Every week, merchants restock their counters with the cheeses they think you want. And then You the People get to choose. Often, you’re predictable (you do love those triple-creams), but sometimes you surprise retailers with your willingness to embrace the new. I’ve been showcasing my discoveries all year in Planet Cheese so thought I would ask some leading merchants what you have liked best. From coast to coast, here are some of your favorites, the breakout stars of 2018. Great choices, People!
Bi-Rite Markets, San Francisco
Here at Bi-Rite it was a great year for washed rind cheeses, especially domestic ones. Central Coast Dream Weaver was really popular with guests, and Bleating Heart’s Death & Taxes was solid, too. It's a small category but sales almost doubled compared to 2017.
Cowgirl Creamery's newest cheese has been my personal favorite this year. Despite my taste for one-of-a-kind European gems, I really enjoy Hop Along. It has been in my fridge since its debut. It’s the perfect table cheese.
Cowgirl Creamery's relaunch of their Clabbered Cottage Cheese is what our guests (and staff) are most excited and vocal about. It's been very popular.
France 44, Minneapolis
Beillevaire’s Ossau-Iraty (pictured above) fills the void that Abbaye de Belloc left behind. It has a texture unlike most of the aged sheep tommes that we carry. There’s nothing like this iconic Pyrenees Basque cheese.
We have also been playing the Roquefort shuffle for years. Carles Roquefort disappeared just after my start as a cheesemonger here, but it made a grand return this year. We went through other options but none of them filled that footprint.
Everything about Capriole’s Sofia works for this counter. The size is right, the profile is right, the people love it.
The Fox and the Crow, Fort Collins, CO
New to our shop: Redhead Creamery’s Cave Aged Garlic Cheddar. I sampled it at the American Cheese Society conference this year and was blown away by the subtlety of the garlic and the quality of the Cheddar. I knew my customers—connoisseurs and newbies—would appreciate this cheese and I wasn’t wrong.
Old to our shop but deserves a high five: Capriole O’Banon. It’s better than ever: beautifully moist, with a flavor balanced between floral and boozy. We’ve been pairing it with Amarena cherries and whiskey-barreled honey, our version of an Old Fashioned.
Cheese Plus, San Francisco
Without a doubt, Prairie Breeze has been the breakout hit. We now keep it on a special display and our customers just go crazy for it. They love the sweet, moist character and all those crunchy “flavor sparkles” as one of our customers call them. It was our number-one item this year.
Truffles are a huge hit with our customers, and Maison de la Truffe’s Brie à la Truffe is a real truffle cheese, not the typical mushroom- and truffle paste-flavored item. it comes and goes in our assortment, which builds up the anticipation.
Another winner has been Alp Blossom. This one really surprised me because it’s kind of a mess to deal with. But customers really like the unique nature of this cheese.
C. J. Bienert
The Cheese Shop of Des Moines, Des Moines, IA
Imports: French this year. Columbia Cheese’s Beaufort d’Été and Salers Tradition sold me. We sold lots of Beaufort and I ate a lot of Salers.
The Cheese Board Collective, Berkeley, CA
The colorful flowers on the rind of Alp Blossom are aesthetically irresistible. The cheese on its own is also very tasty: savory and beefy. I love the hints of rose petal from the rind.
Valley Ford Cheese Company’s Grazin' Girl is a new blue in our case. The yellowish paste is a sign of great milk and is striking next to the blue veining. Buttery texture, natural rind. We like it spread on our housemade Wolverine roll which has pecans, walnuts and dried fruit.
New Classes, New Venue!
Join me for an evening of artisan cheese and fine wine when the World Cheese Tour resumes for the eighth year. Kitchen Collective, the stunning private club in Napa, will be our host for all of these tastings, each one devoted to a different theme. View the complete schedule.