December 4, 2013

Soup to Nuts: Say cheese for the holidays

From mild to bold, gooey to hard, the ever-growing number of varieties available locally boggles the mind. Here’s a primer.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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At The Cheese Iron in Scarborough, truffled cheeses, far left, and cave-aged taleggio from the Lombardy region of Italy are served with oven-roasted tomatoes.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Colston Bassett English Stilton at The Cheese Iron.The Colston Bassett dairy has had only four cheesemakers in its 100 years of existence.

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“It’s decadent,” Maniaci said, “but if you do it once a year, you’re fine.”

Need an easy meal during the busy holiday rush? Buy some raclette, a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese that comes in wheels. In Europe, this cheese is melted in front of a fire or using a special machine, then the melted part is scraped onto plates. Here, you can just place thick slices of raclette on a nonstick pan and put it under the broiler until it’s golden brown. Then pour it onto roasted vegetables or even some flank steak. On the side, make sure you have some mustard, pickles, onion jam and big pieces of crusty bread.

The first two weeks Maniaci was in the cheese business, he ate nothing but taleggio for dinner every night, with a crusty baguette, some roasted tomatoes and anchovies.

“This is the cheese that actually was my first cheese love,” he said. “This is the cheese I fell in love with, and it’s been hard to find until recently. There are a lot of these on the market, but a lot of them are very sort-of commodity, industrialized taleggio.”

Now he has in stock some artisan raw milk, cave-aged taleggio from the Lombardy region of Italy. The high humidity and low temperature of the cheese cave slows down lactic fermentation so that the creamy cheese develops a nice briny, earthy finish and doesn’t have the extra tang that lingers with other taleggios.

If you’re one of those people who can’t get enough truffles, The Cheese Iron decided to go all out this holiday season and ordered a big shipment of truffled cheeses from France.

If they made a list of one of life’s simple pleasures, surely Stilton from the century-old Colston Bassett Dairy would be on it.

“They’re the only dairy that’s had only four cheesemakers in its existence so far,” Maniaci said. “Usually, these days, it’s a revolving door. They learn the trade and they move on. We love (Colston Bassett Stilton) this time of year not because it’s popular and people love it with port, but because when it comes to fruition, it’s the result of that nice late spring grass that (the cows have) been eating, which is a sweet grass. If you have Stilton in the summer, they’ve been eating hay and fodder. And what they eat really translates into the quality of milk, which translates into the quality of cheese.”

If you think you don’t like blue cheese and eating it straight would be too much for you, try a little in a salad with winter pears. Or pair it with some apple for a different kind of side salad.

But wait, there’s more. Another excellent choice in blue cheese is Rogue River Blue, which is made in Oregon and (I know this from personal experience) will give you an experience I can only describe as a “blue cheese high.” It is not as strong as the Colston Bassett Stilton – its blue veins run thin and spotty – so this could be a good transitional cheese for someone who wants to try blue but has been afraid of it or turned off by the mold.

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Additional Photos

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Truffled cheeses at The Cheese Iron in Scarborough

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Ricciarelli with mascarpone cheese and cranberry chutney at The Cheese Iron


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