Monday, July 28, 2008

Say Cheese!

The wonderfully talented photo photographer Haalo, who also writes equally as wonderfully at Cook (Almost) Anything At Least Once is celebrating her 700th post by hosting her first ever online event, Say Cheese.

Say Cheese Badge

Haalo is asking food bloggers to pick a cheese they love, take a photo or two and blog about the cheese and send her a link by the end of July.

If you are a long time reader or admirer of Haalo's then you already know that she loves cheese. There are over 50 posts on her blog about cheese and she always writes fantastic reviews of the unique and unusual cheeses she finds in and around her home in Melbourne, Australia. I admit, I regularly comment on her cheese posts about my jealousy of her access to some fantastic sounding washed rind cheeses with particularly pungent smells (the best kind of cheese as far as I'm concerned).

As a cheese fanatic, I had a really hard time picking just one cheese but I had a really good time trying to narrow it down! I visited three fantastic cheesemongers in the greater NYC/Fairfield County area: Artisanal in midtown, Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village, and Darien Cheese in Darien, CT to sample a bit of cheese and try to narrow down a cheese to blog about.

On my trip to Murray's I came home on the Metro North train with a bag full of cheese that had such a wonderful cheese aroma (read "stinky cheese"), I got a seat on a crowded 4:45 commuter all too myself! The cheeses were the perfect temperature by the time I got to my apartment and I can tell you that I throughly enjoyed myself that evening with two different reds and a platter of cheese and crackers. Dinner doesn't get any better than that.

Over the month of July, I have tried some wonderful cheeses like a Humbolt Fog that makes you want to get your own goats, an upstate NY Toussaint that melted in my mouth, and some incredible Wisconsin and Vermont farmhouse sharp cheddars.

I finally decided to narrow it down by taking the Humbolt Fog, a washed rind raw cow milk from France that has a salty outer rind but a butter and smoky taste that the cheese monger at Darien Cheese suggested that I would like (I did!), an upstate NY extra sharp farmers cheddar that had been aged eighteen months, an apricot and ginger infused White Stilton from England, and the queen of American blues, the Maytag Blue from Iowa and putting a chunk of each of them on a plate, setting the plate on my cake turner and my cheese knife on the counter pointing at the cake turner and playing "spin the cheese". The winner?

I had two because the cake turner stopped between the Maytag Blue

Maytag Blue Cheese

and the Apricot and Ginger infused White Stilton.

Apricot and Ginger Stilton

I love the Maytag Blue because it meets the pungent and crumble test for me. I always have a hunk of this in my fridge to put on a burger or toss on a salad or a new discovery for me, to mix it into my scrambled eggs with a bit of smoked whitefish. Sometimes, I just slice a hune hunk off and eat it all on its own.

There are two types of Stilton, blue and white. I like the blue very well, though not as well as I like my Maytag Blue. White Stilton has a nice texture and matches nicely with a variety of fruits and nuts, which is why it is often found with blueberries, walnuts, figs, etc. inside the cheese. I like the lemon infused white Stilton on salads but for just scooping and plopping on a piece of baguette or mixing with a nice charcuterie, I like the apricot and ginger infused version.

By the way, the lovely cheese implements were part of my fabulous Blogging By Mail package I received last year from a fellow cheese lover, J at Have Fork, Will Travel. My set gets a heavy work out in my house and I can't recommend enough that if you love cheese, get yourself a good cheese knife and a Stilton scoop. They will make your serving of cheese much easier and enjoyable.

If you want to try new cheeses, find yourself a good cheesemonger in your area and go visit during the week when they can take time with you to discuss cheeses and introduce you to some cheeses you may not have ever thought to try. The weekends are often when they are often busiest so they won't be able to take as much time to talk you through a large variety of cheeses. Don't be afraid either of saying you don't like something after you taste it. A good cheesemonger will offer good sized bites of the cheeses and will even offer suggestions of "if you like this, then try this as well" and won't rush you. Don't be afraid either of saying you don't like something. They also won't have the cheese already sliced and packaged.

Once you develop a good relationship with your cheesemonger, don't be surprised if when walk into the store, you get greeted like family and offered the secret stash for the discerning customer.