German Hirtenkase Reserve

January 28, 2010

Another small morsel from Whole Foods on the cheese board was a German cheese, Hirtenkase Reserve. This “herdsman” cheese is traditionally handmade in the mountain regions of Southern Germany. The milk comes from small herds, usually under 20 cows per farm, which means the cows are well cared for, and graze at altitudes above 2500 feet. The cows enjoy the alpine meadow grasses of the summer and in the early farm return to the valleys where a celebration is held to announce their return for the winter.

This cheese is a hard cheese similar to a super-aged Gouda or an aged Parm with those tasty little flavor crystals that The Man and I so love. It has a pleasant ever-so-slightly bitter aftertaste.

This cheese won two gold medals at the World Cheese Awards in 2005.

I give Hirtenkase Reserve 3 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: This is a very versatile cheese. You can grate it and use it in pasta dishes; on a gourmet pizza; in gratins and on a cheeseboard.

Wine Pairings: Gewurztraminer

Beer Pairing: As with Robusto, I recommend a Brown Ale

Source: Very spoiled and well cared for Cows that graze in the alpine meadows.

Awards: 2005 World Cheese Awards

Parrano Robusto

January 28, 2010

The “older” (by four months) sister of the Parrano that The Lady sells, Parrano Robusto, was the fourth cheese from The Lady’s Whole Foods Reconnaissance Mission (aka “spying on the competition”).

Back in the day when we all lived in SoCal, The Lady and The Man attended wine and cheese tasting classes at The Wine House in West LA, with cheeses provided by The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. The classes were conducted by a friend of The Lady named Susan who was married to a well-respected film writer. At one of the tastings, Susan introduced the class to Old Amsterdam Aged Gouda and it became and has remained a favorite of The Lady and The Man.

Every time The Lady has a chance to sample a new aged gouda, you can bet she will and thank you very much, she always shares with me, your favorite feline foodie.

Holland produces some terrific aged goudas and The Lady likes them all: In addition to her first aged gouda love, Old Amsterdam, she also loves Rembrandt, Beemster XO, Beemster Vlaskaas, Parrano, UnieKaas Extra Old Gold Label (sold on The Lady’s Island – hmm, I haven’t seen that cheese in the cheese drawer – what other cheeses might The Lady be withholding from me…this inquiring mind really wants to know…) and Vincent.

The aroma of Robusto is sweet and toasty and the texture is creamy and buttery with small eyes. The taste is sweet and buttery with those fabulous crunchies that The Man and I so love in aged cheeses. It just doesn’t get any better than this in the world of aged goudas…

I give Parrano Robusto 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). Another winner from Holland…

Serving Suggestions: Aged Goudas go with pears like no other cheese. While fresh pears are always preferred, they aren’t always available. The Lady snagged a can of pears from her Aunt Karra that came from the Hood River area where fabulous fruit grows in the valleys below Mt. Hood. These paired perfectly with the Robusto. However, this is a very versatile cheese and will do well in many casseroles and pasta dishes. It grates well for those purposes. And… drumroll, please… it will be dynamite in a Mac n Cheese… or how about pairing this with a Jamon Serrano and making a killer grilled ham n cheese???

Wine Pairing: A big Cabernet is the perfect wine for this cheese.

Beer Pairing: A Brown Ale will hit the spot with this cheese.

Source: Cow’s Milk

Asiago Fresco Mitica

January 28, 2010

The third cheese on the Whole Foods cheese plate The lady prepared for The Man and me was Asiago Fresco Mitica.

Quite frankly, I expected more from this cheese. It is a DOP protected cheese from Italy, made in the traditions of the Italian cheesemakers.

It is a young Asiago and semi-firm; unlike the Asiago d’Allevo which is aged, aromatic and quite wonderful. The Lady sells the aged version and offers it grated as well as wedged.

Perhaps it was just this cut of cheese but it was bland, rubbery and had no aroma and almost no taste.

It was just a piece of nothing cheese.

I give this particular Whole Foods wedge of Asiago Fresco no Paws as it deserves none.

Serving Suggestions: I’ll reserve suggestions until The Lady finds another outlet so I can compare wedges and then make my pronouncements…

Another Les Petits Morceaux de Fromage (note to The Man: it means “Small Bites of Cheese”) that The Lady bought at the Hollywood Whole Foods was a small “brick” of Widmer Cheese Cellars Aged Brick.

The Lady and I, your humble feline foodie, had yet to encounter true Brick cheese on our cheese journey and were pleased to discover it is a washed-rind, stinky cheese…well, maybe pungent is a better description.  

The Lady rubbed a bit of the rind between her fingers, smelled the aroma and swooned with delight. It was yeasty and earthy, similar to Taleggio in smell. The texture was not as creamy as Tallegio, you can still see the curds; tiny but they are there, they almost look like a weave. The outside of the cheese had a brown hue and the interior was more a rosy beige.

Joe Widmer, a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, is a third generation cheesemaker making Brick cheese in the tradition of his grandfather. He still uses the same bricks from back in the day when his grandfather introduced America to his Brick cheese. Yes, the name comes from both the shape of the cheese and the bricks that lay on top of the cheese to help separate the curd from the whey.

After being soaked in brine, the cheese is washed with B. linens whey which creates the pungent smell and ages the cheese to perfection, making it a real washed-rind cheese. The cheese is then wrapped in parchment paper (to allow the aging to continue) and then wrapped in foil for the market.

This cheese is creamy on the tongue and the taste is nutty and earthy with a slight after bite. The Lady and I were both sad that she only bought a Petit Morceau; but she does know where to buy more. My plan is to coax her into using this to make a special grilled cheese for The Man and me to enjoy by the fireplace… or if the Pacific Northwest rain ever goes away, out on the deck.

I give Widmer Cheese Cellars Aged Brick 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).

Serving Suggestions: Alone with crackers or with a nice liverwurst from Boar’s Head. As mentioned, I think this would make a very special grilled cheese. It would work in a Mac n cheese… well there’s a news flash… another cheese that I think would go well in Mac n cheese… this feline foodie has never met a cheese that would not go well in a Mac n cheese…

Wine Pairing Suggestions: Either Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc

Beer Pairing Suggestions: Bock or Porter

Source: Pasteurized Cow Milk

Awards: Widmer’s website lists this cheese as an award-winner but not specifics. But based on my “first date” with Widmer’s Aged Brick, this is definitely an award-winner.