Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Cheese, glorious cheese! Whether it’s melted on a piece of French bread, sliced with a piece of fresh ripe fruit or grated over a steaming bowl of pasta, it’s all wonderful. But most people have only sampled a small portion of the amazing cheeses out there in the world.
There is more, so much more, than the shrink wrapped, waxy cheeses you find in your grocery store dairy section. Ready to try something new? Here are ten imported cheeses you need to try. Trust me. You will never settle for waxy packaged cheese again!
10. Ossau Iraty
It may be hard to say, but this classic sheep’s milk cheese from the French Pyrenees is worth it. This is a stand-alone cheese, perfect for serving with crusty bread as a cheese course after a meal, or as the main attraction for a picnic or evening with friends, especially with a classic hard cider.
9. French feta
Most people have probably tasted a feta cheese at sometime or another. But the common, garden variety fetas so popular on restaurant salads simple can’t compete with the rich, creamy deliciousness of a fine French feta. Milder and creamier than its Greek or Bulgarian cousins, this cheese is perfect for serving on crisp rounds of bread, along side a delicate white wine.
8. Fontina d’Aosta
Italy is the source for the next cheese on my list. Fontina d’Aosta is a soft, fresh cheese that is rich with fruity, nutty and even herb-like flavors. It can be made from sheep or cow’s milk, and is aged only briefly before serving. This cheese is equally at home on a fine cheese board or in a gourmet, upscale version of grilled cheese.
I will warn you in advance…this cheese is ripe. And by that I mean it can clear the room of anyone who isn’t a strong cheese lover. But for those of us who will risk the strong smells, a taste treat awaits. Taleggio cheese is a favorite cheese in Italy, where it is served at deliciously runny at room temperature on crusty bread, then washed down with a bold red wine.
Pronounced “Gah-ROE-chah”, this semi-soft, mild goat cheese was once a favorite in the Catalan region of Spain. But it had all but disappeared until a handful of boutique cheesemakers in the region revived interest. The cheese has a gently fruity flavor, so consider pairing it with fresh pecans or almonds and a glass of a mildly dry white wine.
It may look like ordinary Swiss cheese. After all, it’s a pale, firm cheese with holes in it. But that’s where the similarity begins and ends. Just one taste of real Emmental cheese from Switzerland and you’ll understand that this is a refined cheese with a slightly sweet taste that makes it ideal with fruit or in a classic fondue.
Spain is the homeland for this firm, buttery cheese made from the milk of Manchego sheep. When young, there is a certain creaminess to it. But as it reaches its full age (about two years), it begins to dry and acquire a rich, salt crunch. Serve it with fig jam for the perfect mix of salty and sweet.
3. Smoked Carrigaline
Ireland is probably not the first place you think of when you’re looking for fine imported cheeses, but that just might change once you taste a Smoked Carrigaline. There is a salty, meaty richness to this cheese that have made some people compare the flavor to a fine salami. Add it to your cheese board, or serve it with crisp green apples — either way, it’s one of the most flavorful new cheeses to emerge in decades.
Oh, for the creamy, gooey goodness of a Brunet cheese from Italy! Cover a hunk of fresh, warm-from-the-oven Italian bread or a warm, flaky croissant with some of this soft goat’s milk cheese for an instant taste of food heaven.
The last cheese on my top ten list comes from Greece. Myzithra cheese is a soft, sweet unpasteurized fresh cheese made rom sheep or goat milk and whey. It’s delicious as is, with olives and oil as an appetizer, or with honey as a rich desert. Salted Myzithra is much firmer and has a slightly sour taste, so it’s a better choice as a grated cheese on hot foods or salads.
You can start with this list, or just head out to your local deli and try a new cheese. Or pick up a catalog from a cheese import company and take a chance on something new. Once you sample the amazing cheeses the world offers, you’ll never want a plastic wrapped cheese again.