I used to look askance at flavored cheeses, dismissing them out of hand. Herb-encrusted, port-laced, cumin-studded cheeses and their ilk offended my well-cultivated purist sensibilities. But in recent years my stance has softened into a fragile acceptance, even a conditional enthusiasm.
To purchase our Spring 2011 centerfold Blaues Wunder, visit Cowgirl Creamery. Or click here to see our current centerfold cheese
note: past centerfold cheeses and pairings are available on a limited, seasonal basis
Made with locally sourced milk from Simmental and red Holstein cows, Blaues Wunder is aged four weeks and has a bluish gray, dusky rind. Underneath lies the real wonder: instead of the crumbly, salty, sharp bite most often associated with classic blue cheeses, this one seduces with rich creaminess. Its soft, elastic interior is studded with savory blueness but never dominated by it.
How photography and Thomas Edison led to the invention of cheese paper
We all appreciate how a good cheesemonger protects our cheese purchase by carefully covering each wedge or wheel in custom-made cheese paper, wrapping it in neat origami-like folds. Few people, however, know the curious story of how this unique layered wrapping paper became a must-have cheese accessory.
For centuries cheeses were dipped in wax or wrapped in linen or leaves to protect them from the elements. This worked well until the cheese was cut open. Then problems began with dryness, cracking, and unwanted molds. Something better was needed. The ideal wrapping would block light and preserve a proper moisture barrier yet allow the cheese to “breathe.” The first step toward making this idealized covering—a waxed paper—actually happened in a French darkroom.
It’s no coincidence that eggs are found in the dairy aisle
It’s possible that, even more than cheese, eggs are having their cultural moment. Recently, the Scientist and I attended a talk on home chicken-keeping by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, who broke a cardinal actor’s rule by sharing the stage with a pair of charismatic, misbehaving hens. Still, nearly a hundred urban homesteaders turned out to watch the famous writer be upstaged by a pair of squawking New Hampshire Reds.
For culture readers, I can’t resist pointing out the biological similarities between eggs and cheese: milk and yolk are both high-fat, high-protein infant assembly kits, metabolically expensive to produce and fragile in raw form. They are edible by-products of reproduction, hijacked by humans for our own purposes.
Handmade in Mexico by Orfeo Quagliata, with his own handcrafted opaque glass, this fused tray makes a focal point of your cheese plate. Made up of myriad colors in striped patterns, this arced serving dish is eye-catching while retaining functionality. Each tray is one of a kind and is remarkably sturdy.
Give the table a brush of color with the glass Kosta Boda Mine Dish, designed and handmade in Sweden, with a green finish in intriguing, spiderweb swirls. Its understated glamor will enhance your cheese selection and tempt your guests to dive right in.
With granite’s handsome durability, this polished black slab is a perfect platform for cheese. Handmade in Colorado, each board is slightly different, depending on the piece of granite, but all are equipped with beveled under-edges for easy lifting and rubber feet for cushioning. Hand-wash these cheese boards, and use them over and over again for a failproof presentation tool.
For a bit of black-tie style, choose this shimmering aluminum plate inlaid with mother-of-pearl petals. Place your cheeses amidst the mother-of-pearl bouquet and rest assured: your cheese is lookin’ good tonight. Be sure to hand-wash this plate, and think about using it as a centerpiece when (or if) cheese isn’t around.
Accentuate your cheese appeal with a sleek, cheerfully colored Italian cheese paddle from Sur La Table. Available in red, yellow, or green, these glossy earthenware serving paddles are just what’s needed in a cheese-dish pinch. Dishwasher safe and well sized for a dinner party, they’ll ace the display but won’t upstage.
Handmade in Rochester, New York, by Elizabeth Lyons, each plate features a design inspired by the artist’s collection of vintage kitchen objects like pizelle presses, drain grates, and old hot plates. To make the platter, Lyons presses the patterned surfaces of these items onto a molten, blown-glass surface. A unique cheese-serving accessory, this durable plate will hold its pattern forever.