Flashback – the year was 2016. March Cheese Madness was the game. The categories: Firm, Semi, Blue and Soft. The players – 32 of our favorite cheeses. We ate, we voted, we ate some more. L’Amuse, the reigning queen of aged Gouda to which all others simply bow, took home a stunning victory, crushing competitors Chiroboga Blue, Ouleout and Schnebelhorn with its sweet caramel flavors that are layered with toasted nuttiness. (Take a moment and go “mmmm.”)
The present – March Cheese Madness is upon us again, with a whole new bracket of competitors. Who will take home the crown for reigning cheese champ this year? Does lovely L’Amuse have anything to worry about, or can it go home as a two-time champ!?
We sat down with L’Amuse to talk about the 2017 competition, who had quite a lot to say.
(If you’ve never imagined a piece of Gouda speaking, the voice sounds like a mix of an elegant society woman crossed with the Brave Little Toaster.)
“You know, in this tournament, you have to respect every opponent. Every one of those guys has a following, and depending on what customers show up to vote that day, it could be anyone’s game.
That said, there are some titans competing this year that I’m particularly worried about. In the first round, Challerhocker and Wrångebäck are facing off. You could make the argument that the winner of that game could win the whole thing. Challerhocker has a cult following in the cheese world, thanks to its meaty, caramelized flavor and one of the most iconic wheel designs around. (People literally cut this out and wear it as a mask.) But the competition is strong – Wrångebäck is a rookie Swedish phenomenon that has been lighting things up since landing stateside in September. These are both cheeses to be reckoned with.
Another intriguing first round match up: Chiriboga vs. Colston Basset Stilton. Both of these are blues that can convert pretty much anyone who claims to “not like blues.” I bet that the winner of that game wins the blue quadrant, and once you make the Final Four, all bets are off. And let us not forget – Chiriboga was my final competitor last year…..I sure haven’t forgotten…
I’d be remiss were I to overlook Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano, arguably the greatest version of the greatest cheese on the planet. And don’t overlook my goat milk gouda cousin, Brabander, in a first-round matchup with Schnebelhorn, looking for redemption after suffering a third-round upset last year.
Out of the Soft bracket, I’m nervous about St. Stephen. That buttery, slightly salty triple cream is universally loved and can go toe-to-toe with any of the heavyweights. It’s the cheese that makes you feel like you are eating socially acceptable pats of butter. How do you battle with butter?
Finally, I’d keep my eye out for two dark horses this year. Payoyo, a firm goat milk cheese from Spain that is sure to appeal to any Manchego fan, and The Farm At Doe Run’s Seven Sisters, which is playing with home court advantage and is full of confidence after winning Best in Show at the Pennsylvania Cheese Awards last month.”
Who will upset L’Amuse for the crown this year, or can this force of a cheese take the crown for the second year in a row? You’ll have to stop by, eat cheese and watch the results on our social media / via the #cheesemadness hashtag. And remember, eat cheese. Eat it often.