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.
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…
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.
A close runner- up was a soft cows’ milk cheese from Canada (Quebec) called Cendré de 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.
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.
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.
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.
Then there’s the revolting American cheese known as Kraft Singles. It smells of nothing, but tastes like plastic!
But let’s not dwell on these nasty cheeses, shall we, when there are so many, many beautiful and perfectly delightful cheeses to try.
Please share your favourite cheese finds. Bon Appetit!