Monger’s Chat – March Cheese Madness

Welcome!

We’re debuting a new series called, “Monger’s Chat”, where some of our most whimsical cheesemongers get together and chat cheese.  First, some introductions:

Emilio – 3rd generation Di Bruno, VP of Culinary Pioneering, and guy who enjoys food.

Hunter – 21-year veteran of Di Bruno Bros.  Currently Cheese and Charcuterie Category Manager.

Rich – Certified Cheese Professional and “Mad Scientist of Cheese”

David – Lover of life and Banana Jam

To kick things off, we had our team recap one of the most exciting Cheese Madness tournaments in recent memory.

Hunter (moderating):
Well, there’s a reason we call it “Madness,” and this year certainly lived up to the hype. We switched up our bracket structure in 2018, organizing cheeses by country of origin instead of texture, in the hopes that we would create a more compelling Final 4. Historically, the blue cheese bracket would get wiped out in the semis, but this year, two blue cheeses (three if you count Monte Enebro) made the Final 4.

Emilio:
Hasn’t Colston Bassett Stilton (aka CBS) won it before?

Rich:
Nope.
Yeah, blue is definitely story 1 of the year here.

Hunter:
CBS has made the Final 4, but never won it all
Are customers’ palates developing, is our selection of blue cheese better than ever, or was this year just a fluke?

Rich:
We kind of changed it up to protect it, but then each one beat tons of non-blues
CBS is historically the strongest preforming blue I believe in Cheese Madness.

Hunter:
CBS beat powerhouses Montgomery Cheddar, Comte Fort Lucotte and Ossau Iraty this year

Emilio:
Yes it did! That was awesome!

Hunter:
Bay Blue beat St. Stephen, Sofia and St. Malachi

Rich:
Poor St. Malachi

Emilio:
I think the CBS road was way tougher

Rich:
Agreed

Hunter:
Monte Enebro beat Auricchio Provolone, Cravero Parm and Gorgonzola Dolce

Rich:
Monte Enebro too
yeah!

Hunter:
CBS definitely had the toughest road.

Rich:
Monte Enebro absolutely shellacked Aurrichio Provolone, if i recall

Emilio:
The upset that surprised me in a good way was that Valle Brebisdoux beat Brabander AND L’Amuse!

Rich:
Even at the Italian Market

David:
I think it was a combination of our enthusiasm towards the blues and several particularly good batches at the Rittenhouse store where it counts

Rich:
which was a big surprise

Emilio:
CBS is always delicious
a tough competitor

Rich:
Brebisdoux is the story of the whole thing as far as i’m concerned

Hunter:
How about Brebisdoux, a sheep’s milk Raclette that, like UMBC or Loyola, played spoiler this year. It knocked out the two previous winners. L’Amuse Gouda and Brabander.

David:
Vallée Brebidoux was killing it until we got a super mild wheel and it lost it’s momentum and was overtaken by Chällerhocker

Emilio:
That is a great analogy…..UMBC

Hunter:
I love the Goudas, but it was nice to see a more eclectic cheese make some headway

Emilio:
Let’s face it, the Holla is a beast!

Rich:
I think I, and maybe some of the other mongers had kind of resigned ourselves to another Essex Gouda victory, which would be fine, they’re delicious, but Brebisdoux is the opposite of both of those in the many ways: it’s a raw milk alpine sheep and it’s like, proper sheepy and meaty

Emilio:
I was happy to see it included because when we had it for the Christmas holiday i fell in love with it

Rich:
smooth, raclette texture

Hunter:
we didn’t include it last year because we hadn’t seen it yet last year. It’s a new addition to the assortment, and we’re always trying to work new cheeses onto the bracket

Rich:
Now that the whole thing is done I can say I was kinda rooting for brebisdoux once it started it’s run of giant-killings

Hunter:
And of course, the one non-blue in the Final 4, Chällerhocker , came out on top anyway. Is Chällerhocker the perfect cheese? Was victory inevitable?

Emilio:
As Ann Campbell says, Brebisdoux is the most animally cheese we have
on the contrary, i think CBS is the perfect cheese

David:
I’m happy with how it turned out, but was honestly pretty heartbroken when Chällerhocker overtook Hornbacher in the preliminaries

Rich:
Yeah, i think my wife referred to it as “rather pongy” (sp?)

Emilio:
With Holla a close very close 2nd

Rich:
which is apparently how you say smelly in austrayan

David:
I think Monte Enebro had an interesting trajectory

Rich:
I thought hornbacher would be the new alpine contender in a big way, then Brebisdoux kinda stole its thunder

David:
At least at Rittenhouse Monte Enebro was winning over people who normally didn’t like blues

Hunter:
Monte Enebro is always a bit of a dark horse

David:
We had a couple killer batches. I mean, like, the best batches of that cheese I’ve ever tasted!
Then it faltered and went back to tasting aggressively strong, which put some people off and brought on its elimination from the competition

Hunter:
David, talk more about Monte, and why it kind of qualifies as blue

Emilio:
This means that if customers are starting to enjoy Monte then they’re tastes are developing to enjoy more complexity

David:
On it..

Rich:
Does anyone remember if Monte Enebro was in the goat or blue category in previous years?

Hunter:
it was in goat

Rich:
yeah there’s an argument to be made either way

Hunter:
if only David could type as quickly as he speaks

Rich:
tall and dark and tan and lovely…..

David:
Monte Enebro is a goat milk cheese from Avila Spain (near Madrid). It was invented by an engineer (Raphael Baez) who gave up his profession to make cheese in his 60s!!
It is coated in Penicillium Roqueforti (the blue mold) but since it is never prodded with needles, the mold never has a pathway into the cheese, leaving it to develop an earthy tasting rind that doesn’t dominate the flavor.

Rich:
that’s waiting music y’all
there we are

Hunter:
thank you.

Hunter:
Let’s talk Chällerhocker, our champion this year, ending a run of three straight years with Gouda on top

Rich:
Which, once again, I like gouda, guys, but it was time.

David:
People were looking for a change, and Chällerhocker offers the flavors and the uncanny valley factor that nothing else can

Hunter:
Its path to victory went through Hornbacher, Gruyere 1655, Valle Brebidoux, Mont Enebro and CB Stilton

Emilio:
i think part of the allure is the creepy boy on the label.

Hunter:
So Scotty at Rittenhouse promised to get that creepy boy tattooed if Chällerhocker won
I was able to get that funded, so no turning back now

Emilio:
that is awesome! can’t wait to see that

Rich:
Oh yeah, its definitley happening

Hunter: 
As for favorite pairings, Chällerhocker and Tishbi Onion Cabernet Jam…like French Onion Soup in a bite. Credit on that goes to Amanda B.

Emilio:
i like the Hocker with some Baby Jesus some roasted tomatoes and crusty bread

David:
uploaded and commented on this image: Slack for iOS Upload.jpg

People loved the backstory of the creepy Chällerhocker kid, who we often compared to Willem Dafoe:

Rich:
walter “boss ” ross makes it and he’s visited us a lot but can’t say i visited
wow, that is spot on

David:
I stole the comparison from you, Rich!

Emilio:
I am always thinking of a sandwich

Rich:
Challerchocker vs Hornbacher was a great intra-category pairing

Emilio:
Walter Rass – i visited him

Rich:
He comes from what, three generations of alpine cheese makers?

David:
Chällerhocker with Jenkin’s Hellfire Pepper Jelly is quite good. Also good with a slight brush of the Fat Toad Farm original caramel

Emilio:
What a great place, his make facility is under his home which opens out onto the side of a mountain

Rich:
Yeah thats a nice sweet pairing that i dig, which i don’t always go for

Emilio:
He has a bunch of very mean pigs in a barn that he feeds the whey to.

Rich:
Ha

David:
Mean? What did they do to you, Emilio?

Emilio:
i have some great pics of his place and the process of making the cheeses

David:
Post them if they’re easily accessible!

Rich:
So, mee, (That’s Monger talk for “Emilio”) check me on this but I think he was an appenzeller maker who invented challerchocker and slowly but surely transitioned to making Chällerhocker almost exclusively

Emilio:
3 generations of cheesemakers and they made Appenzeller specifically

David:
that’s true

Rich:
Pretty much cheesemongers supported him enough that he changed his entire production to rotate around this original cheese he made

Emilio:
his brother still makes Appenzeller, one of the best available.

Rich:
So we were able to reward his innovation, which is great.

Emilio:
correct @Rich:

Hunter:
re: Chällerhocker , I love the photos of local dairies delivering milk on the back of a tractor. Doesn’t get much smaller than that.

Emilio:
the milk is still delivered in those milk cans
2x a day

Hunter:
Ok, If you took the opening field of 32 cheeses and picked one that you would have wanted to win, which would it have been, and why

Rich:
I would have been happy with stilton or brebisdoux
if i were to play favs. Largely cause I thought brebisdoux, as a new cheese with some strong notes would go out in the first round, so when it won the first contest against the reigning champ, that was really exciting.

Hunter:
I was rooting for the local hero, St. Malachi. Made it to the Elite 8

Emilio:
I agree with Rich, I would have been happy with any of those outcomes

David:
Picking one from the original lineup of 32? I was rooting for Hornbacher, and then when that was eliminated, Chällerhocker. Alpines are the category that nearly all of humanity adores but doesn’t necessarily know to ask for. I wanted the March Cheese Madness winner to help push people to try something new.

Hunter:
Frontrunner

Rich:
yeah Dave,that’s pretty accurate. People love alpines but the individual cheeses aren’t too well known outside of gruyere and comte

Emilio:
i’m lost and can’t keep up

Hunter:
Emilio, pick a cheese from the original field of 32 that you would have wanted to win.

Emilio:
For me it could have been CBS, Sofia, Ossau

Rich:
Ossau would have been nice, love those Basque jawns.

Hunter:
And both Sofia and Ossau ended up losing to blues, crazy.

David:
Ossau Iraty got surprisingly far. I was rooting for t for a moment

Emilio:
i consider Ossau a cheese lovers cheese

Rich:
It’s so friendly though

Hunter:
I think of it more as a gateway cheese.

Rich:
Don’t you think?
I think people know manchego, so its just a light pivot to Ossau.

David:
Our Sofia got really ripe and scared some people off, even more than the blues apparently

Emilio:
Yeah but it is so good that even seasoned mongers love it and don’t go completely away from it

Hunter:
It’s a safe first step into the world of specialty cheese. Not too strong, doesn’t require a “sophisticated” palate to enjoy

Rich:
@Emilio: def

Emilio:
Hahahaha, classic and well made

Hunter:
Ossau is like the pilsner of the cheese world. No dominant flavors, subtle, but if it isn’t perfectly-made, it’s bad.

Rich:
This, yes

Emilio:
Ossau would never be dismissed by a monger

Hunter:
That’s why seasoned mongers love it. we appreciate how well-made it is. And it’s versatile…works with beer or wine, and many charcuterie/jam/honey options.

Rich:
Basque cheese and washed rinds seem to be the new monger’s entryway to nerdier cheeses, in my experience

Emilio:
Cravero Parm is another of my favs but you guys know that.
A couple of heavyweights.

Rich:
Yeah, I thought that would go far.
Cravero vs 1605 Manchego is a classic matchup.

Emilio:
You don’t want either to lose

Hunter:
Yeah, I was stunned that Monte Enebro got through Reggiano.
That’s the King of Cheese right there!

Emilio:
Absolutely!

Rich:
I do believe that Manchego vs Cravero was a store splitter.
Cravero lost ninth street though……which I kinda feel like we have to apologize for.

Emilio:
WOW!
Yes, we do.

Rich:
And thats how Rich got canned…
Sorry, Giorgio.

Hunter:
Can I ask an important question?
How is it that Cornish Kern, fresh off being named Supreme Champion Cheese at the World Cheese Awards, was eliminated by Delice de Bourgogne in the first round?

Rich:
Urrrrrrrrrh
yeah

Emilio:
I don’t think that we highlighted that fact, it would have helped to move it along.

Hunter:
We shouldn’t have, don’t want to sway the judges.

Emilio:
We do that everyday

Hunter:
I tried to stay neutral, sample both cheeses, let them decide which they prefer, and then tell them about them.
Don’t want to lead with “this is the best cheese in the world, now which one do you like?”

David:
People love novelty, and for many, it’s the first good non-stinky soft-ripened they ever have, so Delice immediately earns their undying support.

Rich:
Right! Oh, i got it, that was a snow day, guys! One store was closed, and two closed early. So it had the least total votes for a day.

Emilio:
Ahhhh makes sense

Hunter:
Here is how Rich communicated the loss: “Delice’s all powerful basic-ness takes this one with 41 votes to Kern’s 32.”

Rich:
Yeah

Emilio:
Nice

Rich:
It is the Patriots of this thing, in some ways. The ways were i dont like it

Hunter:
I think we might have had some lobbyists in the form of mongers trying to sway some votes, too.
I’ll say that Delice de Bourgogne is always a top-20 cheese for us. Triple cream Brie, taste and texture akin to softened butter, there’s nothing not to like

Rich:
It’s an easy hosting cheese for sure.

Hunter:
Cornish Kern is a bit more obscure, we only have it a few months out of the year, more like an aged Gouda.

Rich:
Yeah, I think Kern gives people a lot to work with in terms of familiarity flavor profile-wise, while being something new. I think the Gray’s (the Cornish producers) were originally aiming for an alpine.

David:
I’ve been told Alpine-Gouda hybrid.

Rich:
From their site: “Inspired by gouda but with alpine starters”.

David:
Délice de Bourgogne is a triple cream (over 75% butterfat by dry-weight) cheese from Burgundy France that is often people’s first love from the soft cheese case. It tastes like whipped créme fraiche with a salty bite and lactic tang. Contrasting to Cornish Kern, which is a Gouda-style cheese from Cornwall England that tastes like fruity caramel (I sometimes even get a hint of cotton candy).

Hunter:
let’s all take a moment to read David’s novel

Emilio:
SBD!!!

 

Hunter:
Random thought: how great are the new Le Bon Magot jams?

David:
The jams are my new jam!

Hunter:
You want to make Delice less-basic? Add some Lemon Caraway Saffron Jam to that ish.

Emilio:
How about Bay Blue doing yo-mans work to get to the final four? I like the Bay Blue in the last 6 months. it’s been tasting really great.

Rich:
Bay blue is always good

David:
I think Bay Blue got far by subverting people’s expectations on what a Blue Cheese even is! Instead of being strong and buttermilky, it’s fruity, caramel let, and yeasty.

Emilio:
The Le Bon Magot Eggplant and Bay Blue is a combo i enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

Rich:
What did Bay Blue face off against?

Hunter:
I agree, David. Same with CB Stilton.
Bay Blue beat St. Stephen, Sofia and Malachi

Emilio:
Went against CBS

Hunter:
Before losing to CBS

Rich:
Bay Blue vs CBS is a classic.
I’ve done that one on the counter just for kicks.

David:
It’s almost as if Bay Blue had really overburdening blue parents who were excessively strong, and when Bay Blue grew up, it decided “I’m not gonna taste anything like you guys!” And he went his own way

Emilio:
Good one SBD (David)
This is awesome! I love this. We need to do more.

Hunter:
Me too. This could be my full time job

Rich:
St Malachi, Farm at Doe Run, can we expand on that a bit?
A firm and toasty local boy, cow’s milk.

Dave:
I think when it came to the face off of CBS vs. Bay Blue, the voters had to choose the one that made the most noise. It was like reading a Billboard vs a poem with only 7 point font

Rich:
Very caramelly and toasty, it’s interesting ‘cause it hits a lot of the same notes as the Kern, but moved so much further.

Hunter:
It is perhaps the leading ambassador for PA cheeses.
It has won gold at the world cheese awards, and took 2nd place Best in Show at the ACS last year.

Emilio:
I like the cheese, a cross between a typical alpine bordering on aged Gouda with the sweetness.

David:
I agree with Sam Cane, who thought the St. Malachi tasted a bit like a Werther’s Original. I like its rags to riches story, too.

Rich:
What should we attribute that to? How two cheeses with similar qualities had such differing results

Hunter:
How it moved further than Kern? It had a tough road itself. Beat Cabot Clothbound and Cottonbell to get to the Elite 8. I couldn’t believe it lost to Bay Blue.

Rich:
Same.

Emilio:
What about PRR (Pleasant Ridge Reserve)? What happened there?!
How does that lose to Cottonbell?

Hunter:
Cottonbell was fewer letters to write on the ballot than Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

Rich:
RIGHT?
PRR though.

Emilio:
Right?

David:
Malachi started as a bland and brittle-textured cheese a couple of years ago, until they trouble-shot it and figured out they were adding the salt too early in the make process, thus pulling out all the calcium and making the cheese turn hard as a brick. Once they started salting later, that’s when it became amazing—that’s when it started kicking ass and taking names.

Rich:
Can we address the random write in’s?
hightlights include ‘Italy’, and of course ‘your butt’

David:
My favorite was at Ardmore:
Vallée Brabander
I just counted it as both.

Rich:
Ha, excellent.

Hunter:
Congrats to Chällerhocker . Good luck defending your crown next year. Early odds-on favorite to score the upset: Abbruzze Spread

Rich:
Ha

Emilio:
Don’t tease me, Hunter.

David:
No Hunter! You can’t throw the Abbruzze spread in with the big boys, it won’t survive!

Hunter:
Perhaps you’ll all recall that one lucky in-store participant will be winning a kilo of Chällerhocker, as well as one online voter.

Emilio:
A great cheese to get a kilo of.

Rich:
Yeah, I think all the mongers took a moment to consider getting a kilo of Epoisses, just logistically.

Hunter:
What would you do with a Kilo of Chällerhocker ?

Rich:
Mac and cheese party

Hunter:
Epic grilled cheese
Baked potato w/bacon jam?

Rich:
Spaetzle

Hunter:
Lock yourself in the basement and shamefully eat the whole thing in one sitting?

Rich:
In the dark. Listening to ‘So, Long Marianne’ on a loop.

Emilio:
Just like the boy on the label

Hunter:
Makes sense

David:
A kilo is enough to make 900 gourmet mouse traps

Rich:
Nice, lil mice with alpine hats on

David:
Exactly

Hunter:
Fantastic.

Thanks for joining us for our first Monger’s Chat! Stay tuned as we’ll be announcing our winners very soon! Looking to pick up some Chällerhocker? Visit dibruno.com and shop all the Madness!

 

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