(Clockwise from Top Left: Neal’s Yard Colston Basset Stilton; Meadow Creek Dairy Appalachian; Cowgirl Creamy Mt. Tam; Vermont Butter & Cheese Company Double-Cream Cremont; Noord Hollander Gouda)
Mmm. Look at all that cheese. Wouldn’t you like to try that cheese? Well, if you were lucky enough to be me, my parents, or Mike this past Sunday, you would have!
My parents were in San Francisco this weekend, and before hitting the road back down to L.A. on Sunday afternoon, Mike and I had them over for what I am now and forever going to call ‘Cheese Brunch’. I want to have so many of these! Before my parents showed up, I (lovingly) ordered Mike around so that everything would be ready to go. We were slicing bread, plating crackers, making fruit salad and, of course, cutting cheese (everyone’s favorite joke). I actually put all of the cheeses out with a little card next to each one that had the cheese name, where it comes from, what it’s made of, and what it should taste like. Of course, I forgot to take a picture of that. Mike commented that I should be a party planner and, I have to admit, I kind of agree. I’m not big on cooking, but I love plating and preparing. Think there’s a business in bring-to-your-home Cheese Brunch? One day.
Anyhow, I digress. Like I said, I set it all out: cheeses, sliced baguette, crackers, fig compote, sliced pears, insanely sweet Cara Cara orange slices, strawberry and blueberry fruit salad, and an assortment of delicious (and nutritious) pastries brought by Mr. & Mrs. Kaufman. I am more than happy to start any day with a healthy dose of cheese, but this brunch was extra special because it was the first time I was able to share my new passion with my parents. It was a lot of fun to flex my (limited) knowledge and even more fun to hear what everyone else had to say. One of the things that excites me most about working in cheese is the prospect of sharing something wonderful and delicious with others and helping them to get a better sense of what their taste buds like best. On Sunday I was able to do that with my family.
I added four options to our familiar fromage (see this post for in-depth Double-Cream Cremont coverage). Read about each of them below and scroll to the bottom to see what we each picked as favorite!
Cowgirl Creamery – Mt. Tam
You may recognize Mt. Tam as one of the cheeses served at my Super Bowl gathering, but since I didn’t do a real write-up then, I’ll do it now. Mt. Tam is a triple-cream cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk from the Straus Family Dairy. It is deliciously bloomy, with a really smooth and creamy, earthy taste. I like to let it sit for about an hour before serving, because it gets perfectly spreadable and really messy. I love messy. However, the next day, I came home from work starving, pulled the leftover Mt. Tam out of the fridge, and popped a chunk into my mouth. The experience was amazing! Eating this cold and hard was like eating the world’s most delicious piece of butter. It tasted incredible. One of my new favorite things is trying one cheese at many different temperatures.
Noord Hollander Gouda
Back in the “old days” (before I started learning about cheese), I thought that all Gouda was Smoked Gouda. Luckily, I was wrong, and I’m not the only one to make that mistake! Turns out that smoked Gouda is basically just a cheap version of the real deal. No offense to smoked Gouda fans (I am one), but if you don’t look into aged Gouda (not smoked), you are seriously missing out. Noord Hollander is a 4-year aged gourmet cheese, made from high quality pasteurized cow’s milk in Northern Holland (hence the name). The milk from this region is sweeter and richer than other Dutch milk, and you can taste that in the cheese. Noord Hollander has a really deep caramel/butterscotch flavor, and the aging process leaves it riddled with salty-sweet crystals. Basically, this is the candy of cheese, which is perfect for me, because I’d rather eat cheese than candy.
Meadow Creek Dairy – Appalachian
I’ve been hearing/reading a lot of good things about the ‘unexpected’ pleasures (?) of Southern Cheeses, so I wanted to try one for myself! Meadow Creek is a family-owned grazing farm in Galax, Virginia and, let me tell you, they make a good cheese. The Appalachian is a raw cow’s milk cheese with a speckled white rind and a slightly yellow firm-but-silky paste. The yellow is fitting, I think, because the cheese has just a slight taste of lemony sweetness and some grassiness, too. They say that with cheeses like this, you can really taste what the cow is eating. Assuming that’s true, those are some lucky cows.
Neal’s Yard Dairy – Colston Bassett Stilton
Oh Blue! We are getting to know one another. As regular readers know, I don’t have a long loving history with Blue Cheese. In fact, I never really liked it, but I’m learning to give it a chance. And, after I had such a good experience with the Bohemian Blue, I knew I couldn’t give up. Still, I know absolutely nothing about blues, and I trust myself to pick them even less. As such, you can imagine my delight to see Anthea Stolz, the cheese buyer for Bi-Rite, standing right next to me in the cheese aisle. I explained to her my blue cheese aversion (I’m not into anything too runny or drippy, and I like a lot of not-blue with my blue), but also mentioned that there would be some big blue fans in attendance (namely Mike and my mom), and asked for a recommendation. She let me sample the Neal’s Yard CBS (I’m shortening for speed) — which I had already heard and read about — and it tasted too amazing to pass up. This pasteurized cows milk blue (wow, guess I went almost all cow this tasting) has a rich flavor and somewhat basic tang (in the basic vs. acidic way, not in the not-special way), with a more-buttery and less-crumbly texture. I love buttery, and I liked the strong flavor of this. It was a big hit with the blue lovers, and that’s all that matters.
Note: Tomorrow I will be taking my first class at The Cheese School of SF, and it’s being taught by the aforementioned Anthea! It’s called ‘Desert Island Cheeses’ and she’ll be introducing the class to the cheeses she couldn’t live without. I’m pumped!
Okay, so, that’s the wrap-up. Now, for personal MVC’s (most valuable cheeses, duh):
Bonnie: I still have to go with the Double-Cream Cremont, but of the new cheeses sampled, I really got a kick out of that Noord Hollander Gouda.
Mike: A blue boy through and through, Mike mostly stuck with the Neal’s Yard Colston Bassett Stilton.
Mom: As a lemon-lover, it makes sense that Mom’s favorite was the Appalachian (though she had a hard time picking just one).
Dad: We learned that, like me, Dad’s a fan of the creamy cheeses. His favorite, by a long shot, was the Double-Cream Cremont.
Okay, all this cheese talk is making me hungry. Time to go eat!