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A change of pace from everyday brie?

I need to buy some cheese for a small gathering this evening. I have a limited budget (my total spent on cheese for this event should not exceed $20, and it needs to feed 7 people). I want to get three types of cheese.

I often get brie on occasions like this, but I'm kind of bored of the less-expensive brands I often buy. What do people suggest I get as a substitute, keeping in mind that the piece of cheese I buy will still need to be around $7 or less. I want something with a similar texture. I'll be shopping at a very well-stocked Whole Foods.

Opinions on other cheeses I should throw in would be great too!

Dave MP

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  1. I recently bought a small French brie-like cheese for snacks on a plane called "Supreme La Crème de la Crème." It was extremely soft at room temperature, so goes on crackers. I found it in an ordinary supermarket, not WF. Very nice.

    This is it: http://iledefrancecheese.com/index.ph...

    1. A wedge of ripe taleggio is sexier than everyday brie.

      1 Reply
      1. You might want to have a look to see if you can find a wedge of Chaumes -- it's a softer cheese made in the southwest of France. It's NOT a brie, but it's soft, mild, and very different from the usual offerings.

        I used to buy it at Publix in Florida, so I know it has fairly good distribution.

        I would add in a good all-purpose -- a Comte (if you can find it, Gruyere, or a good nutty Swiss -- I like to have something that everyone likes....

        Then a bleu or a chevre would be the typical complement -- Maytag is a great American bleu...I'm out of the loop on chevre; sorry.

        1. If you're on a limited budget, go to Trader Joe's instead of WF!

          For three cheeses in your price range a little more interesting than the norm, I'd get:

          St. Andre (a triple cream instead of the brie)
          Parrano (a medium aged gouda)
          A manchego or something similar

          3 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Actually, now that I think of it, I could probably go to Cowgirl in the Ferry Building (SF). Also not necessarily cheap, but I love going there.

            Unfortunately unable to go to Trader Joe's for this errand...but thanks for the tips, especially the parrano which I haven't tried before!

            1. re: Dave MP

              I'm not enamored of Cowgirl. The only thing I go there specifically to buy is their bulk mascarpone, which is heavenly and reasonably priced.

              In my experience everyone likes Parrano -- people who aren't cheeseheads love it, and cheese snobs won't turn their noses up at it.

              1. re: Dave MP

                Too bad you won't be able to hit up TJ's...at $11/12 per lb, Delice de Bourgogne is my go to brie (seen at Costco too).

                Also LOVE cana de cabra, a goat cheese available at WF & Cowgirl. ($16.99/lb at WF).

                edit: didn't realize this is old thread :)

            2. Since your budget for cheese is $20, are there any other things you're putting out that you may be able to trade off...fruit? Bread? etc.?
              As to cheese, I'd make a simple rec of one hard, one semi-soft, and one soft...textures and flavors. Believe me...no expert here, but like art, I know what I like.

              1. Living on the other side of the US, it's been a while since I've visited the San Francisco cheese shops, but I've always liked Cheese Plus. That may be out of the way for you, though.

                There are times when I don't think that asking us CHers is the best way to go about something, and this is one of them. If you are getting your cheese at a shop or a well-stocked cheese department, you don't need us. We don't know exactly what is in stock at your Whole Foods, what the prices are, or what happens to be in really good condition today. Tell the cheesemonger how many people you need to feed and how much you have to spend and let him/her suggest some cheeses. Ask for a taste before buying.

                As a quantity guideline, I would normally serve about an ounce of each cheese, which for me would mean buying half a pound of each. That would allow me to serve a slightly generous ounce or else have a little left over for myself the next day. A total of 1.5 lbs. of cheese on a $20 budget translates to an average price of $13.33/lb. Prices in San Francisco tend to be higher than in other places, so if this limits your options too much, you could cut the portion size a little or else serve two cheeses instead of three.

                10 Replies
                1. re: cheesemaestro

                  Cool, this is very helpful! Will be going to buy the cheese soon, and will report back on my experience.

                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                    Just got back from buying cheese at my local Whole Foods, and the woman at the cheese counter was extremely helpful. She guided me to good choices within my price range, and I ended up with three interesting cheeses:

                    1) Ashed St. Maura Jacquin - a goat's milk cheese that is apparently at the perfect ripeness right now. $20.99 per lb

                    2) Testun al Berolo Beppino Occelli - Goat/sheeps milk cheese packed in grape must, from Italy. $38.99 per lb

                    3) Vintage sheep gouda Uniekaas - $19.99 per lb

                    Serving with sliced Arkansas black apples, sliced baguette and some crackers (as backup)

                    All of these cheeses were expensive, so everyone will have smaller amounts. But hopefully it will be worth it.

                    1. re: Dave MP

                      Nice selection! All great cheeses. I'm particularly fond of Testun al Barolo. Let us know how things turn out with your guests.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        good call on the Testun! This pairs with several red wines nicely - I like malbec, a fruity pinot, or anything else that's juicy/ fruity :)

                        1. re: cheeseplatesf

                          Hmmm ... not fond of the Testun. Interesting choices, though. A long way from Brie! I hope your guests enjoy them.

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            It was great to try new cheeses. But I think I'm in the same camp as Ruth...I didn't love the Testun. It was my least favorite of the three. I didn't think the grape must added that much, and I thought it was only okay, especially considering its price per lb was double the other cheeses.

                            We were pretty split on the ashed goat cheese...it was on the stinky side. Too much for some, though others really enjoyed.

                            The gouda was a hit for everyone, especially with the apples. It's a really creamy gouda, which I really liked.

                            Thanks for the tips. Looking forward to trying more cheeses soon!

                            1. re: Dave MP

                              You really can't go wrong with an aged gouda -- they appeal to almost everyone.

                              1. re: Dave MP

                                I know this is an old(er) thread, but I just wanted to add something to Dave's comment about the sheep gouda being creamy.

                                One reason I love sheep's milk cheeses is the texture. The proteins are slightly different from cow's milk, and they bind differently, so I find sheep's milk cheeses have a more pleasing mouthfeel: less gluey/gummy.

                          2. re: Dave MP

                            Nice, although the cows were dealt out!

                            1. re: Veggo

                              Vivent les moutons! (Long live the sheep!)

                        2. Manchego ($12 - $18.99) a pound is always a crowd pleaser as is a generic Ossau Iraty ($6.99 - $12.99) - both sheep milk

                          Waag Gouda when it's around $6.99 - $8.99 is another no fail cheese

                          St Agur is a triple cream blue that most people will LOVE ($12.99 ish)

                          I love going to Rainbow Grocery on Folsom street. Their cheese selection is well stocked and the turn over rate is high so cheeses are generally in better condition, they will let you taste any cheese you are interested in, and they will cut down to a larger piece for you.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: cheeseplatesf

                            Nice price on the St Agur - I was paying $20 or more in Dallas. My favorite blue.

                            1. re: cheeseplatesf

                              I'm not sure if the $12.99 for St. Agur is per pound, but I've never seen it sold for that low a price. Depending on where you get it, it's normally in the $20-$25 range. There are several other blues that are usually less expensive, including Maytag Blue, Bleu d'Auvergne and Fourme d'Ambert. It should also be easy to find Point Reyes Blue in San Francisco. A minor point: St. Agur, at 60% butterfat, is a double, not a triple, cream.

                              1. re: cheesemaestro

                                Blue d'Auvergne and Fourme d'Ambert LESS than St. Agur.. wow that's not how it breaks down at my cheese shops! I wish it were that case for me :)

                            2. Cambozola. It's a triple creme German blue Brie. To die for. Not sure how it would fit in the entertaining budget, but if I had to pick one cheese to eat until I died from the coronary, it would be Cambozola.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: nlgardener

                                I love an extra aged Cambozola that I tried once at a Fancy Food Show - I think it's called Cambozola Black Label/ Black Diamond or something like that

                                1. re: nlgardener

                                  Then you must try Montagnolo, another triple crème blue from Bavaria. It's even better than Cambozola.

                                  1. re: cheesemaestro

                                    I am starting a pilgrimage to seek it out!!

                                    1. re: cheesemaestro

                                      Montagnolo hasn't been available for years. It was replaced by the Cambozola Black label in 2009 or 2010.

                                      1. re: cheesemonger

                                        That's a shame. I haven't had it for at least three years. It definitely still exists. It was named Supreme Champion cheese at the International Cheese Awards in England last July, beating out over 3,900 other entries. It appears to be still available in the UK and Canada.

                                    2. re: nlgardener

                                      Just found it on the shelf. Have to admit, the regular Cambozola is excellent! Glad I picked it up.

                                    3. I happen to love whipped cheeses and brie is one cheese that I find lends itself particularly well to whipping. Served with prepared buckwheat crepes and some fruit compote (fig, pear, apricot) it's a nice surprise on a cheese plate.

                                      1. I like St. Andre, a more flavorful triple creme. My Whole Foods carries it for $9.99/lb.