Boring pepper jacks, waxy cheddars and simple (gasp!) American cheeses can all hit the road. With the wealth of intriguing and complex cheeses available in town, there’s no reason not to stimulate your palate and try something new. France 44 Cheese Shop manager Benjamin Roberts highlights a few of his favorite cheeses from around the world, breaking down the science of flavors, textures and pairings so you can have the most well-rounded, and colorful, cheese tray this season.
Meadow Creek Grayson
This raw milk, pasture-based cheese hails from the Virginia mountains. Modeled after the Italian cheese Taleggio, the Grayson is a rich, finely textured soft cheese with a pungent aroma and a nutty, sweet overtone. Don’t let the cheese’s strong smell turn you off, though. After all, this cheese, says Roberts, “is big stinky and big delicious.” Serve it with bread or dried fruit, or use it in your dessert course by drizzling it with honey.
Crave Brother Les Frères
Made by our Wisconsin neighbors on a farm outside Waterloo, Les Frères is similar to the French cheese Reblochon (think semisoft, mild and creamy). This washed-rind cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and carries an earthy flavor and nutty aftertaste. Pair this cheese with crusty bread or some nuts and seasonal fruits.
Tomato Washed Pecorino di Pienza
A semisoft cheese from Tuscany, the beautiful red rind on this variety is washed with tomato paste and olive oil, and is then aged. Made from ewe’s milk, the Pecorino—for which the town of Pienza is famous—is not too salty and bears what Roberts calls a great “subtle sheepiness.” This cheese is dynamic enough to eat alone in thin pieces, but also pairs well with cured sliced meats.
This marvelous marbled Italian blue cheese packs big and bold flavors, the zippiness of which comes from those dark veins contrasting against the creamy white flesh. Use this cheese with almost everything. Melt it into your next pasta dish, top your burger or sprinkle it onto a salad. This is also an excellent snacking cheese, especially when paired with roasted beets.
Appleby’s Double Gloucester
This rich and nutty yet mellow cheese “is a sneaky one, for sure,” Roberts says. It appears innocently dry and crumbly initially, but proves incredibly smooth and buttery once it hits your tongue. The bright orange color makes the Gloucester a standout on a cheese plate, and is a mellow companion to raisins and dried fruit. It’s also a wonderful cooking cheese, so consider wrapping a good amount inside pastry dough to create some classic English cheese pastries.