Re-Printed from the November 2019 issue of Ink Magazine
It seems hardly the time to be writing about best Cheese buys when at the time of writing this the United States cheese purveyors are about to be hit with a 25% tariff on a large selection of imported cheeses. The selection has not been finalized but Italian, Spanish and English cheeses are among the first to make the current list. I hope by the time you read this the problem has been solved. If not, you will see a hefty increase in many imported cheeses.
That said, here is the best buy list for November of 2019. As always, I suggest that you “try before you buy,” to be certain you are taking home the right cheese for you. Cheeses are natural products that can vary from wheel to wheel.
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, now not so much.
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.
Beemster Smoked Gouda from Holland ($16-$20 per pound)
This cheese is part of the large Beemster family of goudas from Holland. Many of you know other Beemster cheeses such as Vlaskaas, XO and the popular Classic. The hickory smoking takes place in the United States. I like the fact that it’s a natural cheese and naturally smoked compared to the large group of processed chemically smoked cheeses out there. The cheese is made from pasteurized milk and it is lactose free.
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.
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.
D’Affinois is consistently one of our best sellers and usually the first cheese to disappear on a cheese tray. You can spend twice this amount for many othersimiliar 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.
Bleu d‘Auvergne ($16 to $20 per pound)
Bleu d’Auvergne is a French blue named after the region in the South of France from which it originates. 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.
Bucheron Goat Cheese from France ($16-20)
This is a great log shaped goat cheese from France weighing in at four pounds. It’s usually sold by the slice and it’s about half the price of other goat cheeses, 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.
Bucheron pairs well with a Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. I also like it on a slice of pear with a little Acacia honey. You can also place it in a bowl or a plate, then cover with olive oil and herb of choice.
Leerdammer Swiss from Holland (S14-S18 per pound)
It’s not a trick cheese. Yes, it’s a Swiss style cheese with wholes but made in Holland. This full fat cheese is a very pleasing all-purpose cheese similar to Jarlsberg. It can be used on any cheese tray, nice for sandwiches, and it makes a tasty mild Fondue.
Paul Partica, The Cheese Shop www.cheeseshopcenterbrook.com