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Cheese connoisseurs - recommendations please

BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 11:43 AM

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. scuzzo RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 02:29 PM

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

    2 Replies
    1. re: scuzzo
      Caitlin McGrath RE: scuzzo Sep 6, 2009 03:49 PM

      This thread has lots of good info on aged Gouda: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/629831

      1. re: scuzzo
        bulavinaka RE: scuzzo Sep 6, 2009 04:24 PM

        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. a
        Ali RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 03:32 PM

        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
          cheesemonger RE: Ali Sep 6, 2009 04:36 PM

          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
            bulavinaka RE: cheesemonger Sep 6, 2009 10:02 PM

            >>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
              BamiaWruz RE: bulavinaka Sep 6, 2009 10:12 PM

              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
                yayadave RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 09:29 AM

                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
                  c oliver RE: yayadave Sep 7, 2009 01:39 PM

                  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
                  goodhealthgourmet RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 02:21 PM

                  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
                    c oliver RE: goodhealthgourmet Sep 7, 2009 03:45 PM

                    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
                Ali RE: cheesemonger Sep 9, 2009 02:15 PM

                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
                  cheesemonger RE: Ali Sep 9, 2009 02:50 PM

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

            2. greedygirl RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 03:42 PM

              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
                spazita RE: greedygirl Sep 7, 2009 01:49 PM

                Blurg! Do you like Durian too? LOL

                1. re: spazita
                  bulavinaka RE: spazita Sep 7, 2009 03:03 PM

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

                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    spazita RE: bulavinaka Sep 8, 2009 05:53 AM


              2. Veggo RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 04:19 PM

                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
                  yayadave RE: Veggo Sep 6, 2009 08:05 PM

                  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
                    Steve RE: Veggo Sep 8, 2009 07:26 AM

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

                  2. PBSF RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 05:27 PM

                    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

                    1. m
                      moh RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 05:31 PM

                      Must gets some high quality nuts to go along, some hazelnuts, half walnuts, pecans, almonds. Nuts can go a long way to making some of the stronger cheeses more accesible.

                      Since you have access to Quebec cheeses, you should definitely pick up a few of the crowd pleasers. Riopelle, a soft Brie-like cheese, is always well-received, very delicious, but accessible too. And of course, the cheese that really opened a lot of people's eyes to the pleasure of Quebec cheese, Victor-Berthold.

                      if you can find one of the Le Pic goat's cheeses, you are in for a special treat. And I adore Selle-sur-cher.

                      A good quality aged raw-milk Conte is always wonderful.

                      I am strongly in the Epoisses camp, but I agree it might be better to try it at a later date, as it can be initially off-putting. Stinky like feet, but oh so good.

                      1. c oliver RE: BamiaWruz Sep 6, 2009 05:51 PM

                        A new favorite of mine as far as pairings: Some goat cheese with toasted walnuts or pinenuts or whatever you like with some lavender honey drizzled over. A few blackberries wouldn't hurt either.

                        What a GREAT gift! You're great also.

                        1. s
                          smartie RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 10:21 AM

                          I love Chaumes - it is soft but not quite as soft as brie, smelly but does not have a smelly taste and creamy. I can happily consume 4oz alone!

                          1. s
                            spazita RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 01:55 PM

                            Taleggio when properly aged is great. There is a provolone Auricchio. Not soft, but a little stronger, and easily sliced. And, of course, sharp provolone. Delicious!

                            1. j
                              jaykayen RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 02:01 PM

                              Tomme/Toma from northern Italy/Alps

                              Gouda sounds good.

                              Parmigiano, clearly. I like this aged at least 3 years.

                              1. Veggo RE: BamiaWruz Sep 7, 2009 03:33 PM

                                Sacrilege here!!!
                                To desecrate Epoisses with comparisons to stinky feet, dead rats, Durian...I am no fan of the french, but I will defend Epoisses until the cows......what's that? They are allready home?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Veggo
                                  moh RE: Veggo Sep 7, 2009 04:06 PM

                                  Hold on now Veggo, why on earth do you assume that I desecrate Epoisses with references to stinky feet? To me sir, that is a cheesy badge of honour! Bring on the odiferous, podiatric master of the cheese world!

                                  I merely attempt to warn a newbie that perhaps it might not be immediately accessible to those who have not yet had the pleasure of its runny gooey goodness.

                                  1. re: Veggo
                                    bulavinaka RE: Veggo Sep 7, 2009 06:45 PM

                                    I personally don't care much for durian, but at least from my POV, relating it with Epoisses is a compliment to both. Durian is called, "The King of Fruits," in most of SE Asia. The number of varieties that have been cultivated to cater to the those obsessed with this fruit has elevated durian to near-cult status, much like the wines of certain cult California wineries and Bourdeaux. My brother-in-law drove hours up and down the Malay peninsula one day to source his favorite variety of durian (I think its variety name was, "XO") just so I could get a sample of what many considered to be one of the best varieties available at the time.

                                    As much as stink is reviled by the human sense of smell, I would imagine just about every culture has its exceptions as to what is not only acceptable but what is actually sought. Epoisses and durian may rank to many as the kings of rank, but many others consider those titles to be badges of honor. :)

                                    1. re: bulavinaka
                                      spazita RE: bulavinaka Sep 8, 2009 05:58 AM

                                      Then they must be in the rank of kings! ;-)

                                  2. e
                                    emilief RE: BamiaWruz Sep 9, 2009 12:42 PM

                                    I just finished a wheel of rochetta- so delicious. It is soft, with a soft rind, yet very flavorful.
                                    If you can't find rochetta, a very similar chees is La Tur.

                                    1. r
                                      Reignking RE: BamiaWruz Sep 9, 2009 12:57 PM

                                      Delice de Pommard is my absolute favorite, that I found in the Loire Valley (and have found in Atlanta). It is a triple cream goat rolled in red-wine-soaked mustard husks.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Reignking
                                        greedygirl RE: Reignking Sep 9, 2009 03:07 PM

                                        I love that too, but it's hard to find outside of France, and even then not so much. It's actually a Burgundy cheese from the Dijon area (not surprising, really, given the mustard and red wine connection).

                                        1. re: greedygirl
                                          Reignking RE: greedygirl Sep 10, 2009 09:36 AM

                                          Correct -- I just happened to be in the Loire Valley. I was -stunned- to find it in the US. Well worth the $17. However, the last time I looked for it (a month or two ago) it wasn't in.

                                          So, if you ever do see it, don't balk at the price!

                                          1. re: Reignking
                                            greedygirl RE: Reignking Sep 11, 2009 11:03 AM

                                            I'm actually in the UK and keep an eye out for it, but the only place I've found it is in the Dijon area, and in Toulouse.

                                      2. DonShirer RE: BamiaWruz Sep 9, 2009 04:29 PM

                                        Since he loves brie, you might try:
                                        Seal Bay (Australia)
                                        Fromager D'Affinois
                                        Petit Basque
                                        St. Agur
                                        St. Andre
                                        (As you might guess from the above, I'm currently exploring the French section of our local cheese shop.)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: DonShirer
                                          grayelf RE: DonShirer Sep 9, 2009 05:24 PM

                                          Another tasty and festive French option is Langres whose rind is washed in champagne. Comes in a petite basket and is less pongy than Epoisses but delightfully oozy and rich.

                                          I second the honey suggestion. Look for something clear, liquid and non-granular -- sage honey is particularly good if you can get hold of some.

                                        2. buttertart RE: BamiaWruz Sep 10, 2009 09:56 AM

                                          Ontario old cheddar from small producers (the one I'm most familiar with is the Bright, ON factory) is at least the equal of any of the English Cheddars that I've tried (and doubtless cheaper). I like 7 yr old but 5 yr old is a good starting point if milder cheese is preferred.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: buttertart
                                            grayelf RE: buttertart Sep 10, 2009 05:20 PM

                                            Balderson is pretty good too if you can get your hands on it -- orange or white, depending on age IIRC.

                                            1. re: grayelf
                                              buttertart RE: grayelf Sep 11, 2009 05:57 AM

                                              White always seems more appropriate for old cheese. New cheese was usually yellow when I was living in London, ON.

                                              1. re: buttertart
                                                grayelf RE: buttertart Sep 11, 2009 10:55 AM

                                                I noticed a propensity for older cheddar being white when I lived in Ontario too. Not so prevalent here -- I still do a tiny double take when I am offered Cheddar that is white :-).

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