Mold gets a bad rap, and, in most cases (science experiments in your fridge; brown spots on your bathroom tiles), deservedly so. However, like with most things in life, there are exceptions to the rule.
When creating certain cheeses, e.g., Gorgonzola, blue, Camembert, certain strains of bacterial microbes are actually encouraged (often by injection) to grow, helping with the ripening process as well as adding lots of flavor. Though for soft cheeses such as cottage cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta, mold is always an indicator the product is well past its expiration date.
With some help from three of our favorite local cheesemongers, you can discover some first-rate cheeses, whether you’re a newbie to the moldy cheese thing or a ripened (see what I did there?) turophile.
As Recommended By Brent Delman, The Cheese Guy, Yonkers
Domestic Artisan Blue-Gorgonzola
Made In: Wisconsin
Price: $20/lb (found at DeCicco’s, Fairway Market, and farmers’ markets in Rye, Irvington, New Rochelle, and Riverdale)
Flavor Profile: Heavy blue veined, creamy texture, intense flavor, four months aged, cow’s milk, marbled bluish-green penicillium mold.
Pairs Well With: The Gorgonzola’s sharp, pungent aromas and flavors accentuate the undertones of a strong dark chocolate. Rich, bold, and creamy are characteristics of both the chocolate and the cheese, which marry together well.
Another pairing we recommend is pineapple and Gorgonzola. They both contain the flavor component methyl hexanoate. Also use as a topping for salads, in dressings, and on gourmet cheese platters. It can be melted in risotto.
The Cheesemonger Says: “In 1987, workers digging in a bog in Tipperary, Ireland found what may have been the moldiest piece of cheese ever. The 100-lb hunk of cheese was buried under five feet of bog for more than 1,400 years, and may still be edible, according to archeologists. It was preserved by the moist conditions underground.”
Photo courtesy of The Cheese Guy
Vermont Bloom Brie
Made In: Vermont (handmade in small batches)
Price: $11/7-oz piece (found at DeCicco’s, Fairway Market, and farmers’ markets in Rye, Irvington, New Rochelle, and Riverdale)
Flavor Profile: The rind is soft, bloomy, and edible with a nice salty bite. The thick yellow interior is decadent, buttery, and delicate. The cheese has a slightly mushroom-y aroma and is made with double creme pasteurized cows milk.
Pairs Well With: Champagne or a medium red wine like Pinot Noir. Drizzle a tiny bit of citrus honey over it and pair with salted almonds.
The Cheesemonger Says: “The penicillium molds in the Gorgonzola and Brie that I have recommended here don’t produce toxins in cheese. To the contrary, they have natural antibacterial properties and help our digestion and immune systems.”
As Recommended By Gayle Martin, Plum Plums Cheese, Pound Ridge
Photo courtesy of plum plums cheese
Papillon Black Label Roquefort
Made In: Auvergne region of France
Flavor Profile: “I call it the dominatrix of blue cheese—wildly sharp, yet intriguingly pleasurable.”
Pairs Well With: Best with sweet wines like Sauternes or Port, and delicious with fresh pears or Simple & Crisp brand pear-dried fruit crackers.
The Cheesemonger Says: “Roquefort is deemed the King of Cheese in France. The roqueforti penicillium that is used to create this blue cheese is unique to the caves of Roquefort, France, and is what is used in most other blue cheeses throughout the world. Today, just as in the past, they leave loaves of local rye bread out in the caves to develop the mold that they will use in this cheese.”
Made In: Vermont (produced at Von Trapp Farmstead and aged at Jasper Hill Cellars)
Flavor Profile: Semi-soft, gooey texture and a beautiful crunchy rind. Just enough stinkiness to make you want to sing!
Pairs Well With: A funky IPA or Belgian ale and Gracious Gourmet dried fruit chutney.
The Cheesemonger Says: “Oma falls in the washed rind category of cheeses where the mold of brevibacterium linens is used to produce the telltale orange rind, which is completely edible. These cheeses tend to be on the more flavorful, and often more aromatic, side of center. They are typically washed in a salt brine, or beer, wine, or liqueur, and can be many different textures.”
As Recommended By Carolynn Dilworth, Auray Gourmet, Larchmont
Made In: Lombardy region of Italy
Price: $10 ½/lb
Flavor Profile: It is a soft cow cheese with a washed rind and is tangy and creamy.
Pairs Well With: Spread on fresh baguette with lavender honey, chopped Marcona almonds and drink with a Barolo.
The Cheesemonger Says: “We call it Italian Brie. A tangy delicious washed rind cheese with just the right amount of punch.”
Photo courtesy of auray gourmet
Gabriel Coulet Roquefort
Made In: a small production house in France where the same family has been producing and maturing Roquefort since 1872.
Price: $15 ½/lb
Flavor Profile: It’s a spicy, nutty, salty, sharp, soft sheep’s milk cheese.
Pairs Well With: Serve with fig paste, wafer thin pistachio crackers, and Sauterne or a Burgundy-type Chardonnay.
The Cheesemonger Says: “Rich, creamy, and elegant. Most refined Roquefort we have sold with a lovely creamy consistency.”
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