It is time once again for another edition of our best buys list. My definition of a best buy is simple. The cheese must be of great quality and at a good price. Some of this year’s selections have been here before and some are new.
Please bear in mind that some the cheeses below may be offered by many different brands or manufacturers, and taste can vary accordingly. I always suggest that you “try before you buy,” to be certain you are taking home the right cheese for you.
The following list represents what I feel are truly great values:
Black Knight Tilsit from Austria ($12 to $15 per pound)
Tilsits were once very common cheeses throughout the world. There were versions from Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Denmark, to name a few. When I first started in the cheese business, Tilsits were a major seller for us.
In the 60’s, Denmark renamed their Tilsit to Havarti in an effort to give it a competitive edge over other Tilsits. They then created another variation called Creamed Havarti by adding more butterfat and removing the tasteful washed rind finish. This cheese is very commonly found in supermarkets today.
The Black Knight offering from Austria is a very pleasant, mild and creamy version made from cows’ milk with 50% butterfat content. Although mild, Black Knight has a nice flavor and will enhance your cheese assortment.
Tres Leches from Spain ($20 to $24 per pound)
As the name implies, this semi-soft, pasteurized Spanish cheese is produced from three milks: cow, goat and sheep. Tres Leches is similar to another popular Spanish cheese called Manchego, which is made only from sheep’s milk. It is worth noting that Tres Leches’ sales have far outpaced those of Manchego. This cheese carries a natural rind that has been bathed in olive oil. Its blend of milks provides great flavor and a really nice finish. This cheese is also on our Top Ten list in popularity.
Piave Vecchio from Italy ($19 to $22 per pound)
This Parmigiano Reggiano-style cheese will most likely make my Best Buys list every year. With its sharp, full flavor, Piave Vecchio works beautifully with most foods and salads. This makes it not only an ideal eating cheese, but also a great choice for cooking. Use it in place of Reggiano or Grana Padano in any dish you would normally use the former cheeses. You will not be disappointed.
A cow’s milk cheese, Piave comes in a small sixteen-pound wheel and has a hard, natural rind that is similar to Reggiano. There are two varietals of this cheese. We usually carry the older and sharper one-year version. This cheese keeps very well; just be sure to wrap it properly. For a fabulous dessert, drizzle a little Acacia honey from Italy over it, or even a bit of aged balsamic vinegar.
Bleu d‘Auvergne ($16 to $20 per pound)
This is a French blue named after the region in the South of France that it originates from. This young cheese ages about 30 to 60 days before export. It is made from cow’s milk and you will find it to be a little less salty than most blues. You will especially enjoy the creamy, buttery finish that comes with this cheese.
Drop this fan favorite into salads, snack with it or place a generous wedge of it on your cheese tray when entertaining and watch it disappear. We also like to stuff it into olives and occasionally drop one into a Martini.
Fromage D’Affinois ($18 to $22 per pound)
This soft-ripening double crème deserves its ongoing place in the Best Buy list, Top Ten list and every other category you can think of. Unlike so many of the stabilized Bries and Camemberts on the market today, this one remains true to what a soft-ripening cheese should be.
D’Affinois arrives to us with a firm center. This core softens as we allow it to ripen right in the store. I love that I can finish the ripening process myself. This allows me to sell it at its peak flavor, which is when you will find it in its most soft, creamy and luscious state.
Consistently one of our best sellers, D’Affinois is usually the first cheese to disappear on a cheese tray. You can spend this amount for half the volume of many other cheeses and find yourself less satisfied.
English Ford Cheddar ($14 to $16 per pound)
This pasteurized cheese is still one of the very best values out there. It amazes me how so many other cheddars can sell for such high prices ($20 to $30 per pound) when the bitter finish of many of these cheddars so often bites back.
English Ford has a great cheddar taste and a wonderfully smooth, creamy finish. It is one of our bestselling cheddars and still worth seeking out.
Pico Goat Cheese from France ($10 ea.)
This is a great little goat cheese from the Périgord region in France. It has the typical white mold surface that will soften with time to a luscious creamy texture. This pasteurized treat is a young cheese that arrives in our country around thirty days old.
Pico pairs well with a Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. I also like it on a slice of pear with a little Acacia honey.