Cheese & Wanderlust

Portugal Wildflowers.JPG

Inspired by our wine tasting on Saturday, and my constant state of wanderlust, this week I've written about cheeses from Germany, California, France, and Portugal to extend our mental and taste vacation. 

First up, a lovely triple cream, cow’s milk cheese from Bavaria, Germany called Cambozola Black Label. I haven’t given this blue cheese the attention it deserves because it isn’t a flashy cheese - it doesn’t have huge flavor or an exceptionally beautiful paste or pieces of gold hidden inside. I’ve never seen or heard of a cheese that has gold nuggets in it, but what if that existed! There would certainly be some broken teeth, but hey, you can get new teeth with your giant stash of GOLD. What Cambozola Black Label does have, though, is the ability to change people’s minds. I call it a gateway blue cheese because even people wary of blue like it! It is irresistibly creamy, balancing the slight tang from the blue mold. Bring this cheese to a party and convince your friends there is a place for blue cheese in their lives.

Next, let’s head to California and eat some Humboldt Fog made by Cypress Grove. This bright and rich goat’s milk cheese is sometimes mistaken for a blue cheese because of the line of vegetable ash in the middle of the paste. Why the ash? Originally, ash was used in cheesemaking to protect the outside of fresh cheeses from unwanted microbes and molds. Now, they use ash for aesthetics reasons rather than for its antimicrobial properties. Take a taste of Humboldt and it is easy to see why it is such a popular cheese. While it looks dry, as soon as you take a bite, it smoothes out into a creamy cheesecake-like consistency. It is tangy and citrusy like lemons and oranges. Perfect for a moment of mental vacation.

France, France, France, you have so many beautiful cheeses in our case, what to choose? My mind is full of Comté Symphonie by famed affineur Marcel Petite. This particular Comté is my favorite breakfast cheese. There, I said it! I chose a favorite something! Huge news, but I feel good. I like this particular Comté because it is mellow and sweet with the deep flavor of toasted cashew butter. Like many Alpine cheeses, it is smooth and melts beautifully, making it an excellent cheese for breakfast sandwiches, to grate into scrambled eggs, or to melt over French toast if you like a little sweet and savory indulgence for breakfast. And this is a mental vacation after all, so let’s indulge.

Lastly, time to head to Portugal with one of our most polarizing cheeses, Serra da Estrela. Named for the highest mountain range in Portugal, this cheese has a protected recipe meaning it must be made in a certain way with milk from Bordaliera sheep in very specific regions in the mountains. The first written records of Serra da Estrela show up in the 1500s, even though sheepherders in small mountain towns were probably making it long before anyone bothered with a recipe. I love this Portuguese stinker because it has the texture of thick brownie batter, and it is sweet, acidic and grassy. It reminds me of a family hike from a couple years ago where we walked along the southwestern coast of Portugal, smelling the fresh ocean breeze and the tiny white and purple wildflowers that grew along the path. Spread a thick layer of Serra da Estrela on a piece of bread, grab a glass of strong Portuguese wine and you’re halfway to Portugal without leaving your couch.

So let’s go travelling, shall we, even if it’s just with a glass of wine and piece of cheese. 
For the love of cheese and mental travel,