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Cheese (2005–2008)


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#571 tamiam

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 12:56 PM

What a great thread...the thread has been around, but it is new to me. I am kind of new to the world of cheese, and decided that now is the time to take the plunge.

I had great fun at the cheese counter the other day purchasing several fresh cheeses to taste and compare and play with. I've always been a bit intimidated by how expensive good cheese can be (Not that I begrudge the prices (please don't jump me), but the cost does make me feel like choosing carefully and i never really try enough to learn my way around).

Anyhow I found out that buying small quantities lets me try and compare several varieties and buy an amount that will get eaten before it is too late. And the cheese guy didn't seem to mind making small packages. So now I am curious about cheese buying etiquette---is it OK to buy small , i.e. 3-4 oz.? For all kinds of cheeses, or are there some where cutting is verboten?

Sorry for the dopey sounding question, but I really do want to know.
Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther

#572 pennylane

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 01:24 PM

I do that same thing, because I hate to waste food, and yeah, there are some cheeses which can't be cut, generally the ones that come in their own little boxes, or some that come already in smaller sizes. Then, over here at least, there are some which the sellers are willing to cut into halves or quarters but no smaller. I've found that generally the softer the cheese, the less willing they are to cut it. But today I got a small piece of Epoisses and an even smaller piece of Mont d'Or. They were already cut in the store so I didn't have to ask. I did ask them to cut some Brillat Savarin but they wouldn't give me less than half a round of it, so since I had already bought three different types of cheese and had two others at home, I decided to wait until the next time for that one.

#573 LindsayAnn

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 02:13 PM

Tamiam:
Welcome to the WONDERFUL world of cheese. I entered this wonderous world back in 2004....at the time when I had graduated college(University of Iowa, Iowa City), and moved into the city of Chicago. Once here (where I still reside, although three moves later) I found myself loving cheese more and more with each passing day! I was introduced into the world of cheese (beyond that of kraft, deli counters, etc...which I always loved my cheese!) all on my own. I lived in Streeterville in a one-bedroom apt. my first year in the city....one block away from Navy Pier. In other words - I was in the heart of the city....Chicago being such a big city - I had so many wonderful cheeses to choose from! One afternoon, during what must have been my first month residing in Chicago, I wandered into Fox and Obel. A wonderful wonderful (wonderful must be emphazised - as this is one grand specialty shop) upscale food store...selling everything from fresh fruits and bakery items, wide assortments of salami's and other meats, and the grandest cheese counter I had ever met. I started tasting cheeses - once I noticed other shopers asking to try "this or that", prior to purchasing. With each passing week I tried new cheeses. The cheese mongers got to know me and my tastes....thus offering cheeses that I liked more and more each time. As the days, weeks and months passed I found myself liking cheeses with increasing punginess (sp? Oh well!), stinkiness, and cheeses from all sorts of milk producing animals (i.e. goats cheeses, sheeps, buffalo, etc....). I found myself adoring goats cheees....all the way from fresh chevres to stinky goats/cows/sheeps varieties.

I, was a new-found, self-pronounces and self-proclaimed cheese afficianado. My incredibly picky eating, bland eating fiance (think kraft mac and cheese, I too like this sort of food....but he does not extend beyond much of his "Normal" comfort foods....think all the things a 'normal, non-foodie" loving five year old would enjoy), loved me SO much that he bears my cheese collection (which at times is stinky....when I have a "stinky" cheese or two on hand...which varies weekly) in the fridge. There are weeks when I open the fridge and the fiance can smell it from the couch in the family room (only 20 feet away, or so) "OMG that smells like sh*t", he mumbles from the couch.

Anyhow - sorry for all that ramble...just wanted to convey that you are entering a WONDERFUL world.

I often purchase 1/3, 1/4 of a pound of cheese. Since, I am the only one eating cheese (beyond things like kraft and sargentto, which the fiance adores cheeses like these...as long as its not the "sharp" varieties at least....I told you he was PICKY!). I am in agreement with Pennylane....as long as its not the soft oozy variety that "ozzes out of this rind/exterior" once cut....the professionals at cheese counter should not give you and grief or "looks of annoyance" if you ask for 4oz or so...which is 1/4 of a pound. I, myself love having about 6-10 varieities of such cheeses on hand at a time...I prefer a small amount of each one (or at least 4 at a time) on a plate for nibbling versus one big ole' hunk of one. Thus, my need to purchase in quantities like 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2 pound chunks versus larger portions.

In my expereince, the more you shop at your cheese counters, the more you get to know all the different cheese mongers, the more they will enjoy introducing you to new cheeses, resulting in new found favorites. They too, if they are cheese lovers, which they should be if working behind the counters, will also find pleasure in this. So many of my cheese mongers love the fact that I enjoy cheese so much...the fact that I get to much excitement (I am a very expressive, personable girl....I do not shy away at thanking my cheese mongers and converying to them how much I adore this or that, or how much they just made my day, because - I just found a new favorite...thanks to their help!).

Have fun, because - well, cheese is plain old fun fun fun!

Now, I am going to get off my butt and go to Pastoral cheese shop. I wasn't planning on it, nor do I need to (my stock is pretty full at the moment) - but you have motivated me to go there...I haven't been to that particular shop in a while.....over a month actually. I have been sticking to Marcy's Cheese counter in Sam's Wine Depot and WHole Foods as of recently....they are a bit closer in distance. But, Pastoral is well worth the 3 mile drive (in the city that can take 15 mins, driving!).
"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

#574 tamiam

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 02:34 PM

Thanks for the encouragement Pennylane and LindsayAnn. Combining my love of the side-by-side taste test comparison with my hatred of wasting food makes for some silly self-induced dilemmas.

Luckily my guy is the opposite of picky, and is always there to help finish things off :biggrin: but the kids are still kind of tentative. They grew up in a small town without a lot of choices, though as they get exposed to more and more good food, they are coming around.

My plan is to taste thru some basic styles of cheese just to get familiar, so I started with some fresh ricotta, chevre, ricotta salata, sheep feta, and caviocavallo (sp?). All kind of plain-ish, but fresh and milky and subtle in a nice way. Still in real life, I'm drawn to stronger flavors--love Rogue Smoky Blue.

I've had lots of wonderful cheeses before, but never in any kind of organized way. I tend to find one I like then keep on repeating it instead of branching out. So its time to jump on in and play. Love LindsayAnn's energetic way of talking about what I am talking about. This will be fun.
Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther

#575 suzilightning

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:46 PM

tamiam,

at least you have cheese counters where you can purchase cheeses by a few ounces. yeah, i can go a few miles and buy italian cheeses by the wedge but if i want something more interesting like a nice bleu like even a maytag i have to go about 20 miles to the nearest good cheese counter for fresh cut. that's why you saw all the i bought was prepackaged. now if you want cooper american by the slice or jarlsberg you can get that anywhere. whine, whine, whine. ok the pity party is over now and back to my real life with a wonderful man who wouldn't know kraft american from velveeta. oh, is there a difference?!
The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe.

Joe Gould
Monstrous Depravity (1963)

#576 tamiam

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:33 PM

Suzi....I feel your pain. That is actually my situation as well. In addition to not having any cheese counters in town, there is not much in the way of jobs either. So now I commute to the city. Access to good cheese and a wonderful market is the silver lining.

Upthread, some folks mentioned igourmet and zingerman's as good mail order sources. Great selection, but it does bring you back to large quantity purchases.
Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther

#577 moreace01

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:58 PM

I'm wondering if you guys could help me out - I need help selecting a blue cheese. I cannot stand blues, but spouse loves them. I'm hoping to serve with a steak (either blue cheese butter on top or in mashed potatoes on the side - something along those lines). So I guess I am looking for the mildest blue out there (for my sake) or perhaps a good substitution.

For what its worth, I love strong cheeses - like aged goudas and sharp cheddars. There is just something about blues that I dislike. I will keep trying though...

#578 MarketStEl

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 07:40 AM

tamiam,

at least you have cheese counters where you can purchase cheeses by a few ounces.  yeah, i can go a few miles and buy italian cheeses by the wedge but if i want something more interesting like a nice bleu like even a maytag i have to go about 20 miles to the nearest good cheese counter for fresh cut.  that's why you saw all the i bought was prepackaged.  now if you want cooper american by the slice or jarlsberg you can get that anywhere.  whine, whine, whine.  ok the pity party is over now and back to my real life with a wonderful man who wouldn't know kraft american from velveeta.  oh, is there a difference?!

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Water content and emulsifiers, dear. Velveeta has more of both. That's about it.

I'm wondering if you guys could help me out - I need help selecting a blue cheese. I cannot stand blues, but spouse loves them. I'm hoping to serve with a steak (either blue cheese butter on top or in mashed potatoes on the side - something along those lines). So I guess I am looking for the mildest blue out there (for my sake) or perhaps a good substitution.

For what its worth, I love strong cheeses - like aged goudas and sharp cheddars. There is just something about blues that I dislike. I will keep trying though...

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If you want a versatile, reasonably priced domestic blue, I'd go with Buttermilk Blue if I were you. It has a nice balance between creaminess and bite thanks to the buttermilk and is good as an ingredient in dishes. Point Reyes from California and Maytag from Iowa are both outstanding domestic blue cheeses as well, even better than Buttermilk Blue (especially for eating straight), but I'd consider Buttermilk Blue the best value in good blue cheese. (I pay about $10/lb for it at Salumeria in the Reading Terminal Market. By comparison, both Maytag and Point Reyes run about $15-18/lb.)

Now on to my Christmas cheese story, wherein I find out that I have a connection in the business. That part of the story begins with a diversion.

While working on the PGMC holiday concert program, I got a call from our Vice President for Production complaining that I had the DiBruno Bros. ad in the program running in black and white. "Mrs. DiBruno wouldn't be too happy with that, as they wanted it in color." Okay, that was a simple fix -- just tell the designer not to convert the image to grayscale.

But who was this "Mrs. DiBruno"? Patrick seemed to know her well. I didn't realize I knew "her" well until I ran into both "DiBrunos" at the Chorus' holiday party. "Mrs." DiBruno, it turns out, sings baritone--his real last name is <mumble> and he's a jeweler--and is a really nice fellow. "Mr. DiBruno," in this case, is Billy DiBruno. Cousin Emilio DiBruno and nephew "Billy Jr." DiBruno I also know, and all three work at the Chestnut Street store regularly. (Edited to add: Here's a picture of the couple taken at the party. Billy DiBruno is on the right.)

When I went to the store the Saturday before Christmas Eve, though, only Billy Jr. was around. Emilio was at the Italian Market store, and Billy had just left.

The staff were just as helpful. They recommended to me a semi-soft cheese from France (Langostolle Vieux? I forget) and a Spanish cheese whose name I also forget; I really need to start taking notes if I'm going to share my experiences with all of you. This is what remains of those two cheeses:

Posted Image

But those weren't all I served.

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I also bought an aged goat milk Gouda, a pound of Buttermilk Blue -- half of which went into a blue cheese dip -- a Rustico with black peppercorns (from Whole Foods) and several cheese spreads. I know that some of you don't consider cheese spreads legit subjects to discuss in a cheese thread, and the cold pack Cheddar spread in the picture is ubiquitous, but DiBruno's own recipe cheese spreads are very good. The Abbruzze -- spicy, with lots of red pepper -- is my personal favorite. Their Boursin is more garlicky than the spread of the same name you find in supermarkets. They also make an herbed spread, a Dijon-horseradish Cheddar spread, a Gorgonzola spread and -- of course -- a port wine Cheddar spread.

The goat Gouda, the Rustico, the Buttermilk Blue and the baked Brie (not pictured) remain in the fridge. As the baked Brie has sat there for about nine months, well past its sell-by date, unopened and still in its vacuum-sealed package (it was a gift from a fellow cheesehead friend), I may have to simply give it a decent burial. How long will Brie keep under refrigeration, anyway?

(Edited further to add: The pepperoni in the photo is gone. The chorizo is in the fridge. I have a habit of buying too much food for Christmas Eve parties, but I'd rather do that than buy too little.)

I think the Buttermilk Blue will find its way into the mac and cheese I plan to prepare on New Year's Day to accompany the ham, black-eyed peas, and greens.

Edited by MarketStEl, 30 December 2007 - 07:48 AM.

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#579 gariotin

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 09:22 AM

I think that the Roaring 40s might be a good blue to try as well. Many many people who say they don't like blue cheese, find it to be delicious. Altho, I must say that the Australian milk shortage has taken its toll and there has not been enough Roaring coming into the US during the holidays, so it may be hard to find.
I think everyone's comments on cheese buying etiquette are spot on. I also think that any serious cheesemonger will be more than happy to offer you tastes of things, Tamiam, so don't ever hesitate to ask.
I just purchased a new cheese book - new ones seem to be coming out every day - that I think is great. It is "Cheese Essentials" by Laura Werlin, who is a great writer and very active in the American Cheese Society. It is organized very well, and talks about groups of cheeses, as well as pairings and recipes. Great color photos too. It's the best book I've seen come out all year, and in paperback too - I got it on Amazon.
Cheese spreads....much as I love great cheeses, I am never above a good schmear of cold pack ched or garlicky boursin style cheeses. They are admittedly not too sophisticated, but deliver a good creamy burst of flavor - I love to dip veggies or pretzels in them.

#580 suzilightning

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 11:39 AM

sandy is right of all the ones i have had the Buttermilk Blue is one of the mildest.
give me Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes or especially Maytag any day, though.

good luck with your search for that blue.
The first zucchini I ever saw I killed it with a hoe.

Joe Gould
Monstrous Depravity (1963)

#581 VPF

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 05:08 PM

Now, I am going to get off my butt and go to Pastoral cheese shop. I wasn't planning on it, nor do I need to (my stock is pretty full at the moment) - but you have motivated me to go there...I haven't been to that particular shop in a while.....over a month actually. I have been sticking to Marcy's Cheese counter in Sam's Wine Depot and WHole Foods as of recently....they are a bit closer in distance. But, Pastoral is well worth the 3 mile drive (in the city that can take 15 mins, driving!).

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Do you still live downtown? There is a Pastoral on Lake east of State (might be east of Wabash.)

#582 MarketStEl

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 09:45 AM

I think that the Roaring 40s might be a good blue to try as well.  Many many people who say they don't like blue cheese, find it to be delicious.  Altho, I must say that the Australian milk shortage has taken its toll and there has not been enough Roaring coming into the US during the holidays, so it may be hard to find.


Completely forgot about Roaring 40s, which is merely The. Best. Blue. Cheese. I. Have. Eaten. All. Year.

Cheese spreads....much as I love great cheeses, I am never above a good schmear of cold pack ched or garlicky boursin style cheeses.  They are admittedly not too sophisticated, but deliver a good creamy burst of flavor - I love to dip veggies or pretzels in them.

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DiBruno's ran a promo a little while back in which they recommended pairing Buffalo Wing Flavor Pretzel Crisps with their Gorgonzola cheese spread. It was a match made in heaven. I think this trick might be worth trying with actual Buffalo wings as well. (With celery sticks at hand, of course.)
Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia
"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen
My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

#583 tamiam

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 10:06 AM

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I think everyone's comments on cheese buying etiquette are spot on.  I also think that any serious cheesemonger will be more than happy to offer you tastes of things, Tamiam, so don't ever hesitate to ask.


That is great to hear. The best thing of all would be to go to one of Gariotin's awesome cheese parties.

I just purchased a new cheese book - new ones seem to be coming out every day - that I think is great.  It is "Cheese Essentials" by Laura Werlin, who is a great writer and very active in the American Cheese Society.  It is organized very well, and talks about groups of cheeses, as well as pairings and recipes.  Great color photos too.  It's the best book I've seen come out all year, and in paperback too - I got it on Amazon.

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Laura Werlin talked about her new book on The Splendid Table a few weeks ago. The way she communciates and teaches is really great.

And in the December 22 podcast, Steve Jenkins tells a wonderful and evocative story about the making of Roquefort. Its fascinating. I'd share, but he tells it better than I ever could.
Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther

#584 moreace01

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 01:59 PM

Thanks for your suggestions everyone! I found the Roaring 40's (I live in Chicago, so it's pretty easy to find cheese - local whole foods had it), but chickened out and grabbed the Maytag instead. We'll see how it goes!

 

 

 

 

[Moderator note: This topic continues in Cheese (2008– )]