November 14, 2010
Robiola Tre Latti is an easy-to-please cheese and offers a good introduction to the Robiola family of cheeses. Robiolas are often available pre-wrapped at specialty cheese shops and grocery stores, but I have hesitated from purchasing one. I am glad we waited for Robiola Tre Latti.
Robiolas are produced in Northern Italy, yet the family includes a variety of soft cheeses: some are made from cow’s milk, goat’s milk or mixed milks (including sheep’s milk); they are produced in different formats; some have washed rinds; and, some cheeses come to market trussed up in leaves.
Our Robiola Tre Latti comes from the Piedmont region of Italy. It is made from a combination of cow, sheep and goat milks (tre latti = three milks). It is produced in a thick disc format and has a natural rind. Our sample is one-half of a whole cheese.
Robiola Tre Latti has a rustic appearance. The rind looks like a thin layer of raw pie pastry: it is a buttery beige with patches of golden yellow. The rind shows grooves and wrinkles from the cheese form used in the cheese’s production. Robiola Tre Latti has a sticky, gooey layer of paste just beneath its rind. The cheese’s core is damp and dense with a consistency similar to chevre.
Robiola Tre Latti has a county fair bouquet. The rind has both animal and farm odors that are apparent when the cheese is held under the nose. Ben also mentioned “school floors,” detecting a faint ammonia scent on the rind. The paste has sweet scents similar to daises and beeswax.
Robiola Tre Latti’s flavors are varied. We tasted sweet honey, sour milk, and tart fruit flavors. The gooey layer beneath the rind has a creamy consistency similar to Camembert and tastes more sour and tangy than the more dense and tart core. Its texture is soft and luscious in the mouth.
Robiola Tre Latti is very easy to enjoy. We all liked this cheese and its combination of flavors and textures. Robiola Tre Latti is a could substitute for dessert; it is sweet and luscious, but not overly rich. It’s a little decadent for a snack.
This cheese became a bit messy out of refrigeration and was difficult to unwrap and keep intact; I think our sample was also missing its bottom rind. If the denser paste becomes more oozy as the cheese ripens, this cheese would become even more challenging to serve.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Robiola Tre Latti from Cheese Plus (San Francisco). I do not know how ripe our sample was, but it was at an ideal point for us.
October 20, 2010
We took a plunge with Blu del Monviso, hoping that its creamy texture would convert our kids to blue cheese eaters. (It seemed wrong to continue rejecting the blue cheeses offered by eager cheesemongers). Although Blu del Monviso did not win over our kids, this delicious blue cheese is destined for re-purchase.
Blu del Monviso is a bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from the Piedmont area of northwestern Italy. On a spectrum of blue cheeses, Blu del Monviso’s creamy style is closer to Gorgonzola than it is to Roquefort. Blu del Monviso is produced in thick logs; our sample is just one-half of a cross-section slice of the log.
Blu del Monviso has a milky white paste speckled with green. The paste is soft, creamy and sticky like a double cream cheese. Its exterior rind has a bumpy surface that is tacky to the touch.
Blu del Monviso has the aroma of bread crust or wheat crackers. The rind has a faint scent of mushrooms and ammonia.
In the mouth, the cheese is smooth and creamy. The blue specks have a gritty texture that provide contrast to the creamy paste. The blue flavor does not dominate Blu del Monviso; rather, it shares space with sour fruit and sweet cream flavors. Blu del Monviso’s flavors are layered and enticing. It leaves a mild sour after-taste.
Although our juvenile tasters rejected Blu del Monviso, I would purchase this again for a picnic, a party, or to follow dinner. This is a cheese that one wants to linger over and share with friends. Blu del Monviso would work better with a flavorful wheat bread or cracker than classic baguette.
Purchase Notes: We purchased our sample at 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco).
October 14, 2010
Brescianella Stagionata has the potential to deter eaters because of its horrible odor. Yet this cheese is so delicious that once tasted it is difficult to stop eating. Brescianella Stagionata is a cheese that defies logic: how does something that smells this badly prove so addictive?
Thankfully, Brescianella Stagionata’s producers in Lombardy, Italy have resolved this conundrum to deliver their delicious cheese. Brescianella Stagionata is a semi-soft cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is produced in a flat, square format and has a washed rind.
Brescianella Stagionata’s rind is a warm honey color, marked with white and gray surface molds. The rind’s surface is scored and gummy to the touch. The rind has a harsh, old socks and body sweat odor. The interior paste has a springy texture and smells like cooked cabbage, grass and roasted nuts.
Brescianella Stagionata’s flavors are varied. We tasted roasted nuts, sour milk, sour fruit, and light salt flavors. Its texture is smooth and very creamy. There is a light sour after-taste that is enticing and encourages further eating. The after-taste does not linger long in the mouth, but Brescianella Stagionata’s odor clings to the fingers long after eating.
Brescianella Stagionata is a very tasty cheese that we all liked; it was difficult to stop eating this cheese during our tasting. This cheese is best shared with family or close friends that are not likely to be deterred by the cheese’s foul odor. Our sample held up well out of refrigeration, making it a good candidate for an outdoor meal.
Purchase Notes: Our Brescianella Stagionata was purchased at 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco).
September 22, 2010
It was hard to eat La Tur without thinking of dessert. When I first cut into La Tur, its density felt like cheesecake under my knife and that impression remained during our tasting. La Tur is a cheese that could replace dessert.
La Tur is a soft bloomy rind cheese made from a blend of cow, sheep and goat milks. This cheese is made in Italy by Caceificio dell’Alta Langa. It has a small dome-shaped format. La Tur arrives at market cloaked in a paper wrap like a cupcake and pre-packaged in a plastic cup.
La Tur looks rustic. It has a thin, soft yellow-white rind that shows indentations from its paper wrap and cheese form. The interior paste is creamy white, dense and looks like New York-style cheesecake. La Tur’s paste has sweet aromas of dried grass, honeycomb and whipping cream. The rind smells like wet animal.
This cheese’s interior texture is similar to a chevre-style goat cheese. It has a dense and creamy consistency; it is not dry or chalky. It feels rich and luxurious in the mouth.
The flavors of La Tur are relatively delicate. The dominant flavor is sweet and akin to honey. There is a light tart goat cheese flavor, too, but La Tur’s sweetness lingers.
Most of our tasters liked this cheese; one adult found it boring and without flavor. Our two juvenile tasters liked La Tur a lot, and one wrote that it reached the Mt. Tam gold-standard range.
La Tur would make a nice cheese to share at the end of a meal with fruit, in lieu of dessert. Our sample retained its form out of refrigeration for over an hour. Its soft format and packaging doesn’t lend itself well to a picnic, unless one intends to eat the whole cheese.
Notes on purchasing: La Tur is pre-packaged in a small plastic cup and is purchased whole. Its size allows for 8 small servings. We purchased this cheese at Whole Foods (San Francisco). This is a young cheese that continues to ripen over time, so its flavor and consistency may change.
August 14, 2010
This is a tale of two Taleggios.
Last week, we were on vacation and purchased Taleggio for a picnic and decided not to evaluate it outdoors. We really liked the Taleggio then, and since we enjoy writing up stinkier cheeses, we purchased another sample in San Francisco for Cheese Chatter. Our two samples–Taleggio #1 and Taleggio #2–were surprisingly different.
First, Taleggio is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Italy. It has a moist pale orange rind that is firm; the cheese’s paper label adheres to the rind yet it is easily removed with a dull knife . Taleggio is springy and slightly sticky to the touch. When slicing the cheese, its interior is gummy but it spreads easily.
Taleggio is a stinky cheese. Taleggio #1 was quite smelly and before we had unwrapped it, its aroma had permeated the picnic box. Its odor is similar to dirty gym socks.
Tallegio #1 had a definite sour milk flavor from start to finish, with a saltier finish. This cheese had deep flavor that lasted long on the tongue. It is a thickly creamy cheese that is satisfying in the mouth.
Unfortunately, Taleggio #2 paled in comparison to the first. We anticipated a pungent cheese, but its scent was closer to cooked milk. Taleggio #2 did not have the same flavor or depth as Taleggio #1; it had a slightly sour flavor, but this was over-shadowed by a strong salty flavor. Taleggio #2’s aftertaste was pronounced, but it was unpleasantly salty, like a snack food.
Taleggio #1, purchased pre-wrapped at Whole Foods (Long Beach, CA), was a lovely and enjoyable cheese. Taleggio #2, cut to order for us at 24th Street Cheese Company (San Francisco, CA), was a poor cousin in comparison and proved disappointing.
What can explain this? Cheese flavors are affected by many circumstances along the chain from the initial animals creating the milk (water and food consumed) to production, then storage, and finally human consumption. It is possible that our two Taleggios came from different regions, different producers, were stored and handled differently post-production, or were at a different age when purchased.
Which of our samples is a better example of Taleggio? We definitely preferred Taleggio #1 and my reading suggests that this is a better example of the cheese. I would definitely purchase Taleggio #1 again, but would like to avoid Taleggio #2.