If today’s cheese plates are more beautiful than ever—and they are—major credit goes to importer Michele Buster. Her New York-based company, Forever Cheese, has launched dozens of European cheeses in the U.S. and introduced many of the cheese-board accompaniments we now can’t live without. Everything on the plate pictured above is a Forever Cheese find, including the Marcona almonds, Buster’s first breakout success.Read More
Wine with cheese? Of course. Wine on cheese? Absolutely. It may seem gimmicky, but steeping cheese in wine has a long history, especially in Italy. Some say it dates to World War I, when people would bury their wheels in wine barrels to hide them from soldiers. I would bet it’s an older practice than that. In any case, the niche has a new entry—and a particularly tasty one. The newcomer is on the right, above, alongside one of the category’s best sellers. With autumn coming at us and the wine-grape harvest underway, it’s a nice time to get acquainted with these “drunken” beauties.Read More
I always learn so much from Pat Polowsky. This graduate student is half my age and twice as knowledgeable about cheese, especially if we’re talking chemistry. In that case, it’s more like a factor of ten. Ever wondered how salt gets to the middle of a wheel when it’s only applied to the outside? (You didn’t?) Did you think the crunch on the rind of Taleggio comes from salt? I did, but it doesn’t.Read More
If you want to get your Ph.D. in cheese and beer pairing, join me at Thirsty Bear, the San Francisco brewpub, for the ninth annual Cask & Queso on February 16. This is a marathon: Seventeen craft beers paired with seventeen cheeses. Good thing I’ve been in training. Even if you can’t go, you might be intrigued by some of the matches [link to post] from previous years. The Thirsty Bear team really gets it. No wonder this event, part of San Francisco Beer Week, always sells out.Read More
It has been quite the week here in smoky Napa. The least of my worries was that I had to cancel a cheese class, leaving me with 12 pounds of fabulous cheese in the fridge. Nothing to do but donate it to an evacuation center or to the nearby first-responders’ station.
To my chagrin, neither would take it. “We can’t take perishables,” the evacuation center worker told me. “We have a caterer,” the guard at the first-responders’ camp said. Okay, then. Reject my cheese. I have a better idea.Read More
It would be impossible to name a favorite cheese, but a favorite style? That’s easy. Aged sheep’s milk cheeses---from anywhere—are the ones that disappear first at my house. They get more savory as they mature, not sweeter, so they’re like salted peanuts to me. One bite and I need another. Good news for like minds: we have a new cheese to love.Read More
Finally, a bargain—and in a niche with slim pickings. La Dama Sagrada, an aged wheel from raw goat’s milk, cost me just north of $20 a pound. For cheese of such quality, that’s not a price I see much anymore. Predictably, demand for this newcomer has outraced supply, but the Spanish maker is trying to ramp up production. Did I mention that the cheese is a steal?Read More
It’s dispiriting to think that raw-milk cheeses are dwindling in number and that American cheese counters will have fewer in five years than they do now. But no one who follows the artisan cheese world would dispute that forecast.Read More
After teaching a class on Spanish cheeses last fall, I had a hefty leftover: several pounds of excess Mahón. Muchas gracias, Spanish Trade Office. For the past several months, I have been slicing off wedges of this aged cow’s milk cheese to share with guests. Each time I take the package out of the fridge, I’m sure that I’m going to unwrap a moldy or slimy or dried-out chunk. Instead, this miracle Mahón refuses to die.
I often advise people not to buy more cheese than they need because a wheel never improves after it is cut. But my Mahón experience reminds me that dry aged cheeses can have awesome longevity—if they’re stored carefully. And I’ll get to that.
Made exclusively on the wind-swept Spanish island of Menorca, Mahón is a cow’s milk cheese from a country better known for goat and sheep cheeses.
Some artisan producers still use raw milk but industrial producers pasteurize. The cheese has an unusual square shape, like a thick cushion, and can weigh anywhere from one to four kilos (2.2 to 8.8 pounds). You can identify an artisan Mahón by the surface wrinkles from the cloth bag it was drained and pressed in. Industrial cheeses are drained in molds, and their thin rind is tinted orange with paprika or annatto.
Mahón isn’t particularly compelling when young, but after six months or more in a cellar, Mahón curado (aged Mahón) becomes a cheese to savor: dense and brittle, with crunchy protein crystals here and there, and a nutty butterscotch or caramel aroma. Serve it before dinner with sparkling wine or fino sherry, such as Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana, and some warmed green olives. At the end of a meal, enjoy aged Mahón with dates and toasted walnuts and pour Dios Baco Amontillado.
As for storage, wrap the cheese in waxed paper or coated cheese paper, then tuck it inside a lidded container, preferably alone. Change the wrap every time you take the cheese out, and your Mahón should live long and prosper.