Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kind of Blue - A Jazzy Cheese List

In my many blog entries on cheese, I have neglected the moldy giant that is blue cheese. I would travel Miles for the stuff, so I'm not sure why it has gotten short shrift. Maybe it's because too often, blue cheeses are less distinct than I would like or maybe it's because I feel like their presence on a cheese plate tends to overwhelm everything else or maybe I worry that the Blue in Green mold will be a put-off to the uninitiated (or the occasional Freeloader).

In any case, it's time for a cheese entry that's All Blues. While I love a smooth mountain Gorgonzola or a salty Roquefort, if I listed those, you might be left to ask, So What, I know about those cheeses. As such, I am leaving out those most obvious choices and listing a few of my favorites that range from slightly less common to downright obscure.

Cabrales, Spain, (goat, sheep, cow). Hugely pungent and powerful, this Spanish three-milk blue will dance on your tongue like so many Flamenco Sketches. It also works well in salads and other dishes that need a real kick. Eat it straight in small portions. It's usually too overwhelming for cheese plates unless you are serving advanced cheesers.

Cashel Blue, Ireland (cow). A tangy, sharp blue, good for cheese plates and pretty much anything. Distinct without being overwhelming.

Onetic Blue, France (sheep). This blue from the Basque region of France has beautiful blue tones. Creamy and subtle, it's the perfect addition to your cheese plate.

Point Reyes Blue, California (cow). Point Reyes Blue is widely available but can be inconsistent. The best batches are superb, creamy and tangy with wine-like flavors, but others can be indistinct. Get it at a good cheese store and ask for a taste.

Roaring Forties, Australia (cow). One of my favorites for cheese plates, Roaring Forties is a great introduction to blue for those who are not yet acclimated. It has a bit more mild blue flavor and is creamy and accessible. With this beautiful blue, Australian cheese trumpets its arrival.

Stilton, England (cow). The legendary King of Cheeses. Stilton has a rich, creamy texture, a distinctly English white wine flavor and a lovely blue tinge. Look for Colston-Bassett brand, distributed by Neals Yard Dairy. Serve with beer or hard cider.

Now you should be in the mood (or the mode) for the blues. Of course, this is only a sampling of the many good blues out there, but it should get you started. Now, if I only knew what to listen to while eating these?

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