria, 22304
          They have all kinds of feta and will probably have exactly what you want.

          2 Replies
          1. re: beanodc
            m
            Martha Aug 27, 2008 01:59 PM

            Please can anyone recommend a good Greek or Med market in western Fairfax, say from Falls Church/Vienna onward. I live in Reston, so Baltimore is not an option and Alexandria is not worth a trek for cheese (IMHO). Thanks.

            1. re: Martha
              s
              soilman Aug 27, 2008 07:47 PM

              Mediteranean Market in rear of the small shopping center next to Amphora Restaurant in downtown Vienna. Usually has 3 or 4 types of bulk feta. Inexpensive also.

          2. d
            dcfoodie13 Aug 27, 2008 04:53 AM

            I would try Wegmans in Fairfax. They have a great cheese selection and the employees have been very helpful so I'm sure they could point you to which feta is the type you're looking for.

            1. alkapal Aug 27, 2008 04:38 AM

              martha, call the resto and ask. i'll bet they'd be happy to tell you the type, and maybe their source.

              i found a gorgeous fresh jersey cow's milk feta at the arlington farmer's market from the blue ridge dairy company -- which is located in leesburg. (their butter, mascarpone, and smoked mozz are equally fine!) younger, non-brined feta is going to be better for your purpose than aged, brined feta.

              http://www.arlingtonfarmersmarket.com/producerlist.shtml

              http://www.freshfarmmarkets.org/farme... (says also sold to local whole foods).

              that first link has phone and email. might be worth a fun trip to the dairy!

              otherwise, i get the israeli feta at trader joe's.

              1 Reply
              1. re: alkapal
                Chocolatechipkt Sep 1, 2008 08:53 AM

                Blue Ridge is also at the Dupont farmer's market. I love it and will happily snack on it by itself -- something I've never done with other fetas.

              2. c
                carey24 Aug 27, 2008 04:31 AM

                At my greek grocer it is kept in liquid and only pulled out and cut when you order it. This keeps it very light and moist and it won't dry out.

                4 Replies
                1. re: carey24
                  e
                  elgringoviejo Aug 27, 2008 06:45 AM

                  Prima Foods keeps their feta in liquid, at it is simply the best I have ever had since I began eating feta more than thirty years ago.

                  1. re: elgringoviejo
                    alkapal Aug 27, 2008 06:47 AM

                    where is prima foods, please?

                    1. re: alkapal
                      m
                      MrsWheatie Aug 27, 2008 06:51 AM

                      According to Google they are a distributor with a retail store in Baltimore.
                      http://www.primafoodsinc.com/food_ret...

                      1. re: MrsWheatie
                        e
                        elgringoviejo Aug 28, 2008 06:17 PM

                        Thank you Mrs. Wheatie-Prima is the very best, and I hump it there from Columbia at least once or twice a month to stock up on feta, Kalamata olives, and giardinera.

                2. Vespa1 Aug 26, 2008 08:48 PM

                  What kind of milk was the feta you bought at WF made with? Feta can vary quite a bit depending on whether it is made with cow, sheep or goat. generally the sheep's milk versions are creamier. Try Arrowine in Arlington or Cheesetique.

                  1. h
                    Hal Laurent Aug 26, 2008 05:20 PM

                    I can't help you with Virginia cheese sources, but there are a lot of styles of feta. The Whole Foods near me in Baltimore has more than one kind. If yours does as well, you might want to describe what you want to the cheese person and see what they recommend.

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