How to Find Your New Favorite Cheese at Your Local Cheese Shop

Categories: Cheese Week

Scardello Winnemere.jpg
Are you afraid of cheese? My editor posed the question in light his experiences at Scardello, the gourmet cheese shop in Oak Lawn. Certainly to an enthusiast, a veritable treasure trove of flavors wait to be discovered inside the cheese counter. But to the uninitiated, a cheese case can look like an overwhelming (and very expensive) minefield of mold and milk fat.

Terms like affinage confuse, creatures like cheese mites frighten, and the USDA repeatedly reminds us if we so much as smell raw milk, we'll likely die. It's no wonder some customers can feel intimidated when they walk into a cheese shop, which is a shame because there's really only one simple question you need to ask when trying to choose a cheese: "Does this taste good to me?"

From there you want to make sure you get a few different types of cheeses, from mild bries, to sharp cheddars, to funky blues. Thinking in terms of texture and choosing hard and soft cheeses will help you to put together a well-rounded cheese experience too.

With so many potentially overwhelming varieties, Lance Lynn, a manager at the shop, says that coming in with a pairing in mind can help limit the choices. If you have a rare wine on hand that you've been wanting celebrate with, or you just got a case of your favorite microbrew, Lynne can pull a handful of cheeses from the case that will work well with what you've got. And even without a pairing in mind he's more than happy to let you taste a few cheeses while he dials in on your palate.

On my recent visit to Scardello I told Lynn I was looking for big and bold flavors. I wanted to get as far away from the bland, lifeless commodity cheeses that top our pizzas and fill the shelves of our grocery stores.

Scardello Saint Foin Brie.jpg
Lynn started with a Brazos Valley brie made right here in Texas. It was a mild cheese, with a great texture and a subtle tartness, but I wasn't wowed. "Do you have anything with a little more personality?" I asked Lynn, who reached for a Saint Foin brie from the case. Handmade in northern France near Versailles, this cheese had a much stronger, almost musty flavor.

"We call it gamey, or barn-yardy" Lynn told me. I called it delicious, and asked to move on to our next cheese.

Scardello Scharfer Maxx.jpg

Next Lynn pulled out a Scharfer Maxx 365 from the case, shaved a small sliver from the wheel, and presented it to me on small, white slip of paper. "This is from the Studer Dairy, which is really close to the Bavarian border," he told me, as the cheese began to soften in my mouth. There were crystals imbedded in the cheese, which crunched between my teeth, and the flavor was deep and intense.

Finding cheeses that tasted delicious was the easy part. Now I was starting to feel like I'd have to choose favorite children.

Then Lynn appealed to my more sinister and illicit senses.


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3 comments
Twinwillow
Twinwillow

It's amazing the difference in taste, quality, and textures of cheese made in Europe for their consumption and the same cheeses sent to the USA. All because of the difference in the cheese that we get in the USA is made with pasteurized milk. And that consumed in Europe is made with raw milk. Age also probably plays in the equation. 

Also, restaurants in Europe serve their cheeses from a cheese trolley at room temperature. It's such a gastronomic pleasure when the waiter wheels the cheese trolly to your table loaded with so many different cheeses, your head swims trying to make a decision. Sorry folks, that's not allowed in Dallas! Any cheese you get in a restaurant in Dallas comes straight from the cold box. It's the law.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Ditto on Scardello's. amazing cheese and excellent advice. While Foods and the other grocery stores are far behind.

MattP
MattP

Thanks, Scardello is a bit of heaven in Dallas.

One trip to Europe and making to get your cheese on, you immediately realize what we're lacking here. Stinkiness and age. Even regular soft cheese, brie, cheddars and so forth can have a very subtle, yet boosting odor that make them delectable.

The folks at Scardello explained to me that it's simply the USDA and red tape. Dates, age, etc. they won't let in from Europe, whereas it's on every street corner there, aged to perfection.

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