Living in NYC had its absolute advantage in many areas, but there is no denial, that it is most versatile for it's culture and... food. It is there that I was able to be introduced to some of the world's best artisan cheeses from small cheese makers combines into little amazing shops. Imported & local, cave aged and fresh - you name it , it's there. I think cheese is absolutely amazing food . It's alive , for one part . If you noticed my obsession with health and all that, you'd know this is an integral part for me. For years I was taught everywhere that cheese is bad, but the European roots that I have, I just could not entirely grasp it. For centuries people thrived on it, why not now? It took some time and learning about many things to come to this simple fact: The cheese I am talking about is nothing that you find in the grocery store , pasteurized and packaged at $2 a lb. That stuff causes sickness, mucus, allergies and more. The real cheese - the way it's made to be - is blooming with probiotic cultures, along with fabulous flavor , different textures and amazing aroma. It's a meal of its own when paired up with proper fruit ( sweet or not sweet ) , beverage of choice, nice music and candles. Here is your fabulous romantic dinner for two, or the easiest best party ever done ( you are welcome!) Over time I developed some preferences, but most change with season and mood.
Here are some of my favorites at the moment:
Affidelice is a washed-rind cow's milk cheese from the Burgundy region of France; it is very similar to Epoisses, which is made is made by the same creamery. Its name, Affidelice, comes from the marriage of two words: affiné (ripe) and delice (delight). Affidelice is soft, with a moist, terracotta-colored rind, and is contained in a small, wooden box. Here, at the Artisanal Premium Cheese Center, we continue the maturation process, washing Affidelice with Chablis. The resulting cheese has a soft, pungent, spoonable paste and a satiny texture. Affidelice is a versatile pairing partner for many wines. A secret - I am a sucker for all wooden box cheeses. I am yet to come by one I didn't like.
Epoisses is a perennial favorite of fans of strong-smelling cheese. This classic cow's milk cheese hales from Burgundy and has been made in the small town of Epoisses since the late 1700s. In order to develop the characteristic dark orange rind, Epoisses is washed with brine for several weeks then finished with wine or brandy. In the Artisanal Premium Cheese caves we continue the Affinage process, washing our Epoisses several times with Burgundy brandy. This extra washing deepens the flavors of the cheese and guarantees a spoonable, silky paste. I absolutely love this cheese paired up with very firm pear and chilli pepper. LOVE.
Azeitão is a concentrated round of sheep's milk cheese that is coagulated with cardoon thistle instead of traditional animal rennet. Azeitão is named for the village where it was born in the foothills of the Arribida mountain range in Portugal. The pastures where the sheep of Azeitão graze are lush and covered in herbaceous scrub, giving the milk its characteristically rich flavor. Molded in cloth, Azeitão has a rustic appearance that adds to its romance. Its texture ranges from soft and unctuous to firm and chewy; you can cut open the top and scoop its yellow cream onto slabs of nutty bread. Azeitão was awarded name-protection (Denominação de Origem Protegida certification, DOP), elevating its stature in Portugal and abroad. If you have never tasted Portuguese cheese before, this is a great starting place! Pair Azeitão with Tempranillo or Albariño. I also love this one with globe grapes.
Morbier is an aromatic and surprisingly mild French cow's milk AOC cheese defined by the dark vein of vegetable ash streaking through it middle. Today, the ash is purely decorative, a nod to the method by which Morbier was once produced in Franche-Comté. Traditionally, the evening's fresh curds were sprinkled with ash to prevent the formation of a rind overnight. The next morning, new curds were laid upon the thin layer of ash to finish off the wheel. The wheel was then washed and rubbed by hand, forming a rind to protect the rich, creamy interior and to create a delectably stinky aroma. Morbier, which is aged for at least 60 days, pleasantly confounds expectations. Contrary to its smell, Morbier has a mild taste and leaves a wonderful, nutty aftertaste. Morbier is excellent served with Gewürztraminer or Pinor Noir. This ash... Let me tell you - it's Heaven.
Ossau Iraty Pardou Arriou is a classic sheep's milk cheese made in the French Pyrénées in two neighboring provinces: the Ossau Valley in the Bearn and the wooded hills of Iraty in the French Basque country. Ossau Iraty is made with the milk of the Manech and Basco-Bearnaise ewes. While it complies with strict Appellation d'Origine Controlée (AOC) regulations, the shape of each wheel can vary from region to region. Ossau is aged for a minimum of ninety days; It is aged further in the Artisanal Premium Cheese caves until its paste has turned a luscious ivory; its fragrance is reminiscent of toasted hazelnuts, and its taste encapsulates the sweet, buttery flavors that a great sheep's milk cheese can deliver. This cheese pairs nicely with many wines, especially Sauvignon Blancs, a Madirans, or Merlots. I came across this cheese on accident, and it's a regular in our home cheese section now.
Testun al Barolo is a semi-firm mixed milk cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy. The cheese has a beautiful complex flavor thanks to the sweet and grassy milk from alpine pastures and its aging process. It ages for a minimum period of four months in small oak barrels under the residues of the Nebbiolo grapes, the grape used to make Barolo wine. The fruity wine flavors seep into the crumbly paste. This adds more complexity to its flavor. Amazing cheese - I leave the rind intact. This one is my go-to for cheese plates and ( don't tell cheese gourmands) I add it as a side to my green salad too. I love the sweetness and light feeling of it.
Raclette is a mountain style of a cheese that has a milky flavor and a silky, smooth texture. Younger and a bit softer than most other Alpine styles of cheeses, Raclette is delicious melted over potatoes, vegetables or bread. Raclette is an elegant cheese, exceptionally well-suited for cooler weather. Because this cheese is relatively graceful, this buttery cheese pairs well with many wine types. I personally don't melt it over anything, but it is our regular in fondue and on a cheese plate for dinners. I love it with fresh asparagus in fondue, and with crispy , juicy apple on a side.
Chabichou du Poitou is one of the older French cheeses. It won Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in 1990 guaranteeing the authenticity of its origin. It is made in the very limited geographic area above the chalky soils of the threshold of Poitou, halfway between Paris and Bordeaux. The size of a wine tumbler, Chabichou has a crinkly skin and a dense, chalky paste that melts in the mouth. Delicious and firm, with a lingering, tangy finish, Chabichou pairs beautifully with Sauvignon Blancs, Pouilly-Fumé, Sancerres and Muscadets from the region, as well as most white wines. This is my absolute favorite. It's hard to come by, but if you do - try it. You'll know what I mean.