It seems most people have at least one kind of food they dislike. But it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like cheese.
Perhaps it’s the variety. There are dozens of cheeses readily available at your local supermarket. When you consider the number of specialty cheeses sold worldwide, that number spikes to more than 1,700. With cheese, there’s a flavor for everyone.
If you’re looking to expand your taste in cheese, you might want to consider artisan cheeses. Artisan cheese is small batch handmade cheese using old-world craftsmanship by skilled cheese makers. These cheeses are often aged and more complex in flavor and variety. They can be bought at most supermarkets and few will bust your budget.
"Start with your comfort level,” said Brock Granger, room chef at L’Auberge’s Ember Grille and Wine Bar. "Don’t go too far out of your comfort zone. I would start with cheese that you’re familiar with, so you can learn the textures and tastes. That way you can see what you’re comfortable with. Maybe start with a young cheddar, and then get an older cheddar.”
If a mild cheddar pleases your palette, try an artisan cheese like brie, a soft French cheese made from cow’s milk that is typically aged between five and six weeks. For those who seek a little more flavor, brie also comes in a smoked variety.
If a sharper cheddar gets your mouth watering, an artisan bleu cheese like Stilton may pack the flavorful punch you’re seeking. A crumbly bleu cheese from the town of the same name in the county of Cambridgeshire, England, Stilton’s strong flavor will hit your taste buds immediately and lead them right to the back finish.
Granger said for some people, bleu cheeses take time to develop a taste for.
"When I first started cooking, I wasn’t a fan of bleu cheese,” he said. "But now, ten years later, I’ve come around and I like that strong flavor.”
If you’re craving the tang of cream cheese, a good goat cheese may be in order. Some goat cheeses are spreadable and go well with crackers. Granger said its tart flavor pairs nicely with dessert wines. They’re also perfect for appetizers.
"Goat cheese is tart; it’s sour; makes your mouth water just a little bit,” he added. "It gets you primed for the meal.”
The price of artisan cheeses vary greatly, much of which has to do with age.
"That’s why parmesan is so expensive -- because it has to age for a minimum of 24 months,” Granger said. "Location on where the cheese is made and the size of the creamery also affects price. A small creamery where everything is handcrafted will definitely be reflected in the price. A more commercialized cheese will be less expensive.”
Granger said people should not "blow the bank” when getting to know their artisan cheeses. Start small, learn about where the cheese was made, its properties, and how they differ from one another.
"It all comes down to product,” Granger said. "You can’t have good cheese without good milk. If you have good cows eating what they’re supposed to eat, good grass, they make good milk, and you’ll make good cheese. You can’t buy a gallon of milk out of the store and make good cheese out of it.”