10 Little-Known Cheeses
Walking into a cheese shop can be overwhelming, but branching out from the familiar will reap you delicious rewards. We asked cheese authorities across the country what is worth trying.
1. Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill. Laura Werlin, author of Cheese Essentials, says that Green Hill may look like a Camembert with its downy white rind, but it has the clean and complex flavors that can only come from pasture-grazed Jersey cows. Made by award-winning cheesemaker Jeremy Little in Thomasville, Georgia, Green Hill is a buttery, rich cheese.
2. Blackberry Farm Singing Brook Cheese. Anne Quatrano, chef-owner of Star Provisions restaurant and shop in Atlanta, recommends this unpasteurized, aged sheep’s milk cheese with a natural rind. Made from the concentrated milk of East Friesian sheep, it has a slightly creamy texture with a caramel richness, and takes on the complexities of the plants and grasses that the sheep graze on during the late-summer months.
3. Juniper Grove Buche. This aged goat cheese has a golden stalk of wheat running through its center. Charlotte Kamin, co-owner/cheesemonger at Brooklyn’s Bedford Cheese Shop, suggests this all-natural, handmade cheese for people who would otherwise buy Brie or Camembert. It’s made from raw goat’s milk by Pierre Kolisch at Juniper Grove Farm in Oregon using traditional French cheesemaking techniques, and it’s velvety and dense, with a sweet, grassy peat flavor.
4. Leonora. Pat McCarthy, owner of DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine in Seattle, recommends this semisoft alpine goat’s milk cheese that’s only recently been available stateside. Made in the León region of Spain, it’s shaped into a large brick with an ash-molded rind that gives it a smoky flavor. It has a cakey, creamy interior that’s tangy with grassy, citrus flavors.
5. Vento d’Estate. This northern Italian pasteurized cow’s milk cheese comes to us via Norbert Wabnig, owner of the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. The firm cheese is aged in barrels under mountain hay and herbs like mint and rosemary. The rind is covered in the same grass the cows eat, making for a nice presentation.
6. Green Valley Dairy Pennsylvania Noble Cheddar. Dan Weiss, owner-cheesemonger of Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill Cheese Shop, points customers to this cheddar, which he says is a good first step for those looking to move away from mass-produced cheeses and toward artisanal varieties. Cave-aged and made from raw, organic cow’s milk, it’s rich and nutty, with a slightly sharp bite.
7. Stichelton. This cheese is raw-milk Stilton, the classic cow’s milk blue cheese. Ari Weinzweig, cofounder-cheesemonger of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, explains that in 1989, a bout of food poisoning in England was blamed on raw-milk Stilton, and as a result the laws were changed so that any cheese carrying the name “Stilton” had to be made with pasteurized milk. American cheesemaker Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson of England’s Neal’s Yard Dairy came together a few years ago to bring back raw-milk Stilton. It has a buttery texture with bold flavors and smoky, meaty undertones.
8. Capriole O’Banon. Denis Cottin, director of affinage at New York’s Artisanal Premium Cheese, wants more people to get their hands on this Indiana cheese. The handmade semisoft goat’s milk cheese is wrapped in bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves. The leaves and bourbon add a tannic sweetness.
9. Any Cheese from Portugal. That’s what Steven Jenkins, cheesemonger at Fairway market in New York, recommends. He keeps Amarelo, Serpa, Serra, and Curado stocked in his shop. They’re made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, or sometimes a mix of both, and are either oozy or dryish. “I cannot overpraise Portuguese cheeses,” says Jenkins. “Cheeses that should not exist anymore—rustic cheeses with inarticulable flavors that are just too good to believe.”
10. Roccolo. This is a unique cow’s milk, washed rind cheese from northern Italy and a favorite of Michael Zilber, a cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery in Northern California. The pliant cheese is brined in saltwater and then cave-aged for six months on pine boards. The resulting taste is rich, salty, and creamy; Zilber actually compares it to lobster drawn with butter. The saltiness will hold up well next to a plate of charcuterie.
CHOW’s The Ten column appears every Tuesday.