WE love cheese. We love to pair it with ham or bacon for a great sandwich for breakfast or merienda. We love loads of grated cheese on our spaghetti and ensaymada. More so on our pizza! We love the sharp flavor of Cheddar and Edam, the stretch of mozzarella, the creamy smoothness of cream cheese, the texture and smoky taste of kesong puti when it’s grilled… But there are lots more different types of cheeses out there that are just waiting to be discovered and appreciated by the Filipino palate, and California, which is one of the oldest and biggest cheese-producing states in the United States, makes some 350 to 400 different types of cheeses for the world to enjoy.
While there are commercial or commodity type cheeses that are produced in large quantities in California, it is the state’s unique artisanal cheeses—some of which cannot be found elsewhere—that are among the best in the world. The Cheese Dude, Mark Todd, who serves as consultant of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), pointed out some of these must-try artisanal California cheeses when he was in Manila last August, 2015, for a series of cheese seminars held in conjunction with the World Food Expo 2015 (WOFEX 2015).
Todd gave impromptu information on California cheeses at the CMAB booth at the three-day WOFEX 2015 at World Trade Center and shared a wealth of invaluable cheese information in a cheese-and-wine pairing seminar held at Makati Shangri-La Hotel. Participants got to taste various award-winning soft fresh, soft ripened, blue-veined, semi soft, pasta filata, semi-hard, hard, smoked, spiced and flavored, and processed cheeses from California, and he picked seven artisanal cheeses that are must-tries because of their superb quality and taste.
1. Fiscalini Extra Mature Bandage Wrapped Cheddar Cheese—an 18-month natural bandage wrapped Cheddar cheese that melts beautifully when cooked.
2. Fiscalini Lionza—an heirloom Alpine Mountain cheese originally made by the Fiscalini family of Switzerland in the town of Lionza, it’s a great fondue cheese.
3. Vella Cheese Co.’s Dry Monterey Jack—aged for a minimum of one year, this particular cheese came to be by accident. Someone accidentally left some Monterey Jack cheese, a high-moisture cheese, to dry out in the refrigerator too long. Not wanting to throw out the cheese, the cheese-makers decided to taste it and, lo and behold, they realized that they had created a new and better cheese. This one’s got cocoa and pepper coating and is still hand-made.
4. Marin French Triple Crème Brie—a soft ripened cheese with an edible white crust and soft, creamy white interior, it has a richer taste and mouthfeel than regular Brie because of its higher fat content.
5. Di Stefano Cheese Co.’s Burrata alla Panna—a soft fresh cheese made by an Italian cheesemaker, it’s all natural and made using pasteurized milk and cream, lactic acid, salt and rennet. It’s like mozzarella cheese wrapped around heavy cream.
6. Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold—a semi-hard cheese that’s unique to California. Its home is San Joaquin Valley and is named after its color, which is dark yellow that’s bordering on gold. Aged for 22 to 24 months, this granular cheese never gets creamy and is an excellent table cheese.
7. Fiscalini Artisanal Purple Moon—a handcrafted raw cow’s milk cheese, this Cheddar cheese is soaked in Cabernet wine, so it takes on patches of purplish-red color in the cheese, thus giving it character and texture that’s all its own. Cube it for the cheese platter or grate it for a unique pizza cheese.