Take our curd for it: It’s time to break out of the dairy aisle of your local supermarket and discover these super delicious unsung stars of the cheese world.
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This cow’s milk cheese hails from the Dolomites in the Veneto province of Italy and is a favorite of Steve Jenkins, the certified maître fromager of Fairway Market in New York. With a sweet flavor and nutty undertones, Piave is sold in various ages—and the older it is, the stronger the flavor. As Jenkins puts it, “Piave is just plain-old good cheese.”
Available online from murrayscheese.com, $16-20.
“Cantal is one of France’s most beloved cheeses, and if you don’t know it, you should,” says Jenkins. Made from cow’s milk in the Auvergne region, its flavors range from sweet and fresh to peppery, depending on age. It also carries an official AOC designation, or Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, meaning its characteristics are prized and distinct to its region.
Available online from formaggiokitchen.com, $14-20/lb.
Though somewhat hard to come by, this Californian cheese is a true delicacy. Soft like Brie, but less runny, it has a very mild, sweet flavor. “People often taste it and think it’s plain, but we think of it as complex and elegant,” says cheese specialist Matt Rubiner, proprietor of Rubiner’s in Great Barrington, Mass. If you can find it, it’s worth tracking down Franklin’s Teleme; Rubiner says it’s the best.
In Rubiner’s opinion, this commonly recognized cheese is “wildly under-appreciated.” People are used to grating it over pastas or salads, he explains, but “what’s unappreciated is how wonderful and noble it is as a table cheese.” Opt for the more artisan brands, like Giorgio Cravero, Bonati or Montanari & Gruzza, and you won’t be disappointed.
Available online from murrayscheese.com, $30-35/lb.
Commonly known as Swiss cheese or just “deli cheese,” Emmental doesn’t get much credit—but, according to Rubiner, “it should be among the most popular cheeses in the world.” Want to taste for yourself? The sweet, fruity version from Swiss producer Gourmino is most deserving of a second look.
“This goat’s milk gem is well-known in the [professional] cheese world but just winning the attention of the cheese-loving public,” says Sasha Davies, cheesemonger, author and founder of the restaurant Cyril’s in Portland, Oregon. Produced by the Vermont Creamery in Barre City, Vermont, Bonne Bouche is light and fluffy with notes of citrus, and shines when paired with winter root vegetables like roasted or pickled beets, explains Davies.
Available online from murrayscheese.com, $11 ea.
Big Woods Blue
This cheese is “a great contrast to the very assertive flavors most people expect from sheep’s milk blue cheeses,” says Davies. She loves to eat it all on its own or with a sweet cracker. Produced on the Shepherd’s Way family farm in Minnesota, it’s an artisan cheese that stands out for its delicate, mild taste.
Available online from sunfishcellars.com, $26/lb.
The exterior of this aged cow’s milk cheese is rubbed with bergamot oil and black tea throughout the aging process, and “the results are delicious and unique,” says Davies. Produced by the Beehive Cheese Company in Uintah, Utah, this is a sweeter cheese with an almost cheddar flavor. It’s fantastic as a table cheese, but also great for baking.
Available online from beehivecheese.com, $23/lb.
Westfield Farm Capri
“Westfield Farm Capri is the best fresh goat cheese—I eat it all the time,” says Rob Kaufelt, cheese aficionado and owner of New York’s oldest cheese shop, Murray’s. The cheese is delivered fresh to Murray’s from the farm in Massachusetts several times each week. Its fresh, delicate flavor includes hints of citrus; try it slathered on a fresh baguette.
“I like the classics, but the best ones,” says Kaufelt—and according to him, this cheese is the closest we can get to a real French Brie de Meaux here in the States. Imported from the Ferme de Jouvence (Farm of Rejuvenation) in Northern France, this brie is mushroomy, runny and absolutely delicious.
Available online from murrayscheese.com, $19-23/lb.
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