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Discovering new cheeses--how do YOU do it?

While I sometimes buy/try a cheese based on something I've read (cheese book, magazine, Chowhound), I also will buy a cheese I've never heard of (or from a producer I've never heard of), try it, and THEN learn about it. Granted, it's not the most efficient way of finding new cheese, but it can be fun. Of course, I'm talking about buying pieces, not 80-lb wheels. Still, I love making these serendipitous (to me) discoveries!

How do you discover new cheeses?

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  1. I poke around the bits of cheese in the basket of end pieces at WF. Or sometimes I buy a new cheese to try. But I don't generally buy "gourmet" cheeses.

    My latest discovery is a Cabot which name I cannot retrieve, but the pkg. description is right on. It tastes similar to Parm, but is somewhat creamy. To me it tastes almost buttery. In short it is delicious.

    In general I like Cabot cheese, so I bought it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: sueatmo

      Cabot's Catamount Hills cheese. Wonderful.

      1. re: sueatmo

        I do this all the time and actually found Catamount Hills Cheese this way, it's great. It's a perfect way to try cheeses with lower cost.

      2. At parties I'll ask the host. At farms, cheese shops, grocery markets and specialty foods stores I ask the owner and/or Mgr. if samples are offered, I read a great deal online (haven't bought a book yet) and buy small pieces when I'm curious enough to try it but sampling isn't possible. I go to cheese tastings in NJ & NY when I can. I go in on larger cheese buys with my cheese-loving friends and split the cost. But the discovery IS my favorite part! And sometimes the smell of the cheese alone is enough for me to take a chance.

        1. I shop at Whole Foods usually for cheese which is always willing to offer samples and recommendations.

          1. Almost all good Cheese Mongers will give tastes.
            You need to go to a Cheese shop

            8 Replies
            1. re: chefj

              Have to agree on chefj's advice, recognizing not everyone has easy access to a good cheese shop in their vicinity. I regularly chat with the folks behind the counter at my local cheesemongers to see what is interesting (and what is in the best shape, which is very important).

              1. re: chefj

                I'm not asking how *I* should discover new cheeses, just how others do it. Not everyone has a cheese shop at the ready, including me. It would be nice, but I have a great job and a 10-minute commute, so I'm not moving anytime soon (even though I'd love a real cheese shop close by). I have asked at places like Whole Foods, though.

                1. re: nofunlatte

                  That is how I find new Cheeses.
                  think you should move right away regardless of a job you love, a great commute, a loving family. ...... to be near a good Cheese Shop

                  1. re: chefj

                    Time to start investing in PowerBall tickets!

                    BTW, I went to visit a local cheesemaker (Jacobs and Brichford) after discovering their cheeses at Jungle Jim's in Cincy. Matthew Brichford, the cheesemaker, spent over an hour giving a tour to my parents and me (they were visiting for a few days)--what a generous use of his time for just the three of us! Discovered that I liked his other two cheeses (Brianna and my new favorite, Everton, an alpine/mountain style). Naturally we left with quite a bit of cheese (paid for, not stolen :)

                    1. re: nofunlatte

                      Most cheese makers know a lot about other Cheeses as well. He may be a good source for new Cheese buying inspiration.

                      1. re: chefj

                        He gave me one recommendation--Beaufort. I'll have to get that after I finish eating what I bought from him!

                        1. re: nofunlatte

                          There are many Beauforts, make sure you get the Beaufort des Alpages. It is cheese from the milk of cows grazing on grass not barn hay from the winter.
                          The difference can be amazing.

                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                            Thanks for the tip--I'll remember this when I go searching for Beaufort.

              2. Travel to France. Point at anything in the case. Keep a diary. Worked for me.

                Go to Wisconsin. Travel on county roads and stop at creameries. Ask if they have any specialties. At least one pleasant surprise every trip when I visit family.

                4 Replies
                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  Last time I bought cheese in France the cheesemonger almost refused to sell it to me. It was a calvados-washed camembert -- VERY stinky. And VERY delicious.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I bought some of this in a cheese shop in Vienna - the guy warned me not to eat it on the train, and my husband refused to get near me after I ate it. It was one of my best cheese buys ever!!!!!!!

                      1. re: biondanonima

                        When l was cheesemongering always told people the basic rules for total agreement in a relationship were money, sex, and cheese.

                  1. I go to the best cheese counter in town and taste.

                    1. Local cheesemakers often have booths at farmers' markets
                      this time of year and are generous with tastings. As other
                      posters have mentioned, sampling at good cheese shops
                      and counters in some stores is one of the best ways to try
                      new products. Our local Wegmans offers cheese classes
                      for $5 - lots of cheese and accompaniments and a $5
                      gift certificate. They also use some of their ends to put
                      together small trays with several slices/pieces of three
                      cheeses and some nuts, dried fruits, etc. which they sell for
                      $7. I look for selections I haven't tried and like this option
                      because you can bring the cheese to room temp at home
                      rather than tasting it right out of the refrigerated case.

                      1. I have gotten to know the cheese guys at my local WF, I frequent a local cheese shop and I hang out with cheese heads.

                        1. Ordering cheese plates at good restaurants, whether at home or when traveling -- it forces me to get out of my comfort zone and try something other than an old favorite.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Other than samples offered at cheese shops or the small sample sized pieces I often see for sale at Whole Foods (particularly convenient for trying out expensive rarities), I'll generally just jump in with both feet and "blind buy" a wedge of interesting looking cheese that I know nothing about.

                            Since I often eat _very_ pungent/ripened cheeses, I've never gotten one that I couldn't eat. Some I enjoy more than others, but never bought a wedge I couldn't finish.

                            1. I've also bought good cheese at Costco. They might have a buy on certain sorts for a short time. You buy a couple of times, and then the cheese is no longer offered.

                              1. I'm a lucky one...I've been a cheesemonger for nearly eleven years. (Don't get me wrong, it's fun...but I've been doing it so long I've seen just about everything there is to see) So all I have to do is wait for my vendors to let me know when there is something new!
                                Last week I went to our holiday show and saw some new stuff I've never seen before: Honeybee Goat Gouda, Sartori brand (from Wisconsin) with PEPPERMINT (it was vile!!!!) and a Wensleydale with fruit and liquor in it (can't remember what fruit or what liquor)..but yes, those are the new ones I've seen

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: themamacurd

                                  The crappy Wensleydale has cranberries. To make it worse, they use crappy Wensleydale to make it. l suspect Wallace would avoid this one. l always put the fruited Stiltons and Irish cheddar with porter in the same category.

                                    1. re: themamacurd

                                      That Sartori brand is outrageous. I happened upon a new cheese this past Saturday. The entire wedge is gone. I only had a little help, I made a complete cow of myself. Just delicious!

                                      And you are a lucky one! :)

                                      1. re: kattyeyes

                                        I love the Sartori Sarvecchio Parmesan!

                                          1. re: fldhkybnva

                                            Also try Sartori's Rum Runner! Mmmmm!

                                            1. re: kattyeyes

                                              I've seen it, I think I gave it a whiff but it seemed supper sweet. I should give it a proper try.

                                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                Well, I eat it with truffle honey, so you might be asking the wrong person, but my friends and I really enjoy it. :)

                                      2. Instead of dessert, I get the cheese plate, then ask about cheeses I like. Admittedly, this usually works better in France or the UK/Ireland, but it's also been successful in Quebec, Vermont, Oregon ... And, like everyone else, I'll sample cheese wherever I can.

                                        1. Here are a few ways I try out new cheeses when shopping without making a huge $$ commitment on something unknown:

                                          1) the grocery store I regularly shop at marks down by 50% specialty cheeses and other packaged deli items getting close to a pull date. That is my first stop every time I stop by and I have discovered some new cheese loves that way.

                                          2) Trader Joe's has great cheese prices and features a cheese (or more?) each month. If what is described sounds interesting, I will buy it.

                                          3) We have a small local chain of grocery stores called Metropolitan Market. They are similar to Whole Foods, but not as extensive in items offered. Their cheese department is awesome and they sell small bits of cheese..probably ends or something. Usually just a couple of ounces so even expensive cheeses are affordable to try.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: jlhinwa

                                            I like your 1), jlhinwa! We have a similar option in one of our better cheese stores but I only use it when I know I like a cheese, since they will give samples of pretty much everything.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              It's a great way to try things out, that's for sure. Met Market and Whole Foods are also great about letting me try before I buy, but the closest of those options is about 12 miles away and not on my way to anyplace I typically go. And unless that I a planning on a decent cheese purchase, I hate to do a lot of sampling. I will,if there are samples already cut and out but don't like to make a special request unless I am on a buying mission.

                                              1. re: jlhinwa

                                                The occasion of entering a place of business that contains a wide selection of cheeses immediately puts me on a buying mission : -).