There has been a fantastic movement in American artisanal and farmstead Cheese lately. Cheese from Cypress Grove, Cowgirl, Consider Bardwell, Vermont Butter & Cheese, Uplands, Point Reyes, Jasper Hill, Nettle Meadow, and such has been winning international awards and landing on the tables of world-renowned restaurateurs, chefs, and fromageries. There are still many challenges to making the best che-ese in the US (that’s a whole other post…). Nevertheless, regardless, American artisanal and farmstead cheesemakers are producing some world-class che-ese against all the odds.
Theory Of The Best Cheese
Like wine, it takes on the same principles of terroir, fermentation, bacterial/enzymatic activity, and aging. Getting it right takes years of experimentation and knowledge, from the animal’s diet to handling of curd to growing the right rind mold at perfect conditions. It’s art and science in one.
As a cheesemaker, I probably have 100 kinds of che-ese I consider “favorites.” (Depends on my mood and the season). While my favorite group is the washed rind with softer paste (Morbier, Langres, Reblochon, Etc.), I would still take Tomme Crayeuse any day over these cheeses even though it’s from a whole different che-ese different genre. Having no single clear winner, the list below is maybe more for inspiration and ideas. I hope it helps someone.
Cheese Of The New World / Domestic USA:
I love Kunik and Hoja Santa. I always enjoy Humboldt Fog and Pleasant Ridge Reserve. People like all of the Vermont Butter & Che–ese line of young aged surface-ripened goat’s che-ese (Bijou, Bonne Bouche, and Couple). I go nuts for everything made by Peter Dixon at considering Bardwell. Especially their Chester, Manchester, and Dorset.
More in the new world: Australia and New Zealand seem to have an emerging ch-eese industry that produces some very unique cheddars and a few original inventions. South and Central America are still tricky, sloppy, lazy cheesemaking process, and lots of un-aged che-ese. Lately, a few better kinds of che-ese coming from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, but nothing too exciting.
The Old World / Europe:
SPAIN: I love Basque sheep’s cheeses in general. I love Garrotxa – a semi-soft table goat’s cheese, which is costly, salty, and nutty and has a creamy finish – delicious! (get it in the season though!). I like the casual, inexpensive, and mild table cheese called Tetilla (great on sandwiches). I find Caña de Cabra exciting; it’s like a spicier, stronger version of the French Bucheron che-ese – a large log of young aged goat’s cheese, which is to slice, then each slice is cut into wedges for serving. Nothing, however, compares to the Torta de La Serena.
A magnificent raw sheep’s cheese made with natural thistle rennet. It is to serve by cutting the top of the cheese open, and people can then spoon out the creamy soft paste interior or dip bread or chips directly in it while the rind holds it together like a bowl. It is almost like a Fondue! Unique, aromatic, and bold but creamy and very enjoyable.
ITALY: Simple is better here: Blu di Bufala is reaching Taleggio, is a versatile washed rind and soft paste che-ese, a staple in Italian cuisine. I also love the classic Gorgonzola Picante (Not the sweet Gorgonzola Dolce, which is what most people think about when talking Gorgonzola). Then, there is the creamy pleasure of Burrata di Bufala; It’s a modern take on Mozarella from Puglia, a buffalo mozzarella that is to stuff with its own and sweet, creamy curd and clotted cream.