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May 12, 2012 04:11 PM

Cheese Afficionado--not just a chip lover

Okay--would love to hear about your favorite type of cheese(s) and where you purchase same. After visiting Wegman's several years ago, I was overwhelmed by the selection, but stayed with my purchase of my regular selection. Goat's cheese--heavily marbled blue cheese--some roquefort--horseradish infused cheese curds (they are difficult to find anywhere, let alone the plain curds).

I love cream cheeses and want to find a wonderful, non-commercial variety (not Philadelphia Brand-which is okay).

Also, no one has "homemade" cottage cheese. Many years ago at the Lexington Market there was Castle Farms. They offered three types of cottage cheese--large curd (without a lot of the creaminess)--middle curd--more like that which one buys in the grocery store (but so fresh!!!)--and small curd (smearcasse)--it was heavenly. I used to add chopped scallion and grated lemon rind to it to spread on crositini rounds.

Whole foods has a decent selection of cheese. And, to my surprise, the Dutch Farmer's Market in Hunt Valley has some very good cheese that I've found at Whole Foods, but less costly.

My great grandmother used to eat that very "stinky" cheese (can't recall the name--oh yeah--Limburger cheese)) every night on a slab of pumpernickle bread and a bottle of beer before going to bed. She lived to the ripe old age of 94.

Am trying to braden my horizons in selecting different types. Your input would be great. FoiGras

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  1. Saint-Andre - is a high (~75%) milk-fat, triple crème cow's milk French cheese in a powdery white, bloomy skin of mold. Traditionally crafted in Coutances, in the Normandy region of northwestern France, the cheese is also made internationally from both raw and pasteurized milk - purchased it at Whole Foods for a wine and cheese tasting.

    The Dutch Farmer's Market in Laurel and Annapolis have a very good cheese selection

    1. I'm pretty sure I've seen St Marcellin at Wegman.s. Rind on, plam-sized, usually packed in a small round box.

      Must be served at room temperature. Runny and a bit pungent.

      1. i frequent arrowine in arlington for cheese, where you can get a taste of anything, and the employees are knowledgeable to guide you when you need assistance. usually, they have their cheeses on special that week out for ready sampling (typically on weekends). sign up for their newsletter.

        my favorite cheese these days is époisses (cow) .Époisses...
        here's what it looks like inside:

        i'm always fond of bucheron: (goat).

        one other magical cheese i got at whole foods, called brin d'amour (sheep).
        by the way, this site has a cheese encylopedia, the link for which you see at the bottom of that post.

        for many cheeses, trader joe's has excellent value for money. their goat cheeses are nice, and they often have a cheese special that will be on the tasting station. they get some nice aged goudas at a much better price than arrowine.

        i still have found that feta and mid-east cheeses are best bought at the atilla's turkish market (behind the restaurant) on columbia pike , or gourmet basket in mclean (which has terrific pumpkin kibbeh balls, by the way).
        for greek cheese (if i can't get it somewhere else), i'd go to that place next to duangarat's market just off columbia pike. i'm not crazy about the people who run the place (not friendly or especially helpful at all!), but….what can you do?

        you will learn a lot by asking questions and just exploring. keep a record with photographs and your tasting notes (where you bought it, the per pound price and date). here you will see something i posted about cheeses recently:

        also get a good cheese book, and you can write notes in its margins when you try one of the cheeses featured.

        5 Replies
        1. re: alkapal

          i forgot to mention that these crackers in the photo are GREAT for softer cheese, semi-firm, and even cheddars. i also like the english "jacob's cream crackers for cheese" as well as carr's. trader joe's pita bites are similar to the one in the photo.

          also, for a cheese plate, it is nice to get a block of fig and nut paste, or a fig jam -- maybe even dates or just grapes or pear wedges. the sweet aspect really enhances the whole experience and brings out more complexity in the cheese.

          1. re: alkapal

            alkapal--wow--I am impressed with your knowledge and recommendations. I am definitely on a Cheese Mission." Guess I exhausted the potato chips tastings and have diverted my attention to cheeses for a change of pace. Maybe next will be desserts. FoiGras

            1. re: FoiGras

              LOL -- that's kind of you, but i just know what i love to eat! the problem is, it is fattening, but the good thing is that you don't need much of good cheese (so the expense is not as overwhelming as it might first appear). for example, a ¼ inch chunk of -- say -- a five year aged gouda is so intense and flavorful that three bites like that, slowly chewed and relished, are plenty of that particular cheese at one time. with two other cheeses, similarly small bites (instead of big gobs) of a couple of other cheeses for cocktails is really plenty. in fact, that would be quite a lot -- nine bites of intense cheeses (unless that is your dinner).

              along with the fruit i already mentioned, i usually also like a serrano ham, prosciutto, speck, artisanal salame (like olli brand, from virginia, available at arrowine, but cheaper at whole foods) or the like with the cheese…. esp. if we are entertaining. olives and nuts, like walnuts or almonds, round out a nice little feast fit for a queen. they all bring out different nuances of the cheese, and provide good textural counterpoints.

              this murray's cheese site is fun to explore, as you can really check all the permutations of type of milk used, rind, style, origin, etc. . (the french cheese site is also quite nice to explore -- and these cheese plate combinations might give you some party ideas: -- remember, this is a lifetime exploration of joy and discovery!

              for our home consumption, i typically don't buy more than three different cheeses at any one time (parties are a different matter, of course). more than that and it is just too much to really savor before the cheese starts to create storage and quality issues.

              have fun! share your discoveries with us! i like to eat vicariously, too. ;-D.

          2. re: alkapal

            Thanks alkapal for your comprehensive reply. You, along with the other responders have gotten me motivated to broaden my cheese selections and places in which to purchase same.

            The Dutch Farmer's Market(s) usually have some interesting spreadable/flavored creamcheeses. the walnut/raisin is excellent. FoiGras

            1. re: alkapal

              foigras, you are welcome. cheese is one of my favorite food groups. ha! ;-).

              by the way, a tasty little spread: cream cheese, goat cheese, green onions… that's it (maybe garlic & chives to make it fancy). delicious and dead simple.
              p.s. --> correction to my post above: the greek place is just off of route 7 -- not columbia pike.

              pps, with feta, spend the extra $ for the best sheep's milk feta -- it is worth it.

            2. I just recently had some Cave Aged Clothbound Cabot Cheddar from Wegman's. It is one of my favorite cheeses. Goes great with some green apples, baguette and a little honey.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mdpilam

                I haven't shopped at Wegman's for quite some time as it is about a 50 minute drive from my home--I can't wait until the Columbia store opens next month. (Well, maybe not--it may break my budget and raise my cholesterol and weight.).

                Your Cabot Cheddar sounds scrumptious and rich. I never thought to add honey to cheese--definitely a plus.

                Have you ever found "somked swiss" cheese at Wegman's? Maybe not on your cheese radar. Many years ago I purchased smoked swiss at Sutton Place Gourmet in the White Flint are store and have never seen it at amy store since. Yes, there is smoked cheddar and gouda, etc.

                I would love to think that Wegman's would carry a version of the smoked swiss cheese and will wait until their opening in Columbia and visit and inquire as to the availabilty of said product. Just thought that you may have some idea. FoiGras

              2. Wow. Where to start...

                First, I'll recommend some books so you are able to get a handle on what types of things you'll want to look for as well as tasting notes on some really desirable cheeses.

                1. "The Cheese Primer" by Steve Jenkins.
                2. All 3 books by Max McCalman but If you get just one, get "Cheese: The Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best".
                3. "The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese" by Jeffery Roberts.

                -Actually, make sure you get Max McCalman's book before you go to the cheese shop.

                Now, where to buy. In Baltimore you need to go to charm city cheesemongers (http://charmcitycheesemongers.wordpre...). Wegman's and Whole Foods are good, too and the Whole Foods downtown has generally had a slightly more interesting selection. In Annapolis try Tastings Gourmet. I haven't been there but I've heard good things about it. I'll second Alkapal's recommendation for Arrowine, in Arlington, too. If you get down that way, you might as well make a day of it and go to Arrowine, Dean and Deluca and Cowgirl Creamery. Maybe even throw in Cheesetique down in Del Ray, too.

                For a really good cream cheese try Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, MI. Yeah, you have to mail order it but it's great!

                My favorite cheese-that's easy, it's "the cheese I haven't tasted yet". OK, that's not helpful but here are some that I really like that are good "gateway" cheeses for someone just getting started with cheese:

                In the "Brie" family
                1. Brie de Nangis- made in France by Rouzaire. Not all Brie is created equal and this one is very good when it has ripened all the way to the middle. Rouzaire makes several Brie-style cheeses and they are all very good.
                2. Moses Sleeper- Made in Vermont by Jasper Hill Farm. Everything Jasper Hill makes is world-class.
                3. Robiola Bosina- A small, square cheese from Piedmonte, Italy. Robiola is kind of a broad category and they are generally made with a combination of cow, sheep and/or goat milk and are all small cheeses with an edible, thin, white rind.
                4. Herve Mons Camembert- you can usually find this one at Whole Foods. Herve Mons is a French affineur and cheeses that bear his name are all fantastic.

                Soft Cow's Milk cheeses:
                1. Taleggio- funky, in the same family as Limburger. Don't let the smell fool you. Remember this about smells and cheese. If it smells like manure or an old sock it's OK but if it smells like ammonia it's never OK.
                2. Winnemere- A seasonal cheese from Jasper Hill farm. it comes wrapped in a band of spruce bark and tastes slightly of bacon
                3. Ardrahan- Another funky cheese but this one is from County Cork, Ireland. A good piece tastes a little like peanuts.

                Soft Goat's milk cheeses:
                1. Humboldt Fog- made by Cypress Grove Chevre in California.
                2. Loire Valley goat cheeses- this region is very well known for small format goat cheeses. Some of my favorites are Clochette (shaped like a bell), Valencay (looks like a pyramid with its point chopped off) and Selles Sur Cher (a little disc-shaped cheese). The Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. makes a couple of cheeses in the same style and they are all good. Their fresh chevre is very good, too, and Trader Joe's always has the best price on it.
                3. Cherry Glen Farm- made right here in Maryland. They are all excellent.

                Firm Cow's milk cheeses:
                1. Cheddars- Cabot Clothbound, Fiscalini Farmstead, Montgomery's. The first 2 are American Cheddars and Montgomery's (made in England) is considered by many to be the world's best.
                2. Comte-Look for the Marcel Petit Comte at Wegmans. It's awesome. I'd recommend buying a piece of it along with a piece of the cheapest Comte or Gruyere they have and taste them side-by-side.
                3. Pleasant Ridge Reserve- Made in Wisconsin. It's won more awards than I've had hot dinners.

                Firm Sheep's Milk Cheeses:
                1. Abbaye de Belloc- One of many sheep's milk cheeses made in the Pyrenees but this one in particular is really good. You can always get it at Wegman's but make sure you ask them to cut you a fresh piece. They will if you ask them to.
                2. Manchego- from La MAncha, Spain. They only get interesting after they've been aged at least 6 months
                3. Italian Pecorino- Either Pecorino Toscano or Pecorino Sardo. The Pecorino Sardo is a little bit funkier

                Firm Goat's milk cheeses:
                1. Midnight Moon- a Dutch goat's milk Gouda sold in the US by Cypress Grove Chevre. Sweet and nutty. Serve it to someone who hates goat's milk cheeses.
                2. Mt. St. Francis- Made by Capriole Farm in Indiana. Nutty and just a little bit funky.
                3. Garrotxa- From Catalunya, Spain. Mellow and nutty.

                Hard Cheeses:
                1. Parmigiano Reggiano- It's not just for pasta.
                2. Well-aged Gouda- This stuff turns into gold when it's been aged 3 years or more. The Beemster XO at Wegman's is very good. There is also a 3yr. Gouda made in the Netherlands that turns up there from time to time. You'll probably be able to find the 3 yr. version at Whole Foods.

                That should get you started ;^ )

                6 Replies
                1. re: Vespa1

                  Just remembered this very important thing to tell you: good cheese is expensive. Very expensive if you think of it by its price per pound. Be prepared to see prices in the $15-$30 per pound range. But think about it this way, you're only going to get a few ounces of each cheese at a time and even the most expensive cheeses work out to between $6-$8 per piece which isn't that bad.

                  Just realized I forgot blue cheeses, I'll get back to you on that a little later today.

                  1. re: Vespa1

                    Most of your European suggestions are familiar here in the UK, but your US cheeses sound terrrific too. I don't think we see them much over here, more's the shame.

                    Interestingly enough, our finest blue cheese, Stichelton, is made by an American cheesemaker. It's unpasteurised, so you may not see it over there. Nearly $40/lb at source, sadly.

                    1. re: Robin Joy

                      You would be surprised at how many cheeses from Great Britain are available in the US, thanks mainly to Neal's Yard Dairy. Just this week I picked up a piece of Beenleigh Blue and the same shop also had Hawe's Wensleydale. Both were around $35 US per pound. American cheesemaking has come a long way in the last 10 years, much like America's craft brewing industry.

                  2. re: Vespa1

                    Vespa1--wish you would open a cheese shop in the Baltimore area. Your knowledge is amazing.

                    I love blue cheeses and parmigiano reggiano is one of my favorites. And, yes, good/great cheeses are pricey, but isn't eveything that is truly worthwhile and special expensive? FoiGras

                    1. re: FoiGras

                      Thanks to the guys at charmcitycheesemongers, I don't have to :^ )

                      Ahh, blue cheeses:
                      1. Colston Bassett Stilton- made in England with pasteurized cow's milk. THE Stilton. The same dairy makes a raw milk version of this cheese and calls it "Stichelton" as Robin Joy mentioned above. Interestingly enough Stichelton cannot be called "Stilton" because of AOC-type laws in the UK which govern that real "Stilton" must be made with pasteurized milk.
                      2. Forme de Ambert- French blue from the Auvergne region but outside the AOC of Blue d'Auvergne. Both are mellow and creamy.
                      3. Bayley Hazen Blue- another great cheese from Jasper Hill Farm.
                      4. Roaring 40's Blue- made in Tasmania by King Island Dairy. Sweet, creamy and an incredible partner with a sparkling wines. Yeah, sparkling wines; go figure.
                      5. Rogue Creamery- located in Oregon. They make several blue-veined cheeses and they are all very good. Their Rogue River Blue is arguably the best and they make a really nice smoked blue cheese that is smoked over hazelnut shells.
                      6. Valdeon- a mixed milk blue from Spain. This one will put hair on your chest.
                      7. Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue- a fairly attainable blue made in Wisconsin by a larger, industrial producer. Proof that large America cheese makers can make something really good. All of their cheeses are pretty good, actually, and they won't break the bank.

                      Lastly, look up the American Cheese Society. Each year they have a big convention and cheese competition (this year it's in Raleigh; Aug. 1st -4th) and their website has lists of the winners from past years. The competition covers almost ALL cultured milk products, even butter and yogurt. While attending the convention is pricey, anyone can buy a ticket to the "Festival of Cheese" which occurs this year on Saturday August 4th. A $50 ticket buys you into the biggest cheese orgy you could imagine. Take a notebook and Lipitor.

                      1. re: Vespa1

                        $50 for an all day cheese orgy? i wish i were there.