Where Cheese Begins

During college, I spent half of my sophomore year studying in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. That’s where I learned to love cheese in all its forms, from stinky puant de Lille (literally, the “reeking cheese from Lille”) to rock-hard chèvres. I often ate lunch in the university cafeteria because it was so tasty, and more often than not, the meal ended with little containers of Petit Suisse, a super-fresh cream-enriched cow’s milk cheese that you sprinkled with sugar and ate like yogurt. What a delicious and wholesome dessert.

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We Have a Winner

Vermont’s Tarentaise Reserve took top honors at the American Cheese Society’s annual competition last week, surpassing 1,684 other cheeses to earn the prestigious “Best of Show.” I served as a judge and concur that this awesome two-year-old wheel deserved the recognition. It was my first choice. (Judges taste blind, but the distinctive concave rim of this 20-pound wheel gives it away.) Honestly, though, I tasted at least a half-dozen other cheeses that I would have been happy to see at the top. That’s a testament to the growing prowess of America’s cheesemakers.

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Ups and Downs with Feta

The same purchase provided the high and low moments on Planet Cheese last week. The high was finding Vermont Creamery goat feta at Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa, my neighborhood shop. Vermont Creamery makes some of my favorite bloomy-rinded goat cheeses (Bijou and Bonne Bouche among others), and a sublime cultured butter as well. But I didn’t know the creamery made feta.

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