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In a Cheese Rut? 5 Great Cheeses to Help You Break Free!

When I worked behind the awesome Fairway cheese counter, customers asked often, ‘What’s your favorite cheese?” I never had a good answer. It was like choosing a favorite child. I have so much love for so many cheeses.

It’s easy to stick with the cheese you know and enjoy. But with our dazzling array of 600-ish cheeses, there’s no excuse not to try something new. Risk averse? Our super-knowledgeable, always helpful cheesemongers will cut you a taste. Here’s a few cheeses that go on my “favorites of the moment” list:

From France–Petit Basque: So Fine! Despite the imposing size of most Pyrenean cheeses, bigger is not always better. A lovely little sheep’s milk wheel. Aromas of brown butter and caramel; mild, nutty, sweet, lovely, and accessible.

From Italy–Barricata al Pepe: The Italian term for barrel-aging is barricato. This firm, buttery cow’s milk cheese from Veneto is blanketed in peppercorns and aged in oak barrels for nearly a year. The cheese takes on plenty of peppery zip, and sweet, wine-y flavors from the reside of the barrels. Serve with an off-dry Gewurtztraminer or Riesling, or a brawny Zin.

From The USA–Pleasant Ridge Reserve: This cheese is made by Uplands Cheese Co. in Wisconsin, from the sweet, fresh, raw milk of the cows that graze on the Uplands lush pastures.  It’s full of round, sweet, raisin-y, perfect flavor. Won the supreme champion award at the American Cheese Society competition a few times!  Jenkins was a judge, and was knocked out by the flavor and texture of this remarkable cheese.  Great with bourbon. Break out the cornichons.

From Spain–Leonora: Leonora is a newish cheese from the arid rolling hills of León, northwest of Madrid, made with pasteurized milk from the cheesemaker’s own herd. The 4-lb logs of soft, cake-y cheese are bright with dazzling, lemony and grassy flavors. The crusty, natural, ash-coated rind plays gorgeously against the lush, snow-white interior.

From Switzerland–Tete de Moine: “Monk’s head” refers to this cheese’s appearance when sliced traditionally (horizontally) – that is, the tonsure of a monk.  Also called Bellelay for its Swiss Canton origin, this raw cow’s milk cheese is a towering figure in the cheese world. It has a strong, mountain-rustic flavor and fragrance, a smooth, milky texture and a long, lingering finish.  Absolutely scrumptious cheese.  Tradition also has it stored cut-face top upside-down in a dish of white wine.

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