Cheesemongers Talk Value

 Value proposition: Bleu d’Auvergne

Value proposition: Bleu d’Auvergne

Watching prices for some cheeses top $40 a pound is making me anxious and cranky. I still buy them because it’s my business to taste them, but I worry that many people are being priced out of the experience of great cheese. Of course, a lot of people are priced out of luxury restaurants, too, but it just seems that fine cheese, such a fundamental foodstuff, should not be reserved for the one percent.
 
To highlight some top-tier cheeses without top-tier price tags, I queried merchants around the country. What cheeses did they consider undervalued, delivering far more pleasure and quality than their price would suggest? Responses follow, including my own. If you have more suggestions, please add your cheese bargains to the end of my blog post. We’ll end up with a useful list for all cheese lovers. The price listed is the current retail price at that store.

 Point Reyes Toma: a Golden State bargain

Point Reyes Toma: a Golden State bargain

"We sell a lot of the Oscar Wilde Aged Irish Cheddar from Poets and Writers of Ireland. The depth of flavor is surprising, and it has a perfect crumbly Cheddar texture. Worth two or three times the price." ($11.99/lb.)
Laura Conrow
Wedge Cheese Shop
Reno, NV
 
"Reading from Spring Brook Farm is underpriced for sure. It is at home on a cheese plate or in the kitchen in grilled cheese, fondue, raclette or gratins. Made with raw Jersey cow’s milk, it has a smooth, creamy texture and bright, nutty, earthy flavor." ($20/lb.)
Laura Downey
Fairfield Cheese Company
Fairfield, CN
 
"Widmer's Aged Brick is a milder washed-rind from Wisconsin. It is miles from deli-sliced Brick. Widmer's is packed with that stewed vegetable and onion flavor that I adore. I prefer it on a cheese board with mustard and a good lager. It is out of this world." ($7.99/lb.)
David Rogers
Standard Market
Westmont, IL
 
"Ciresa’s Salva Cremasco perfectly exemplifies what cheese folks refer to as "mac and cheese" flavor. It is from Lombardy, and it has many of the same meaty, umami, mushroomy notes that Taleggio does. But it also has this delightful cheese-powder quality that anyone who grew up eating boxed mac-and-cheese would identify with and be happy to experience from a more natural source." ($18.95/lb.)  [Note: Ciresa is the stagionatore, or ager. Guffanti’s Salva Cremasco is more expensive.]
Justin Trosclair
St. James Cheese Company
New Orleans, LA
 
"I love Manouri. It’s creamy, fresh and mild; excellent alongside Middle Eastern foods, as an accompaniment to pita and roasted eggplant. It’s a 'gateway' sheep cheese, perfect for the newcomer." ($12.99/lb)
Phyllis Heagney
Oliver's Market
Santa Rosa, CA
 
"Edelweiss Creamery Butterkase, made by Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman, is smooth and creamy, with just the right amount of salt. This cheese is the potato chip of artisan cheeses; you can never stop at just one slice." ($8.99/lb.)
Jeanne Carpenter
Metcalfe's Market
Madison, WI
 
"Jeff's Select Gouda is an easy sell for cheesemongers. The rind is eye-catching, and the paste is speckled with 'those crunchy things,' as customers like to call them. The cheese is full flavored and easy to appreciate." ($20/lb.)
Leah Park Fierro
Milkfarm
Los Angeles, CA
 
"I like Blue d'Auvergne A.O.C. It's raw milk, with a creamy texture and a flavor that's not too salty or sharp. It's a great everyday table or cooking cheese." ($16/lb.)
Octavio Saez de Ibarra
Woodlands Market
Kentfield, CA
 
My vote goes to Point Reyes Toma. It’s widely available, consistent, sturdy and snackable. I love its warm-butter aroma and sour-cream tang, and I’ve never found a beer it doesn’t love. (about $20/lb.)