#AskAMonger: Second Slice

Our talented and warm-hearted cheesemonger Joe answers your cheesiest questions!

What is best for French onion soup? Thanks.

“I love big, beefy, melty Alpine cheeses with French Onion Soup!  Of course, the classic cheese would be Gruyere.  However, Comté (sort of French Gruyere), Appenzeller, or Fontina would be great too!  Our stores carry several Alpine cheeses year-round for your soup!  Now, I’m hungry!! “

I have a recipe that calls for Taleggio. Naturally, when I am in the city, I get it from you. Any substitution for when I can’t?

“You have options.  First, we can ship Taleggio to you from our website www.dibruno.com.  Also, you can try and find other washed-rind options such as Reblochon or Raclette.”

What cheeses freeze well?

“Stop!!  Step away from the freezer!   Cheese is a living breathing thing.  Freezing cheese will destroy its flavor and end its life.  Freezing cheese does not cryogenically suspend its age.  Take your cheese home and keep it in the fridge.  Buy smaller amounts, and enjoy your cheese just after your purchase.  Come see us more often!  ;)”

Any good vegan cheeses yet?

“Since we do not have a demand for vegan cheeses, we do not carry them.  However, we have many cheeses made with vegetarian rennet–non-animal starter.  Come in, and try some!!”

Which cheese should I serve as an appetizer course with a pork loin roast entree? What should accompany that cheese?

“That’s a great question.  I like to think of it in this way.  It depends on what beverage you may be enjoying before dinner.  I always suggest softer fresh cheeses such as a fresh goat cheese or a creamy Brie-style with sparkling wine or certain red or white still wines before dinner.  We want to whet our appetites for the entrée.  Perhaps some fresh fruits such as grapes or berries would be nice in addition to or instead of wine, beer, or spirits.”

Which is the most expensive cheese in the world?

“According to my research, the world’s most expensive cheese is named Pule.  Pule is made from donkey’s milk in Serbia.  Here is a link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pule_cheese

What is the name of the delicious lemon ricotta like cheese you carry around the holidays? I could eat it with a spoon! And do you have any suggestions for a great truffle flavored cheese?

I believe that delicious lemon ricotta of which you are talking about is just that.  Our store in the Italian Market typically offers that.  Yes, it is yummy!  I would contact the store directly to find out when they offer it.
We have lots of great truffle cheeses, but I would have to say that my favorite is the Moliterno al Tartufo from Sardinia.  It is a firm not hard Pecorino (sheep’s milk) cheese with black truffles in the curds and black truffles on the outside of the wheel as well!  It is nutty, earthy, rich, and fragrant of truffle in every bite!  You should come see me for some at our Rittenhouse location!

What is an ideal cheese board for the fall? Types of cheese? Fruit? Jam? Drink pairings?

Since fall is a time of transition, a cheese board can reflect this.  I like to think of foods which are more hearty as I leave summer and look ahead to winter.  Fall bridges that gap nicely.  More bite in the air, more bite in your cheeses!

For example, your soft cheeses can be a bit stronger; perhaps this is a time to say farewell to fresh goat cheeses and try soft goats with some funk and attitude such as Monte Enebro from Spain–a tangy and creamy cheese covered in penicillin roqueforti; it’s full-flavored and delicious.

Fall is a time to reintroduce yourself to stronger flavored firmer and harder cheeses such as sheep’s milk cheeses from the Basque region of France and Spain or big beefy cheeses of the Alps or American Alpine-styles.  Let’s not forget stronger cheddars and blues as well!

Your board should display transition.  Maybe your last tomatoes and stone fruits of the season such as plums or even late picked strawberries or blueberries.  Fall varieties of nuts and grapes or raisins (aka sun-dried grapes) would be great as well!  Of course, apples and pears are classic fall cheese companions; however, I can not wait for the first persimmons to appear in late October!

As for jams and/or honeys, I would focus on flavors of the season:  pumpkins, chestnuts, persimmons.  Additionally, savory chutneys and relishes are an awesome pairing idea for your board.  They like stronger cheeses!  We carry several yummy savory chutney options in our stores.

As for beverages, this is the time when we can introduce more substantial options:  more full-bodied red wines (I like to transition away from most white wines), port wines (especially for blues), darker craft beers such as stouts and porters, harvest and pumpkin beers as well, and of course, warm/hot beverages.  Fall is cider (cold, warm, or hot) and hot cocoa time!  Lastly and certainly not least coffee and tea; I know you would agree ;)!!  Coffee is great with caramelly cheeses like aged Gouda especially.  I would defer to you for tea options ;).  However, I do like stronger teas with more substantial cheeses and so on.

What makes cheese gooey versus hard? If cheese is essentially culture with bacteria & mold, why does it go bad? What is the best way to store cheese?

Great questions!  The texture of cheeses depend on their purpose.  Fresh, soft, gooey cheeses are made in a way in which they are to be enjoyed while they are still young as a way to express a particular milk and style of cheese.
Harder cheeses are built to last.  They are typically cheeses which can be used for cooking or just enjoyed for table use as well.
Not all bacteria, starter culture, or mold strains are the same.  Additionally, they aren’t mean to last indefinitely.  With proper care, each style of cheese has a particular life span.  Some have longer life spans than others and vice versa.  That’s why younger softer cheeses do not last as long as harder more aged cheeses.  There are other factors during cheese making which contribute to a life span of a cheese as well.
The best way to store cheese is in the paper that we give to you in at the store.  Cheese is a living breathing thing.  Products such as plastic wrap literally choke the cheese and cause the cheese to mold–not in a good way over time.  Wax paper or parchment are best allowing the cheese to breathe.  Store your cheeses in the vegetable drawer of your fridge, and they will be happy!  Oh, and please, please eat your cheeses at room temperature!  They will be very happy and display their best flavors and aromas!

How should you politely ask to receive a freshly cut piece of cheese versus one that is already out without offending?

“The overwhelming majority of cheeses in our stores are fresh cut to order.  Yes, we do have cheeses which have been vacuum-sealed and displayed; however, we do have those cheeses available for fresh wheel cuts in our cases as well.  So, ask us, and we would be happy to give you a fresh cut.”

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