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Sep 6, 2009 11:43 AM

Cheese connoisseurs - recommendations please

For my significant others' birthday next month I would like to give him an experience to remember. He is not an adventurous eater and has some serious allergies (all seafood) so several of my original ideas are out. However he does love cheese and I've been pleasantly surprised by his palette and interest in it from what I've exposed him to thus far.

I would like to take him to a cheese shop, and while I know the cheese mongers will be quite helpful in their suggestions I just wanted to run it by you guys first and see if you can recommend a few things that I should ask for or "not miss out on"

There are several local cheeses too that I'm sure they can recommend, we're in ontario so thunder gouda I heard is good as well as many Quebec cheeses. Other than that feel free to suggest anything that I can look into. My price range would be between $100-$150 and I'd like to pick up a bit of a variety.

He does not like blues, spicey or heat.

Cheddars and brie are good, mimolette is one of his favourites, he prefers the parts farthest from the rind as he says it tastes stronger near the rind.

He doesn't like soft milky cheeses like ricottas, buffalo mozarella (I know!) and fetas.

Feel free to recommend any good pairings with the cheese as I could probably pick that up too from the same store except for wine. Like fruit or compotes, jelly's ..etc.

Anything will be helpful, I hope it will be a fun experience.

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  1. I recommend trying an aged Gouda. I also love Humbolt Fog, a goat cheese. Manchego is another good choice.

    2 Replies
      1. re: scuzzo

        I second scuzzo's recs. Might also add that since he likes brie, he might like really rich cheeses in general. Explorator is a triple-creme that I enjoy once in a while - it's like spackling on inches to one's waistline.

        Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station in Marin County makes some excellent cheeses as well. Their Mt. Tam (triple creme), Pierce Pt.(seasonal - wine washed rind/rolled in herbs), and Inverness (French-style chaource) are my favorites, but I wouldn't turn away any of their cheeses.

        Quince paste (membrillo) goes great with so many things related to cheese. It has just enough tart, fruit and sweet to season but not overwhelm most cheeses, charcuterie, and breads. It really adds as a unifier to all these things. And of course, it's wine-friendly.

        Cowgirl Creamery
        80 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956

      2. Pierre Robert was my first thought. (You can only get a half wheel at minimum, though - the reason I've always been given is that the cheese would collapse on itself if it were cut more..) It's a triple creme and is, accordingly, ridiculously decadent. It's a little salty so I'd pick up something sweet to match - I don't know what to recommend since I can usually go through 1/4 of the wheel before remember that I meant to eat other things with the cheese. In this case, though, texture is much more at play than taste because though I think the taste is great, the mouthfeel of this cheese is like no other, creamy and dreamy like no cheese I've encountered.

        Cheddar: Montgomery or Keen (spelling could be off but if you pronounce those, the cheesemonger will know) are out-of-this-world good. Montgomery was the cheddar that made me think of cheddar as something special and more than just something I put in [US-style] biscuits.

        Jumping off scuzzo, maybe a few goat cheeses to try? A goat brie is both different and familiar (and I've had some excellent ones that would appeal to anyone who likes brie - just ask the cheese guys what they've got).

        9 Replies
        1. re: Ali

          Huh, I've been selling Pierre-Robert cut to order for years, and have never had it collapse when cut smaller that a 1/2 wheel. Perhaps your cheese shop doesn't know how to keep it when cut? It is delish, though, for sure.

          For the less adventurous- I like to introduce them to easier cheeses, I don't like to scare off a potential cheese-lover.

          Piave Vecchio is a cheese that 99% of people like- it's great stuff. It's Parmesean-like, not as grainy, and a tad bit sweeter with a whiff of pineapple- weird, but true.

          The aged Gouda is a great idea.

          A milder sheep's cheese like the Manchego is a good choice, as well as P'tit Basque and Etorki.

          Accompaniments are a great way to show off cheese- membrillo has been mentioned, I'll throw in any cherry chutneys with the sheep cheeses, and fig things with goat's cheeses if you go that route.

          For a cheese novice, I'd stay away from the stinkies like Epoisses- we are trying to win him to the dark side- not scare him away!

          1. re: cheesemonger

            >>Piave Vecchio is a cheese that 99% of people like- it's great stuff. It's Parmesean-like, not as grainy, and a tad bit sweeter with a whiff of pineapple- weird, but true.<<

            I'm proud to admit that I'm part of that 99%, and yes, that pineapple aroma comes and goes. I love Parm, but the grittiness is an unwanted distraction, so this particular cheese really is the archetype for the perfect eating version.

            1. re: bulavinaka

              This cheese sounds wonderful since one of my SO's favourite flavours and fruits is pineapple!!
              He actually has a much more sensitive palate than myself, so I hope he will detect this, should be fun.

              All these recommendations are absolutely wonderful!! I was so pleasantly surprised by all the feedback.
              I'll definitely pick up all the nuts and fruits and accompaniments so that I can put out a nice spread when we get back to enjoy in the evening.

              For those of you in Toronto... I was thinking the cheese boutique on ripley? He hasn't been there but I have and I like the relaxed and beatiful environment, I heard it's a little pricier than places like Alex but I want a place that has a good variety and nice environment (the vault there sounds pretty cool, do they let people have a look in there?) If you have any other cheese shop recommendations please do tell, I'd appreciate it very much.

              1. re: BamiaWruz

                Don't forget the honey. It might be great fun just finding out which cheeses are "improved" with a little drizzle of honey.

                1. re: yayadave

                  Even my finger tastes better with a little honey! I first had honeyCOMB with cheese at a restaurant, Salt, in Vancouver. It changed me.

                2. re: BamiaWruz

                  i think you've gotten plenty of wonderful cheese recs, so i won't bother complicating things with more :) i just wanted to chime in to encourage you to heed bulavinaka's suggestion re: quince paste and c oliver's vote for lavender honey, as they're both fabulous complements to many cheeses...and to add a suggestion for figs - another terrific pairing, *and* they're in season right now.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    And I've been eating lavender honey with figs and Greek yogurt for weeks now so a trio with cheese would be lovely. Just bought TWO more jars of the honey - and have a half log of goat cheese left. Mmmm.

              2. re: cheesemonger

                cheesemonger - I've been given that answer at many cheese places, so I don't know what the deal is, but I noticed that they are somewhat correct on that when I bring it home and cut into it, the Pierre Robert does tend to collapse in on itself.

                Second that Piave Vecchio - it's one of my go-to cheeses when I just need something to munch on after work.

                1. re: Ali

                  use a piece of wax paper on the cut surfaces, that's been cut to size, and it will hold together!

            2. A perfectly ripe Epoisses is one of the best cheeses I know. Smells like a dead rat, but tastes divine! I also really like comté, another French cheese, but a hard one with a sweet, nutty flavour.

              3 Replies
              1. re: greedygirl

                Blurg! Do you like Durian too? LOL

                1. re: spazita

                  Durian could probably be considered the Epoisses of SE Asia... :)

              2. Be on the lookout for Epoisses, which many regard as the king of cheeses. It's a soft, aromatic, ripened cheese, washed twice in a near-brandy solution during it's ageing process. It comes in small wheels, usually 250 grams. It is somewhat seasonal, but I'm not sure of the season. Magnificent. I just noticed it is mentioned elsewhere here; I hope my description is more compelling.
                St. Marcellin is like the center of brie, without the rind. It comes in 100 gram crocks. At room temperature, you can eat it like pudding with a teaspoon. Delicious. Both of these are from small production areas in France.
                Humbolt fog, mentioned above, is technically a blue goat cheese because of the culture used, but it lacks the usual blue bite, and is nicely goaty, with a rind, and has interesting textures and colors. I eat it plain. It's made lovingly by two ladies in California.
                Belle Blanche is a dutch brand of goat cheese, and they do a smoky but I don't find it often. Try it if you find it.
                From one cheese mouse to another, have fun! Oh, and buy some patees, pears,apples, and plenty of crusty bread.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Veggo

                  Agree with the last sentence and would add walnuts (toasted) and acacia honey.

                  As far as cheese goes, smoked gouda and St. Andre are decent additions to all the other suggestions.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    An enthusiastic second for St Marcellin. Fits the OP's criteria very well. Lots of flavor, but probably not off-putting.

                  2. Given your nice budget of $100-150, I would take the approach of choosing a cheese from a few different catagories. This will allow variety and also some cheeses can keep longer. It does all depend on what your cheese monger has to offer and what is the best at moment. This is especially true to young, more perishable cheeses. The list is from someone who lives in California.
                    Goat: Bellweather Farm Goat, Cyprus Grove’s Humboldt Fog, aged crottin
                    Soft: imported French raw milk brie or camerbert (import of young raw milk cheeses are not allowed in the US but I’ve found in some NYC shops), epoisses, vacherin; Red Hawk from Cowgirl Cremery
                    Triple cream: Delice de Bourgogne, Pierre Robert
                    Semi-soft: St. Nectaire, Reblochon
                    Medium firm: aged Comte, Brebis from France, aged Manchego or Roncal; couple of good American cheese makers: David Major’s Vermont Shepherd sheep’s milk, Pleasant Ridge Reserve
                    Cheddar: anything from Neal Yard
                    Aged: raw milk Parmigiano Reggiano, Vella Dry Jack