There are five more days in 2010 and I will be giving you five end-of-the-year posts. Starting today I will be posting the five trends I’m seeing in the cheese world right now. Just my opinion and all that, but I feel pretty strongly that these are the big issues right now.
The continued emergence of US-made cheese When I started as a cheese buyer more than 16 years ago, the idea that US-made cheese would ever challenge the European classics was laughable. Sure, some fanatics would always buy local, but it would be a sacrifice of taste for politics.
That’s simply not true anymore.
For example – and I say this knowing that it is practically cheese-sacrilege — the best regularly-available-in-the-Bay-Area ripened goat milk cheese is Bonne Bouche from Vermont. Most long-time cheese shoppers still resist this idea – looking for the (pasteurized French export versions of) Valencay, Selles sur Cher, Chevre D’or, Lingot – but side by side, Bonne Bouche does not only equal those export versions, it surpasses them for complex, tangy goat taste. I know most of you reading won’t believe me. Try it for yourself and get back to me
But that’s not the only place where US cheeses are encroaching on the considered-unassailable Euro- cheeses. Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Ascutney Mountain and Spring Brook Tarentaise are up there with Comte and Gruyere, Mountina and Edelweiss up there with Emmenthal, Marieke Gouda with the best Dutch aged Goudas, Winnimere with Forsterkase, and –though this is premature to say – Rush Creek Reserve may even someday challenge the Vacherin Mont D’or.
Even though many of these cheeses were being made five or ten years ago, they are only now getting to the point – in terms of consistency and depth of flavor –where this is true. Cheesemaking is not for the short-term planner.
Additionally, a number of American originals are becoming staples in their own right. Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk, the seasonal Rogue River Blue, the Dunbarton Blue (like a Montgomery Cheddar with a cracked moldy rind!) and the Vella Golden Bear Dry Jack are unmatched. Sure, as yet there is no American challenge to Parmigiano Reggiano, Brie de Meaux, or the best Gorgonzola Dolcelatte, but at this point challenging those cheeses just seems doubtful instead of impossible.
(I am re-emerging from my holiday cheese hole. Hi Everyone!)