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Are you always reaching for the same cheeses at the grocery store? With all the options out there, it can be tough to know which new cheeses to try. So we went to a cheese expert for some advice—and when we say expert, we mean it. Craig Gile, Northwest Regional Sales Manager at Cabot Creamery Co-operative, is a former professional cheese grader. He used to taste and evaluate up to 200 cheese samples per day, so he's tried basically every type on the planet.
Even if you don't know what you're looking for, Gile recommends talking with a cheesemonger at the grocery store. "People that work as cheesemongers are super passionate," he said, noting that they'll offer great recommendations and can also cut you smaller pieces depending on your budget. Here are some of Gile's picks to shake up your cheese drawer and put that charcuterie board to use.
Gile has seen halloumi cheese blow up in popularity in other countries, such as Australia. And perhaps it's time for the salty, buttery cheese to shine more here in the U.S. "It's got everything we Americans like—it's salty, it's buttery, it's gooey," he said. "And it works neutrally by adding other things to it." This Mediterranean cheese hails from Cypress and is great for cooking. When you grill halloumi, it develops a crispy outside and gooey middle.
For an approachable goat cheese, Gile recommends Vermont Creamery's Bonne Bouche, which is French for "good mouthful." Due to the culture used in the cheesemaking process, it has a unique, wrinkly appearance, resembling a brain. Soft and creamy with a delicate flavor, Gile enjoys smearing it on a baguette or cracker or mixing it with jam or chutney.
Harbison and Winnimere
Both from Jasper Hill Farms, Harbison and Winnimere are smear-ripened cheeses wrapped with spruce tree bark. Once you peel back the top, the inside is very gooey. We're talking spoonable. "It's a pretty unique cheese experience for a lot of folks out there," said Gile.
Raclette and Gruyère
If you want a cheese to cook with (or just want some melty cheese to pair with your chips), look no further than these two Swiss Alpine options. Raclette has a bit of a funk, but when eaten cold it has sweet, complex flavors. Gile describes Gruyère as approachable with clean, buttery notes.
When it comes to blue cheese, not everyone is a fan—that is, unless it's mixed into dips or sauces. "I think a hybrid approach that I've taken is to take good blue cheese and actually just add it to, say, blue cheese dressing," said Gile, who recommends Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen Blue. This pick doesn't have as peppery of a flavor as other blue cheeses, so you can taste the grassy flavors of the milk.
Yes, we all know and love cheddar. While he may be a bit biased, Gile recommends spicing up your typical cheddar with something like Cabot's Habanero Cheddar. While it is very spicy, he said it doesn't cover up the acidity of the cheese. It's also great for showing off your creativity in the kitchen. Spicy mac and cheese, anyone?
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