by Kerry Acker, Gourmet
In honor of our Big Cheese issue, I asked each of my editorial colleagues to name a single cheese from overseas that they love above all others. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the editors found this to be a near impossible task. "Seriously? Just one cheese?" It's like choosing a favorite child, right? Some are mellow and comforting from the get-go, while others are obnoxious at first but gradually grow on you. Some are assertive and hard-charging, while others are more nuanced and complicated, revealing themselves slowly… You get the picture: Choosing is hard! So let's just say these are our favorite cheeses right now.
Also not surprisingly, many of my curd-loving brethren couldn't help but mention how much they have been enjoying so many of the fabulous artisanal, hand-crafted cheeses--sheep's, goat's, and cow's milk alike--that are being produced here in the States. So watch this space for a future rundown of our favorite varieties from domestic cheesemakers.
Here, in no particular order, are our current favorite cheeses from abroad:
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1) Gubbeen. When Megan visited Ireland several years ago she remembers having many beautiful local cheeses, including Gubbeen, an aged washed-rind cow's milk cheese from West Cork. "Apparently the cows are fed nuts, which might partially account for the rich, nutty flavor of the cheese." "Right now, I'd like to be eating it with some Gubbeen Oatcakes and perhaps a local microbrew…"
2) Halloumi. Sara prefaced her choice by saying, "So. Hard. To. Choose." But she landed on this creamy, salty semi-hard cheese--a mix of sheep, goat, and cow's milk--from the eastern Mediterranean for this exercise. How does she eat it? "Grilled with a spritz of lemon," but of course.
3) Époisses. "It's one of those washed-rind French cheeses that's a stinker until you dollop some on a cracker. Then you're in love," says Kemp. The flavor is nothing like the pungent aroma, but, Kemp notes, "it's the texture of the cheese that is so enticing. It's ready when you can spoon thick, slow-moving ribbons of it onto a chunk of crusty baguette." As the raw cow's milk cheese is a specialty of Burgundy, "you might as well drink some red Burgundy with it!"
4) Leonora. "I LOVE Leonora cheese," says Kendra. This goat's milk cheese from the Castilla y León region of Spain has a moldy rind, and "it's grassy and creamy with a very slight crumble." Kendra loves it on its own or "with a little membrillo on crackers." She adds, "It should definitely be enjoyed with a nice glass of Rioja."
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5) Pantaleo. Esther usually does her best "to stick with goat's and sheep's milk cheeses." Lately, she's been enjoying this pasteurized goat's milk cheese from the island of Sardinia in Italy. "I like to eat the cheese by itself--maybe on some bread like a good baguette. Delicious."
6) Kerrygold's Dubliner. Lauren loves this aged Irish Cheddar paired with apricot jam on toast. "It seems kind of odd maybe, but it hits all the right notes for me--tangy, sweet, salty, slightly creamy. It's one of my favorite breakfasts."
7) Monte Enebro. Patricia and I both adore this pasteurized goat's milk cheese from Avila, Spain. As Patricia says: "It's a favorite splurge--it's like Humboldt Fog taken to the next degree of complexity." I love to eat this goat-y, creamy, characterful cheese with some sweet grapes or cherries to offset the saltiness.
8) Stracciatella. Though Carolina admits to not being a "huge cheese fanatic," she loves this Italian cheese--basically, slender shreds of mozzarella bathed in heavy cream--so much, she claims, "I could bathe in it." We don't judge. Especially when it comes to cheese.
What's your favorite cheese from abroad?
More from Gourmet:
17 Delicious Cheese Recipes
Top 10 Timeless Recipes
12 Favorite Pumpkin Dishes
Gourmet's Classic Comfort Foods
by Kerry Acker, Gourmet