After that last post, I need to write about something super, something wonderful, something I really love- CHEESE! Some people need their caffeine, some need chocolate or carbohydrates or re-runs of The Gilmore Girls- not me. I need cheese.
A few years ago, the California Lottery ran a series of television commercials in which the camera shows the point-of-view of the lottery winner. A male (presumable from the voice-over) lottery winner walks in to a fabulous specialty cheese store, and gazes around silently, taking in the multitudinous cheeses, zooming in on the piles and stacks and wheels and freshness- then the voice-over says “Wow. I could totally afford all this cheese!” that’s it. That’s the whole commercial. And I know how he feels- if I won the lottery (if I played the lottery) I would totally go buy “all that cheese”!
There is a restaurant near where I used to live, I suppose they are elsewhere too, but all it served was fondue. Fondue is food for the the gods- don’t even try and argue with me. A fantastically decorated restaurant, purple walls, gold drapery, velvet chairs, stars shining down, and little pots of bubbling cheese everywhere you looked. Heaven! I haven’t actually eaten there in almost six years, but I still recall it with vividity and love. DH took me there for our first anniversary, and he gave me a string of pearls over dinner (very sweet), but what I really loved was eating cheese for dinner.
I love all cheese- as long as it’s real cheese. From the mild and easy to eat motzarella fresca, to the pungent and die-hard-only aged Stiltons. I’ve even imbibed in the dreaded cartoon stinker, Limburger, and while it’s not my favorite, it wasn’t bad. Few things are more euphoria inducing than walking into a good cheese-monger’s shop. Monger- even the word connotates one who covets. No one else is a monger- only those who love cheese. So here are three of my very favorites, although it’s a little unfair, since I have never met a cheese I don’t like.
Maytag Blue- oh, I love blue cheese. The pungent veins and the crumbly to creamy texture- the blue cheeses are a surprisingly diverse group- far more varied than the chunks you might get in your salad dressing (those are good too, though). The Stiltons are a group unto themselves, and there are the gorgonzola’s and the Roquefort- also a breed apart- and divine. But for a strait-up blue cheese, the American Maytag is the best. Pungent enough, but very creamy, melts in your mouth. Give it to me with a ripe pear and some pecans- oh, heaven! Just skip the stuff in the aseptic packages at your market- cheese has gotta breathe, and a monger is where you go for Maytag.
Aged Dry Vello Jack- hard to find, but oh so worth it! This aged Jack cheese is fabulous, and while fresh Jack is mild and creamy and wonderful for melting, the aged stuff transmogrifies into a new animal. Buttery and intense, the wheels are coated in cocoa and oil for the aging process, so your fresh cut wedge will have a chocolate rind- sounds weird, but it’s divine. The cheese has the texture of any hard, aged cheese- crumbly and crystallized. Yum! I don’t know how or what you would cook with it, but I recommend bringing it to room temp, and just eating slivers.
The Undisputed King of all Cheeses: Parmigianno Regiano. If you have never had this, do yourself a favor- save up ten bucks and go buy a sliver. You will never buy the stuff in the green can again. A good, aged cheese has something remarkable happen to it: the sugars from the milk crystallize as it ages, and when you eat it, the crystals give the cheese an ever-so-slight crunch. It is marvelous, and cannot be replicated- only produced with care and time. There are many domestic companies making parmigianna type cheeses, but Regianno, like champagne, can only come from one region of Italy, made by one group of cheese makers with milk from cows from one area only- and it may sound extreme- but the taste really cannot be copied. Try it. Please, for your taste buds, try it.
Up next time: Ricotta Salata, Cotija, Sheep milk Feta, and fresh pulled Motzarella. I’m drooling.