Italian Burrata Cheese.
This cheese came recommended by Michelle & Noah, two masterful foodies whose opinions carry more weight than most. Jen and I had been looking for a proper cheese for tomato caprese salad. During our trip through Italy we had the most amazing Caprese salads! But here at home, our attempts did little more than disappoint. Even the revered buffalo mozzarella felt like a cheap substitute.
The word “Burrata” means “Buttered” in Italian and, curiously, wikipedia reports that this cheese was originally a way to use up scraps of unused mozzaralla. Don’t be fooled, this is no left-over cheese. Burrata is a treasure chest of a cheese. It consists of a protective outside shell of mozzarella encasing a precious richness of cream inside. Like its mozzarella brethren, Burrata is sold in a salty brine. But unlike its inferior relatives, Burrata’s cream interior elevates the soft creamy texture to new levels. When you cut open the ball of Burrata, the thickened cream flows out. Quickly throwing on a caprese salad and topping with balsamic and basil? It’s perfect.
The faults of this cheese are very specific. The taste is off the charts, but use is limited and cost is high. Websites recommend it for salads and… well, that’s about it. It’s beyond perfect for Caprese but impossible with a cracker. The other downfall? Price = $5 per ball. This is an expensive luxury.
*Fun fact: we made this amazingly perfect caprese salad with the WORST TOMATOES EVER GROWN. I am eager to see how memorable the salad is with fresh tomatoes and basil from the garden. I expect nothing less than nirvana.
There are certain foodstuffs that require a very high time investment to make. In general, dinners that require me to schedule time on my calendar are less likely to happen. For example? Raviolis.
The solution: Economies of scale. If you make a HUGE HEAP of raviolis all at once it is entirely worth it. Jen and I have developed a good system: I make and roll the dough, Jen stuffs and seals the raviolis. We then lay the raviolis out in sheets and freeze for later. It’s perfect!
Except that freezer space becomes challenging when you have 200+ raviolis that need freezing because you can’t stack unfrozen raviolis; they stick together. A few weekends ago I built a ravioli apartment complex for the freezer. It accommodates up to 6 stories of raviolis, each of which holds approximately 62 raviolis.
Economies of scale has never been so delicious.
Fontina. Simple straightforward Fontina.
Traditionally Italian, Fontina is an earthy flavored cow’s milk cheese that originates in the alps. Officially, Fontina can only be Fontina if it’s made in the Aosta Valley. The Aosta valley is in the north-westernmost corner of Italy north of Turin and abutted to Switzerland and France. The cheese’s texture is a bit more spongy than some of our more recent trials (my amateur tooth would put it in the same texture universe as an un-aged gouda). The mildly pungent woody taste is enjoyable but for me not overly rewarding.
Note to the pregnant: This cheese is unpasteurized.
Note to Kurt: Don’t overanalyze that last sentence.
GJetost (pronounced: YEH-Toast) is a Norwegian cheese that we purchased from our local favorite cheese show Fromage. It’s a mix of goat’s, cow’s milk, cream, and whey and it looks like a toy.
What a cute package!
Caramel in color and with a firmness close to cheddar, GJetost has been described across the interwebs as fudgey. The packaging recommends serving in wafer thin slices alone, with fruit, bread, or… butter. Yes, butter.
Taking it out, it’s carameliness is even more pronounced. It holds the shape of its package just like a caramel. We cut off a thin slice and gave it a shot.
Describing it as fudge-like is extremely appropriate. It is sweet and dessertesque. We tried it on thin toast: totally amazing! What a fun unique cheese!
Price: $$ (24/lb)
Independence: Extremely high. This one would be good for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert.
Try this one for the unique experience.
I’d first learned of Humboldt Fog when researching Cyprus Grove Chevre’s Midnight Moon. So far in my quest through these cheese files I would rate Midnight Moon as my favorite; yet this lunary delicious cheese was not as critically acclaimed as Humboldt Fog according to people who probably know cheese better than me. What is this Humboldt Fog and what makes it so revered?
What is it? Well, it’s a goat cheese and it’s the flagship cheese from Cyprus Grove. The cheese’s most unique visible feature is its coat of vegetable ash. The ash is edible and there’s even a stripe through the center of the cheese. It’s not as weird as it sounds. It’s probably where the fog part of the name comes from, but that is 100% speculation.
The Ash, is it gimmick? Maybe. Our good friend Michelle who knows cheese better than any mortal gets a little Hipster on Humboldt. She describes it as the secret cheese that everyone has heard of.
Does that mean it’s not good?
No. In fact, it is completely delicious. It’s soft and creamy and very pleasant on its own. The cheese-maker’s website suggests honey or pear for pairing. We didn’t have pear to pair, so we paired with honey*. HONEY IS WHERE IT IS AT. With Honey, the cheese went from excellent to divine. A heavenly texture and flavor.
Because it’s as soft as it is, I don’t think Humboldt Fog is quite as awesome as Midnight Moon when consumed alone. But overall the taste was still top notch.
Price: $$ (25/lb)
*heh, this sentence pleases me.
Red Dragon is a Y Fenni cheese.
A who now what?
Y Fenni. It’s Welsh. And it’s mustardy.
The Welsh blend a softish cheddar with some ale and plenty of mustard seed to make Red Dragon. The result is slightly creamy with a comfortable kick. The cheese’s name comes from the Red Dragon that graces the Welsh flag.
Prior to this one, I’d never even heard of Y Fenni. Y Fenni is the Welsh name for the town of Abergavenny in SE Wales. The cheese is great cut thin by itself and just as great served on crackers. Eating a big chunk is a little overwhelming, because it is a little bit strong. But certainly not unbearable. It’s mustardiness also led us to try it on a ham and egg breakfast sandwich, though in my mind it fell a little bit short in this application.
Let’s rate it:
Price: $ Not bad.
Independence: Versatile – good alone or paired
Hold onto your faces: Midnight Moon cheese is lick-your-cutting-board delicious.
On Saturday we visited Fromage to try yet another cheese. We asked our server what her favorite was and she pointed us in the direction of Midnight Moon.
Midnight Moon is a hard aged goat cheese and, while the official website of the cheesemaker (Cypress Grove) does not explicitly say it, I’m pretty certain that prior to being milked each goat is dipped by a cherub into a pool of shimmering dew collected from the mountains of Valhalla.
Midnight Moon headquarters is based out of Humboldt county California, but unexpectedly this cheese is made in Holland and then provided exclusively to the cheesemaker Cypress Grove Chevre. I’m not sure how this business arrangement works, but it doesn’t matter; the cheese is ambrosial.
With stark contrast between the shadowy casing and the brilliant white flesh, Midnight Moon almost looks like it was inked in a graphic novel. The texture is a buttery creamy softness and the taste is quiet and comforting. The cheesemaker reports flavorful undertones of nuts and caramel, but I won’t pretend that my unschooled pallet can find these flavors without cliff’s notes.
Midnight Moon won third place in the 2014 World Champion Cheese for Hard Aged Goat Cheese and I completely understand why. This cheese is my favorite so far from the Cheese Files. Shockingly, it’s not the highest rated cheese from Cypress Grove! Their website describes another cheese, The Humbert Fog, as their flagship cheese. We will make sure to try this in the coming weeks.
Price: $$ (25/lb)
Verdict: Buy this cheese.
This week we have two cheeses. The first is Piave Vecchio the second is a Camembert. First, let’s talk Piave. This one is a dense cows milk cheese from Northern Italy. We were suspecting Florence what with the Ponte Vecchio… but we were guessing the origin off the wrong word. Our focus shouldn’t have been the ‘vecchio’ as much as the ‘piave’. Piave is a river in Northeast Italy. The cheese is named after this river. The ‘vecchio’ is a clue that this particular cheese was aged for more than 6 months. In our case with our red label there is further definition of this cheese’s age. Ours is considered a Piave Vecchio Seleziono Oro (Italian for “I choose Gold”) which was aged for over a year.
The cheese itself is hard and has a very pleasant sweetness. For this cheese we tried our our new cheese plane. Perfect for hard cheeses, the plane shaves a thin slice of cheese off a block. I recommend this tool to all cheese fans. Let’s rate the cheese!
Worthwhile for the price, this one is fun and independent. It also gets a bonus for having a long shelf life. That is always appreciated.
The other cheese in that picture is a basic French Camembert. Camembert is a soft milk cheese. Creamy deliciousness in every sense. Fromage’s Camembert has a favorable nutty flavor.
Completely delicious but for me it requires a carrier.
Long live Cheese!