Local Bounty: Sept. 10
The Cheese Wiz Speaks
Posted Monday, September 10, 2012, 08:59AM
Gina Frieze, aka, the Cheese Wiz, now has four Venissimo cheese shops in Southern California, including three in San Diego—Mission Hills, downtown’s East Village, and Del Mar. I guess I’m a little partial to the Mission Hills shop, just because it was her first and truly a landmark in the launching of San Diego’s culinary scene.
So, I stopped by yesterday to say hi and see what new cheeses Gina’s been playing with. And she rounded up a quintet of very interesting ones, which I want to share. Imagine these five on a cheese platter together. Brilliant!
The first thing you’ll notice about this decadent triple cream from Quebec is its ash coating. It’s a vegetable ash created from grape and other plant leaves. A Gold winner at the 2011 World Cheese Awards, this pasteurized cow’s milk cheese has a velvety texture that contains a bit of acidity offset by a buttery and slightly peppery flavor. This cheese was made for enjoying with fresh figs as a dessert treat. Enjoy it with champagne or other bubbly wines. $13 a package
We go from ash to fig leaves. This raw cow’s milk cheese from Brazos Valley Creamery in Waco, Texas, is wrapped in fig leaves to beautiful effect. It’s a double cream, brie style cheese made with vegetable rennet. For a real treat, enjoy Eden with persimmons. It’s also great with stone fruits. Indeed, it’s a very fruit-forward cheese that pairs well with a fruity Pinot Noir. $35 a pound
Cacio de Pere
Speaking of fruit, let’s move straight to pears. Cacio de Pere is an Italian Tuscan sheep’s milk cheese both infused with and washed in pear juice. It actually has a surprisingly sharp tone, but that’s because it’s a semi-aged pecorino. That pear juice is subtle but curbs the sharpness to create a touch of fruitiness. Take a look at the center of the cheese. You’ll see it’s very pale and a bit young. The color takes on more buttery tones as it moves toward the edges. So, you’ll want to plane around the wedge to get all the different subtle changes in flavor. Naturally, you’ll want to eat this cheese with pears. And for drink? It’s a natural with vodka, but I’d also try it with tequila. $31 a pound
I love a good stinky cheese and Mellage, a Carr Valley, Wisconsin cheese, ranks up there with the limburgers and Epoisses of the world. The potent aromas may different but what they have in common is that they are all wash-rind cheeses, which mature through bacterial growth on their surface. This cheese, as you can guess, is a mélange of goat’s, cow’s, and sheep’s milk, and cave aged, which just adds to the slight gaminess. But, it’s fantastic. It has a fudgy texture that’s studded with a bit of crunch from crystallization—always a good thing in my book. No surprise, it’s the perfect beer cheese, and wonderful eaten with almonds and other nuts. $32 a pound
I had a hard time detecting the aroma of this cheese—because, really, who would think coconut cream and cheese were a natural match. But they are. This cow’s milk gouda from the Netherlands is so creamy and luxurious. It’s the perfect pairing with chocolate. And with port. $20 a pound
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