I am a big fan of Trader Joe's (I do 99% of my grocery shopping there), but every so often they surprise me.
Here's the store... a few months ago, a few TJ's started stocking Winchester Cheese Company Dutch cheese. For those who don't know, the Winchester Cheese Company is a So Cal cheese farm in the Temecula valley (run by a very charming elderly Dutch couple) that makes delicious Dutch cheese in the exact same way that they make it in Holland-- they even use raw (unpasterized) milk.
Their young cheese with cumin (served at room temperature) is fantastic... I could eat it by the wheel. The WCC used to service the Burbank Farmer's Market, which is where I would buy their cheese on Saturday mornings. Sadly, they no longer sell there.
So you can imagine how delighted I was when I saw Winchester raw milk gouda show up at Trader Joes several months ago. That joy lasted only a few hours however, because when I tasted the cheese, it had a strange flavor to it. Closer inspection revealed a little bit of mold, which I cut away, but the air holes in the cheese allowed mold to grow throughout it, like bitter strudel in a rancid coffee cake.
I visited the Winchester Cheese Company and spoke with the owner there, and he told me that Trader Joe's bought a supply of young gouda, but it sat in their warehouses for several months-- so by the time it was on the shelves, it had become "aged" gouda.
Now, it appears, they are still selling the same stock of gouda from months and months ago, because yesterday I was appalled to see a supply of Winchester gouda with a rind so moldy that the natural yellow was a deep gray/purple. To the uninformed, it may have looked like a ruddy farmer's cheese rind, but I assure you, the healthy gouda rind is a natural yellowish hardened extension of the cheese. Utterly revolting... I am going to have to call the manager to the Studio City store to tell them what's up.
If you have a lazy Saturday, fellow hounds, take the trek out to little Winchester, California and taste their cheese. I promise you won't be disappointed (unless you buy it from the Studio City TJ's!)
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