Cheesemongers: what's new these days?
- tatamagouche Jun 14, 2010 01:55 PM
Any products you're crazy about right now? Trying to think of what's hot for a piece I'm working on, but my own two current faves—gjetost and miticana de oveja—aren't available locally.
Are you looking for cheeses that are new to the American market? The title of your thread implies that, but the cheeses you give as examples don't fit. Miticana de oveja (usually abbreviated as Cana de oveja) has been around for a few years and gjetost has been available in the US much longer.
I could tell you about cheeses that I've recently gotten to know and been impressed with (e.g., Urner Mutschli, Gran Bu, Adelegger, cheeses from Estrella Creamery in Washington State) or many others that I've known for a long time and love, but I have no idea if they are available in your area. I see from your other posts that you are located in or near Denver. There are several good cheese shops there. Why not visit a couple of them and ask the cheesemongers to make recommendations? Or tell us a little more about the topic you are writing about, and we may be able to be of more help to you.
Here's a recipe that's very like it if not the exact thing (I would use regular dry sherry of course) - the TL recipe had boneless chicken breasts but this would probably be even nicer with the whole chicken: http://valdis_sca.tripod.com/rviking_food.html#Norwegian Chicken & Gjetost Sauce
It's difficult to provide a compact answer to your question, as there are just so many cheeses to consider and recommend. One cheese that is "hot" right now is Dunbarton Blue, a blued cheddar made by the Roelli Cheese Co. in Wisconsin. It has received much attention in the press and is being carried by quite a few shops. My own experience is that it is a good cheese, if not a great one. As a cheddar, it is not the best one I've had, nor do I count it among the best blue cheeses I know. However, it is unusual in that there are hardly any other blued cheddars, apart from those natural rind cheddars that can develop unintended blue veins (think British farmhouse cheddars).
There are a couple of trends I'm seeing in imported cheeses. The first is the the greater availability here in the US of small production, top quality cheeses from Switzerland. Many of them are bold, umami-rich Alpine types, for which Switzerland is famous, although there are also some softer washed rinds and other cheese types. To name but two, I've recently had Urner Mutschli and Challerhocker, both of which I find to be very fine. There are many others. Along the same lines, we are also seeing more excellent Alpine cheeses from Austria and Germany. Ones that I can recommend include, Allgauer Bergkase, Hirtenkase and Adelegger, all from Germany.
Second, we are seeing aged water buffalo milk cheeses coming in from Italy. (There are numerous water buffalo milk cheeses made in the UK as well, but they rarely make it over to our shores.) Forever Cheese Co. in New York, an importer of specialty cheeses from Spain, Portugal and Italy, has been the driving force in bringing several previously unfamiliar buffalo milk cheeses to America. I can heartily recommend Quadrello di Bufala (a buffalo milk taleggio), Gran Bu and Casatica.
Descendants of the Trapp Family in Vermont ("The Sound of Music"), recently launched a cheesemaking operation there and created a well balanced and not overly stinky washed-rind cheese called Von Trapp Oma. I don't know if you'll be able to find it in your area.
Two firm cheeses that I think are wonderful are Old Smales from the UK (intense, sharp, crystalline) and Tuma Persa from Sicily (also intense). The latter has an interesting story. The cheese was made on a single estate that ceased production years ago, and the recipe was thought to be lost. When new owners purchased the estate and started renovations, they found the recipe and old cheesemaking equipment hidden in an area that had been walled off. Indeed, Tuma Persa essentially means "lost cheese" in Sicilian dialect.
There is a lot happening in the American artisanal cheese movement, which now involves hundreds of cheesemakers across the US. New dairies are opening every year and dozens of new cheeses are being introduced to the market. Many of these cheeses can be found primarily in their local and regional areas, but not in other parts of the US, although there are some that have become known nationally. The mountain west region, where you live, is not as active a hotbed of artisanal cheesemaking as some other parts of the country (e.g., the Pacific states or the Northeast), but there are cheesemakers in every mountain state. You may be familiar with some of their cheeses. I've been impressed with cheeses from Haystack Mountain (Haystack Peak, Snowdrop, Queso de Mano, Red Cloud, among others) and Mouco (Colorouge) in Colorado and Beehive Cheese Co. in Utah. Beehive has done some really interesting things with rubs on the rinds of their cheeses. Their Barely Buzzed is a cheddar that is coated with a mixture of Turkish grind coffee and ground lavender buds and their newest cheese, Sea Hive, is coated in sea salt and wildflower honey. An Idaho cheesemaker, Ballard Family Dairy, is just coming out with a truffle cheddar that could be intriguing. I'm not sure it's on the market yet.
Among the cheeseshops in the Denver area, there is one that specializes only in American-made cheeses: Fromage to Yours in Centennial. The owner would probably be an excellent source of information for what's new in cheeses from your part of the country.
Finally, I would take a look at Janet Fletcher's weekly cheese column in the San Francisco Chronicle. Past columns have all been archived and made available online:
Janet is a nationally respected authority on wine and cheese (I have met her at American Cheese Society meetings) and has several books out. In her column, she writes about a single cheese each week. She gives equal time to domestic and imported cheeses. Many of her selections are cheeses that are new to the US and new to her. She is not afraid to state her honest opinions and you can take her recommendations seriously.