Tag Archives: Gordon’s purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week

Purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week: Buerre de Baratte

One of the recurring posts I’ve often made here is “Gordon’s purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week.” Now, I guess it’s not really “purely arbitrary.” Usually I have already decided to buy it for the store so of course I think it is really good. I just use that phrase so that folks who make similar cheeses won’t get mad thinking that I am claiming one cheese is the best when they feel they could make an argument for theirs.

And fair enough… some cheeses are more consistent than others, different cheeses appeal to different palates, some cheeses have 1000 years of history while some have a few months. No, I highlight these cheeses because I am personally obsessed with them at the moment. They are what I am buying for home, often multiple days in a row. Usually they are things I also think are a little underrated, though not always.

And this week, as a switcheroo, I am not even choosing a cheese for “Gordon’s purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week,” I am choosing a butter.

When we did our store remodel last year, the cheese department took over the non-local butters. Part of the reason we wanted to do that, beyond evangelizing for the amazingness of butter, especially cultured butter, was this:


The Buerre de Baratte by Rodolphe Meunier is amazing butter. It’s churned, cultured, and full of sea salt crystals. It is deep yellow and even has a cow embossed on every wheel. I have been buying extra bread at home just so I can eat more of this butter.

I accidentally bought five tubs of this amazing creation last week for the store because I misread an email and though I was buying cases of the 250g wheels. Oops… not oops. We’ve been wrapping and selling these food-service intended beauties and sampling it out like crazy. Customers are blown away when they try this, partly because they don’t often get offered samples of butter at a cheese counter.


I’m writing this on my day off, but I am thinking of going to the store just to buy more of this today.


Tome des Pyrenees

This week my purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week is the Tome des Pyrenees affinaged by Rodolphe Meunier.


It’s bark-wrapped raw cow’s milk from Basque country. Unlike most bark-wrapped cheese it is not oozy, but semi-soft, at least the versions in the U.S. Now that Americans (myself included) have proven to themselves that they can enjoy strong cheeses, I hope that cheese like this can come into popularity. Tomme des Pyrenees is not strong at all, it’s the — sometimes confounding to shoppers — epitome of a cheese that is mild, but complex.

It’s earthy, woodsy, rich, fruity and just an all around pleasure to eat. You have to take a second to appreciate it because the flavor does not all show itself at once. If you bring it to room temp and let the cheese linger on your tongue, you will be rewarded with a cheese you will keep tasting because 1. You will be trying to isolate all the different flavor aspects and 2., it is just an awesome experience.

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Tomme d’Abondance

I’ve always thought this cheese was underrated and super cute. It’s in that Alpine cheese category that I love so much, but it’s less well known than many others from that region, at least here in the U.S. Though it varies by producer, affineur, etc. it can be about the spiciest of the French Alp cheeses with that aged sweet onion taste I associate more with cheeses from the Swiss side of the border.

Look at these beauties: DSC01162

Supposedly the history of this dates back to the 14th Century when Monks made this style of cheese. But you don’t need to study up on this cheese to enjoy it. I’m sure this is not true 100% of the time,* but, generally, darker the wash on the outside, the stronger the cheese. This actually holds true with the Vermont versions of this cheese – Tarentaise by Thistle Hill and Spring Brook – and there is a scientific basis for this so I’ll stay with it until proven otherwise.

Right now we have about the strongest Abondance that we’ve ever had but I like it in all its permutations. The blonder rinded ones are incredibly nutty and grassy, the dark pink sticky ones are big, intense, and powerful. And cute.

Did I mention cute? Look at these indented rinds with the little lips:
As Mojo Nixon would say, That’s “not no fool Billy Idol lip either”**

*We’ve never regularly sold this cheese so I do not consider myself an expert on it. In 19 years of mongering we’ve probably sold less than 2000 lbs.

Comte: always an obsession

I love Comte. Why not re-start my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week entries with a cheese I love so much?


There are lots of good Comtes. We almost always use a 4-6 month Comte as our basic Alpine cheese and we often have a more aged one as well. Right now our 15 month (from the Fort Des Rousses which you can see lots pictures of if you scroll down to “Day 6”) is stellar. Nutty, grassy, milky-sweet…. I rarely use anything else for cooking anymore.

The basic difference between Comte (sometimes called Gruyere de Comte)and Swiss Gruyere besides the border line is that (at least from what I saw) the Swiss is brined and the Comte is hand-salted. From our vantage point 10,000 miles or so away from both producers, the Swiss is usually more pungent and onion-y, the Comte more nutty and sweet.

The other difference is that – due to the name-control regulations – Comte preserves the land where it is made by legally recognizing the importance of pasture. Though the milk of over 100,000 cows is used to make Comte, the average herd size is only 35 and each cow must have almost 2.5 acres for grazing. The local cooperatives that make the cheese are also limited in the amount they can produce.

I even used it as a submission for an article that an environmental organization was going to do on eco-friendly cheese. I thought it was perfect because it’s the best example I can think of to show how a cheese can be mass produced (at any given time there are about 50,000 wheels of Comte aging in Fort Des Rousses, which is a large, but not the only, aging cave for the cheese) but still be hand-made with the same quality of a small-production cheese and with explicit regulations regarding the protection of the environment and animal welfare. Amusingly, it wasn’t used because they chose to use a more esoteric, pricey,harder-to-find Alpine cheese example instead. Stay (upper-)classy, big environmental groups!

Anyways, Comte is my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week. I’m going to go eat some right now.

(And hey, don’t forget to “like” my new facebook page before the “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” one gets phased out.)

Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week: Meredith Dairy Feta

Now that the holidays and the food show are done, we can get back to weekly installments of my Purely Arbitrary Cheese Obsession of the Week. Originally, I started this series to write about whatever I had the most fun sampling out to customers over the weekend. Well, we finally got back the cheese that is always the most fun to sample.

meredith dairy feta

This is the Meredith Dairy Feta marinated in oil and herbs. This cheese is almost literally irresistible. I would estimate the 90% of the people who try it for the first time put it in their carts. It’s that good.

This batch is a blend of goat and sheep milk though that varies at times. It used to be sold under the brand name 34 Degrees but now is sold under the name of the actual producer, Meredith Dairy. It comes all the way from Australia and has long periods of being out of stock but we always bring it back. People have cried over this cheese numerous times. When they taste it for the first time and also when we tell them we won’t be able to get it for a couple of months.

We have tried to copy this recipe for those times we can’t get it, but we’ve never come close.

True to form, I started sampling this out at 7 PM on Saturday and pretty much emptied the shelf by our 9 PM closing time. At 8 PM, my co-worker Chickenhead and I were packaging up some membrillo and decided to try it with the feta. How was it? I couldn’t get out full sentences. I think what came out of my mouth was just an intelligible random assortment of swear words. It was that amazing.

I wish I had some right now. I may have to go to the store on my day off and get some. That’s how good it is.

Every cheese is cheese of the week this week

Heh. I really shouldn’t have named my regular review “Cheese of the Week”. One, it’s a boring name. Two, it sounds like something a million other cheese blogs would do and three, it was really just about whatever cheese I was obsessing over behind the counter — not an attempt at an unsubjective “best cheese in the case” or anything. That hasn’t stopped people from trying to suggest I mention their cheese, of course, but this is purely for fun, not an attempt at a well-rounded representation of great cheeses.

Any good ideas for a name change? “Gordon’s purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week” is more like it, but a little long. This was my original disclaimer, maybe I should just post it every time:

(I decided that every week after I work a Saturday behind the counter that I will make a post about my favorite cheeses of the week. This is not a promotional thing; sometimes they may even be out of stock by the time I write this. I just want to share the cheese love. There will be pictures if I remember to bring my camera. If I don’t there won’t. Basically, these will just be the cheeses that I most enjoyed sampling out to cheese lovers over the weekend.)

Anyways, David Grimmels honored us with a visit on Friday. While his Rogue River Blue was probably a repeat “Gordon’s purely arbitrary cheese obsession of the week” this week* (along with the amazing Vacherin Mont D’or-y Tomme du Jura, and the truly awesome Spicherhalde (always alpage!) I am not going to choose it. Hey, it’s my website.And really, this close to the food holidays, every cheese is cheese of the week

No, I am going with the I-don’t-think-it’s-for-sale-yet-and-I-don’t-know-anything-about-it Mount Mazama that David gave me a sample of. It’s a goat and cow milk blended Cheddar and I am in love already. It’s the kind of cheese that makes you wonder why no one has done it before. There are not a lot of great Cheddars on the West Coast (Fiscalini and Beechers who else?) but I think we are going to add this one to the pantheon. Fruity, shardy, sharp, and rich. Awesome.

Mount Mazama

*I sold some to some snooty French people claiming to be unimpressed with American cheese