Cheese! Glorious Cheese!

There are thousands of cheeses in the world and most of us only ever get to eat a handful of them in our lifetime.  This is so wrong.

I love cheese – good cheese. I’m particular about cheese. If I’m out with a bunch of people at a restaurant whose only vegetarian meal features cheese, I’ll eat it, but when I buy cheese for at-home eating, I like to choose something special.

I usually buy some sort of goat cheese because I like goats and the whole goat milk/cheese industry is less gruesome than the North American/UK cow dairy industry and goat cheese is so much easier to digest than cow. (Also, speaking of goats, did you know Google uses goats to tend their corporate lawns and never have to mow them? AND PETA is okay with it!!)

Also I buy only rennet-free cheese because rennet, is of course, not vegetarian. (Don’t click that link if you’re squeamish).

Anyhow, there are a few interesting places in Ottawa to get good cheese. (Il Negozio Nicatro, La Bottega, even Farm Boy).  A lot of really good cheese comes from Quebec .

One of the more interesting cheeses I’ve tried is haloumi cheese. It’s a goat cheese; very hard and layered and salty as heck, but mild like mozzarella. The fun part is that you can grill it on the barbeque and then slide it on some toast for breakfast. breakfast_tost_cheese

Every October there is a World Cheese Awards competition. The 2007 winner was a French brie: Brie de Meaux. It’s  a very soft cheese tasting and smelling of a delightful combination of hazelnut and fruit. It’s known as the King of Cheese because it’s been loved by French royalty since Charlemagne. You can buy a 6-pound wheel on Amazon for about $160.  Mmmmmm…brie…

brie

In 2008 the winner was a goats’ cheese called Queso Arico curado pimentón’ made by a co-operative in the Canary Islands. The cheese is pressed and regularly brushed with paprika and gofia  (a powdered cereal unique to the Canary Islands) before being matured for around six months.

canary island cheese

A close runner- up was a soft cows’ milk cheese from Canada (Quebec) called Cendré de Lune .

lune

Of course cheese is very high in fat, so it has to be eaten in moderation. Wine paired with cheese will help you to digest the fats in cheese, however, so there’s a win-win combination. There are no hard and fast rules for wine and cheese pairing, but obviously you don’t want the cheese to overpower the wine or vice versa. Experimenting with different combinations is one of those lovely small  things that makes life worthwhile.

wine-and-cheese

France is well-known for having some of the smelliest, but also most delicious cheese in the world. The stinkiest of the stinky is called  Vieux Boulogne. Officially, it smells of wet earth, mushrooms, and a hint of rotting leaves. Unofficially it apparently smells like cow poo. Neither descriptions sound all that bad to me, but there is a ban in France on taking this cheese on public transport. It looks so innocent and harmless.

stinky

Probably, you’ve also heard about the most disgusting cheese in the world – Sardinia’s Casu Marzu. It means rotted cheese. They let the cheese rot until it becomes infested with maggots and then the maggots get full of rotten cheese and then the cheese and the maggots are eaten. You have to eat it before the maggots die though or the cheese becomes toxic. It’s supposed to be delicious.

casu_marzu_570

Germany has a cheese called  Spinnenkaese which means “spider cheese” (or sometimes Milbenkaese – mite cheese) They take a nice low fat quark type cheese and then  place it in wooden boxes full of spider mites. The mites crawl all over the cheese. After 3 months the mite poop turns the cheese reddish-brown. After a year, the cheese is black and ready to eat. 

spider

Then there’s the revolting American cheese known as Kraft Singles. It smells of nothing, but tastes like plastic! kraft+singles+1-752005

But let’s not dwell on these nasty cheeses, shall we, when there are so many, many beautiful and perfectly delightful cheeses to try.

eco_friendly_wine_cheese

Please share your favourite cheese finds. Bon Appetit!

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43 responses to “Cheese! Glorious Cheese!

  1. I don’t eat cheese very often, but I do loooove haloumi. We cut it in cubes and put it on skewers with a bunch of vegetables and then grill everything. Delicious. The other thing I’ve done is a trick from Jamie Oliver where you press a basil leave into a slice of haloumi and grill it then eat it with fresh berries and balsamic vinegar.

    Delicious!

  2. Ah, Kraft Singles – you’ll notice they call it cheese PRODUCT. Perhaps long long ago there was some ingredient in it common to cheese.

    I’m not big on cheese myself – it doesn’t do anything for me. The only cheese I can say I love is Istara (aka Osau-Iraty it seems, a sheep milk cheese). I could eat that stuff by the kilo. Otherwise… meh…

  3. I was thoroughly enjoying this post until the bit with the maggots and spiders and Kraft Singles.

    I think I’ll head on out to the Market now and spend some exhorbitant amount of money on my new favourite: Manchego. Or any goat cheese. Or that haloumi which I keep meaning to try.

  4. Ach, the cheese. The cheese is my friend. My best friend. I love those old cheddars, those old parmys, those old stinky cheeses.

    And now I need a cheese omelet.

  5. I’m probably going to get tarred and feathered for saying this, but let’s not be too hard on Kraft Singles.

    I don’t think they’re really meant for eating (like on a cheese platter, with crackers, say).

    But nothing beats them, when it comes to Grilled Cheese sammitches.

    I like the way they melt into uniform orange gooey-ness (as opposed to real cheese, which gets stringy, and loses some of it’s flavor and texture…)

    Nothing like a Kraft grilled cheese sammitch. With a little ketchup on the side (or a bowl of tomato soup), and you got some awesome comfort food.

    (At least it’s not eating maggots!) 😉

  6. J – Oh ya! That basil leaf, berries and balsamic sounds perfect. I’d never eat this like the giant slabs in the photo. I’ve had it on skewers, too or even just fried with the tiniest bit of olive oil.

    Jazz – Really? Not a fan of cheese eh? The mind boggles. I’ll have to go see if I can find this Istara. I’m usually not all that fond of sheep cheese, but I’m open to trying new cheese.

    Violetsky – I’m taking notes in case… you know… I ever get a chance to feed you some evening soon..wine, cheese, no olives…

    Ellie – Where do they make great cheese in the US? Wisconsin I guess..anywhere else?

    Friar – There will be no tarring and feathering. I knew at least one person would speak up for Kraft Singles. But I do think a nice sharp Cheddar makes an excellent grilled cheese sammich without getting stringy or losing its flavour. Or try this –a pannini with some Camembert. Lightly grill the outside of the pannini. (And, ya, no self-respecting maggot would go near Kraft Singles, so you’re pretty safe there HA!)

  7. You have hit on my biggest weakness… I don’t eat junk, take very little extra sugar or salt into my diet and don’t drink pop. But man, when I go to a cheese shop – like La Bottega in the Market – I go CRAZY!

    Brie, real old cheddar, Oka (my fave), chèvre, Gorgonzola, blue cheese, Havarti. I love ’em all!

    And so does my waistline.

  8. I don;t know if you caught it but yesterday CBC had a rerun of the Cheese shop sketch for an interview with John Cleese.
    I have a friend who actually went and got some of every cheese mentioned and tried them all.
    And in the fridge right now is the remains of the Mac and cheese I made on Sunday using really sharp old cheddar.

  9. I like a really nice brie, mature but not quite running off the plate. Or a younger one grilled with some cranberry. Yumm. And I’ve always wondered what you North-American types mean by “sharp” when it comes to cheese. Are you talking about how mature it is compared to mild?

  10. Mmmmm, cheese. Cheese has been my primary protein source since I was very little.

    I tend to like fairly mild cheeses: edam, mild or medium cheddar, gruyere, emmental, provolone, gouda, ricotta (which technically isn’t a cheese, I know, but it’s close enough), etc. One of my favourite cheeses ever was a spiced gouda made by a PEI cheesemaker (Island Farmhouse Gouda, I think) that I used to buy every year at the Christmas at the Forum craft fair in Halifax.

    No dissing Kraft Singles. (Next thing you know, someone will come along and start making fun of Cheez Whiz.) A grilled cheese sandwich with anything but a Kraft Singles slice or two is just wrong. And Friar, a grilled cheese sandwich with a bowl of tomato soup sounds heavenly. I have to admit, though, that one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I ever had was at JJ Rossy’s in Halifax; it was made with cheddar and garlic butter and was absolutely scrummy.

  11. I’m getting pretty freakin’ hungry!
    One other thing… the BEST culinary invention ever to come out of France is the Croque Monsieur – a hot ham and Gruyere cheese sandwich, fried in butter… yum!
    And one can of course not omit that wonderful Québecois creation – poutine – which is not authentic unless covered in mild cheese curds and pork gravy – of course!
    Off to lunch!

  12. I am a fan of good cheese. I like going to gay guy parties because they always have the best wine and cheese money can buy. But, I got to ask, who the hell would come up with maggot and spider cheese? What kind of sick sadistic bastard would let cheese rot until maggots appeared and then think, well this looks like it will sit good on a Ritz? Or who would say, “Hey gather me up a few dozen big ass spiders I want to throw them in this box with some cheese, wait until the cheese turns black and eat it.” My theory is both discoveries were attempted murders that back fired. “No really, you got to taste this cheese, the maggots give it that special little crunch and added protein.” “Die, bastard, die. Ah really good you say? Hand me a Ritz.”

  13. Hmm..love cheese, particularly goat cheese! Those cheese swith spider poop and rotting maggots is seriously disgusting! (And people give my overseas relatives heck for eating haggis! Sheesh! LOL)

  14. Skygirl – Yes. This is first and foremost an educational blog and only incidentally a healthy debate blog.

    Trashee – I’ll bet you only started eating cheese to disguise your breakfast wine drinking habit, right?

    Dave – Doesn’t Portland have a world famous cheesery? Because if they don’t they’re seriously falling down on the job of being all things to all people. You might want to get after them.

    Bandobras – You had a friend! (bwah-ha-ha) I once had the intention of eating all the foods with city/country or regional names in the actual locale. (i.e.: Blackforest cake in the Black Forest, hamburger in Hamburg, a Danish in Denmark, etc…) But eating all the cheeses in a Monty Python sketch sounds like a noble hobby, too. I hope he didn’t eat them all at once?

    Loth – Yes, “sharp” cheese is well-aged. I would have grilled you some cheese if you’d taken the trouble to stop by when you were in Canada recently. But, OH NOoooooooo! Harumph.

    Dr. Monkey – But you’re okay with the spider poop cheese?

    Louise – Ha! I already made fun of Cheez Whiz in a previous post — but you knew that, right? Is that why you mentioned it? If not go do a search. I think it was just called Cheez Whiz. I don’t understand why the love for the Kraft Singles when you enjoy so much real cheese?

    Trashee – France and the French sure know from fatty fried foods, man!

    Cedar – You pose some interesting questions. I’m sure that like a lot of good things we eat, they were discovered accidentally.Cheese in general is old, curdled milk — that couldn’t have been a deliberate decision. Probably the same person who was rooting through horse manure one day and decided frying up and eating the fungus he found there would be a good thing.

    Hannah – There are some amazingly disgusting things people eat. But while we think maggots and other insects are disgusting as food, other cultures find it perfectly normal to eat bug and think we’re disgusting for eating our fellow mammals or drinking milk. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

  15. This seems to be a good venue for asking something I’ve always wanted to know: are you supposed to eat the rind of soft cheese like brie or camembert? I always have, and wondered if it were a faux pas. It doesn’t really have much of a taste.

    I’m with whomever it was upthread who likes Oka. It’s my fave. I also like Caerphilly and a you can’t beat Havarti on a sandwich. I also like the old, old Balderson cheddars from Perth. They have 2 cheddars specially chosen to go with white wine (20 month old white cheddar) and red wine (40 month old white cheddar). The 40 month old is just divine with a glass of merlot. Mmmmm.

  16. Alison – Personally, I think it’s a waste if you don’t eat the rind, but I don’ think there’s a rule about it. You should cut brie nice and thin like the photo above and then the rind will just add a bit of texture and flavour. If someone gives you a big chunk then I don’t think I’d eat a big chunk of rind but just scoop the soft stuff out. I’ve never heard of Caephilly. I’ll have to look that up. I agree on the Balderson, too!

  17. LOVE CHEESE!

    My favorites are goat gouda and the drunken goat. I also enjoy a little Muenster cheese from time to time. Brie, sharp cheddar, mozzarella…I’ll eat them all, really.

    We have a good cheese shop here in Seattle called Beechers: http://www.beechershandmadecheese.com/. I’ve had several of their cheeses. Delicious, every one. My most recent favorite of their is called No Woman, which is made with Jamaican jerk spices. Yum.

  18. You response to my response is…how many people do you think died from eating things they thought, “Hmmm wonder what this taste like?” Do we owe some special thanks to those people who lived after eating maggot/spider cheese, mushrooms? That also makes me think about the guy who thought mushrooms were harmless from the horse crap and then ate the one under the cowpie ….should we thank the guy more that found the mushrooms under the cowpie since they are so much more fun then the Mushrooms under the horse crap? Is there a Morel to this story?

  19. Alison, don’t listen to her. You eat the lot. Even in big chunks. Promise. (I have even been known to eat it on toast!)

  20. I love cheese but lean toward the milder ones except for the bleu cheese that I like in a salad. I’m currently loving on a havarti from Denmark that has jalapenos in it. It makes the best scrambled eggs you’ve ever had and I just dropped cubes of it into a tomato rotini soup. I’ve also been chipping away at a really good wedge of Jarlsberg all week. I seem to like the flavored cheeses like that jalapano havarti or dill havarti and there’s also a tomato basil feta that I love. Aren’t all cheeses made by introducing bacteria into cream or milk? I guess vegetarians don’t count those little critters as animals.

  21. Linsey – (name spelled correctly? check!) Si! Si! the Drunken Goat. Haven’t had that in ages. I can see I’m going to go on a cheese binge this weekend. Why oh why do I do these things to myself? Thanks for the reminder. All the goat gouda I’ve ever seen is only half goat (but you have to read the fine print to find that out) Is yours all goat?

    Cedar – I know. There ought to be a shrine in tribute to all those who gave their lives so we can eat strange things. (I don’t know what that second comment means??)

    Loth – By all means eat the chunks – I’ve done that, too. I don’t think brie ought to be served in thick chunks, but that’s another question. Does the toast need to be warm in order to bring out the best in the brie?

    Geewits – The bacteria that’s introduced to milk to make cheese can be from an animal source (rennet) or from a non-animal source. That’s usually referred to as “microbial enzymes” on the cheese packet. These are plant based enzymes. I’m not sure what the science is an one would think bacteria is bacteria in the end, but maybe not. I reckon people that are picky enough not to want to eat bacteria, won’t be eating cheese either. The problem with rennet though is that they actually have to kill an animal to make it; which is why I avoid those cheeses when possible. I’m not fanatical about it though.

  22. One thing I appreciated about England was all the local cheeses. Cheshire and Lancashire and Double Gloucester, etc.

  23. A love for real anything doesn’t preclude the ability to enjoy a little of the fake stuff. Kind of like having a love for good literature doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally read and enjoy a Harlequin Romance. Real cheese just doesn’t go well in a bologna and cheese sandwich, for example. It’s all about what you consider comfort foods.

  24. The brie is best served warmed over some light crunchy toast, with maybe a cranberry or lingonberry sauce. Or fresh pears.

    Am making myself some broccoli soup and adding a bit of stilton for some sharp flavouring.

    Hmmm, a cheese tasting weekend….

  25. Bandobras – OHHHHH, now I get it! (PS: Don’t be questioning the Cedar! It’s like second guessing the Pope)

    Milan – Pfffft- England… what do they know about cheese? But before you explode, what about all the great Quebec cheeses? It’s an unpublicized treasure trove of delights. They won the prestigious World Cheese Award, afterall)

    Geewits – Ya, I got that. Cedar is the queen of puns.

    Louise – I had a Harlequin binge once. That was enough. And I’m not sure that’s true. It’s like being madly in love and lust with someone and then going out to buy a hooker. I can’t see it, but I guess it happens. (Let’s see how absurdly far we can stretch the analogies)

    Violetsky – And wine… let’s not forget the wine…

  26. I love cheese. Tonight for dinner I had a tomato, basil and fresh mozzarella salad. HEAVEN!

    As I kid, I adored those Kraft singles, but I wouldn’t touch ’em with a 10-ft pole now.

  27. I wasn’t much of a cheese lover until I moved to France. I fell in love with Roquefort, even visited the village where it is made. I like Compte as well, a harder cheese with a nutty taste. I once went to Meaux, the home of that famous Brie. It’s a really interesting city, not too far from Paris.

  28. mmmmm, cheese. i don’t get too fancy with my cheese eating, as a child i couldn’t eat any cheese. i’m glad that changed. i stay pretty “vanilla” with it, sticking closely to mozzarella, american, swiss, and the occasional brie or gouda.

    how do people figure out that maggots and spiders make a better cheese? that’s what i need to know.

    i LOVE the idea that google uses goats to trim their lawns. i’ve been saying for years that someone should rent goats out for this very purpose.

  29. My two year old and I are intolerant to cow’s milk, so goat it is. We just discovered that Costco carries a reeeeally yummy SHEEP feta. It’s definitely tastes like feta, but is mild and creamy. Not sure if it’s vegetarian though.

  30. Kimberly – I love tomatoes and basil, too!! With just a little lemon juice and olive oil??

    Linda – Did you have the brie at Meaux? Was it all it’s cracked up to be?

    Leah – Cedarflame was asking the same questions about the maggots and spiders. We’ve been trying to figure it out. You should branch out in your cheese lovering. Go to a cheese tasting some time. It’ll give you a nice variety to try and see what you like.

    Amy – I think feta in general isn’t curdled with rennet. They don’t normally use rennet in non-cow cheeses, so sheep is good! Goat has a bit more bite to it, which I usually prefer.

  31. my brother used to date this wonderful lady named Phoebe. She used to bring a cranberry and brie appetizer to our house every Christmas. Phoebe lasted three Christmases and to our great disappointment, Harrison broke up with Phoebe. That was 11 years ago. My brother is married to another wonderful lady and has two kids. I don’t remember what Phoebe looks like, but we still have what we call Phoebe’s Cranberry and Brie every Christmas.

  32. I’m Italian and love casu marzu! Some people let the maggots go away before they eat the cheese (they can also jump 10-15 cm), but I prefer to spread cheese and maggots on pane carasau (bread from sardinia)… really delicious. It was illegal to sell casu marzu but now local authorities approved it, because in Sardinia we eat it from a thousand years or more, and it has been declared a traditional food. So come to Sardinia and, if you dare, eat casu marzu: you won’t regret!

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