Best Country for Cheese

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Which Country makes the best Cheese?

Switzerland
2
10%
France
6
29%
Great Britain
2
10%
Italy
5
24%
Spain
3
14%
USA
3
14%
 
Total votes : 21

Best Country for Cheese

Postby Bill Hooper » Sun Sep 03, 2006 11:51 pm

The best thing about Cheese, as in wine, is the wonderful world of diversity. But if pressed, which is your favorite?
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Howie Hart » Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:24 am

What about Holland, Norway, Germany, Canada.....? I've had some great cheese from Quebec.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Ian Sutton » Mon Sep 04, 2006 9:27 am

Tough choice!
I couldn't vote for Switz or US as I've virtually no experience of either.

In the end I voted with ny head (France), rather than my heart (Italy). UK is good, but if I'm critical, the general standard is very low, with the artisanal and skilled producers having but a small part of the market. Their quality is worth seeking out though. By contrast, it's very easy to find good cheese in Italy in any village, town or city. I suspect France is similar.

We're lucky to have a stunning cheese stall on the local market, which has a great and varied range of cheeses, giving us the best option - a selection across europe. Their Gruyere is the best I've tasted and went stunningly well at a red wine tasting a while back. Stinking Bishop is a cheese where the name tells you all you need to know :shock: Their aged gouda is excellent and a recently introduced smoked cheese from Alsace was fantastic. We tend to have 3-4 cheeses in at any one point and I pretty stubbornly don't allow cheddar to be one of them!

regards

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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:51 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Tough choice!
I couldn't vote for Switz or US as I've virtually no experience of either.

In the end I voted with ny head (France), rather than my heart (Italy). UK is good, but if I'm critical, the general standard is very low, with the artisanal and skilled producers having but a small part of the market. Their quality is worth seeking out though. By contrast, it's very easy to find good cheese in Italy in any village, town or city. I suspect France is similar.


Interesting and thoughtful comments, Ian. I went through a very similar process, having spent a fair amount of time eating cheese in both Italy and France. I love Italy and in a way feel that its range of regional cheeses is een more diverse than that in France; yet France's commitment to cheese is so evident in the way the cheese course is handled in fine restaurants, and I can't honestly say that I see that to the same extent in Italy. It's a near dead-heat, and I honestly can't remember how I voted.

We're lucky in the US to see the better English cheeses, and I've been quite taken by the Neal's Yard cheeses that we can get here, although our overly cautious ban on fresh raw-milk cheeses is a problem. Just as in the UK, a long history of bland, commercial American cheeses is finally opening up a bit to a growing cadre of outstanding artisanal producers, the best of whom I feel can compete on even terms with Europe's best. But it will be a long time, I'm afraid, before we can start to say "American cheese" in the same breath as French or Italian without being a bit of a laughingstock.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Bill Hooper » Mon Sep 04, 2006 2:13 pm

Howie Hart wrote:What about Holland, Norway, Germany, Canada.....? I've had some great cheese from Quebec.



I love cheese from Germany& BeNeLux, but as much as it pains me, probably wouldn't pick them as my favorite. I've devoloped a quite unhealthy addiction to Appenzeller, which is why I chose Schweiz. -Even though I echo others belief in France's unparelleled commitment to cheese. Then again...


Prost!
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Hoke » Mon Sep 04, 2006 4:02 pm

But it will be a long time, I'm afraid, before we can start to say "American cheese" in the same breath as French or Italian without being a bit of a laughingstock.


Now there we'll have to disagree, Robin. I think American artisanal cheesemaking is far more advanced than you. Sure, sure, part of it is that I live in Sonoma, which is a big artisanal cheese producing area, as well as being a focus point for artisanal foods from anywhere and everywhere. But it is now possible to get many (most) of those artisanal cheeses from all over the country now, even in the smaller burgs...and when you dispense with the chauvinism of cheese, you have to give kudos for quality to many of the American cheeses being produced now.

And I'm most certainly not focusing on simply the California cheeses (as easy as that would be), but extolling the virtues of cheeses from Vermont, Wisconsin (no, not those Kaukauna 'cheese food' abominations, but the things like Roth Kaese that are every bit as superb as some of the finest European cheeses), Colorado, Washington state, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia (yes, Georgia, state of, believe it or not).

If you were to tune into what's happening in the artisanal cheeses in this country, and to the increasing ease of availability, as well as the willing and eager acceptance of these cheeses by the common folk, I think you'd change your mind.

Case in point: a couple of years ago at one of our company meetings in Sonoma we had guests from France and Italy. I spent a goodly amount of time on afternoon narrating the local artisanal foods, including the cheeses. The guests were so interested I went out that afternoon to a local small grocery store and picked up several different locally made cheeses. There was the Vella Dry Jack, some Cowgirl, Point Reyes Blue, Humboldt Fog, some Fiscalini Farms Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, and a couple more.

The French and the Italians were astounded, absolutely amazed, at the quality and style of the cheeses, and they polished them off quite handily. Since then I've had to give them lists of the different cheeses, and one of the Frenchmen gets regular supplies of one of his favorites (the Vella).

Plus, it's more and more common (thank goodness) to find cheese courses and good cheese selections in the restaurants in America these days.

No, it isn't quite like Europe---but then, it isn't Europe, so it shouldn't be---but it's far from being a laughingstock. Very far.

You need to sample some more American cheeses, my friend. :)
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Otto » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:02 pm

I voted with my heart, not my head: Spain. Why Spain? We recently got some interesting Spanish cheeses here (like Garrotxa, yum!). Tomorrow I'll be sure to answer differently. I think all these countries make some superb cheeses and usually have an immense array of styles. Thank God for them all.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:04 pm

Hoke wrote:Now there we'll have to disagree, Robin. I think American artisanal cheesemaking is far more advanced than you.


Hoke, I think we're on completely different wavelengths here, but more important, I don't think you read what I wrote. At the risk of repetition:

In the previous post, Robin wrote:Just as in the UK, a long history of bland, commercial American cheeses is finally opening up a bit to a growing cadre of outstanding artisanal producers, the best of whom I feel can compete on even terms with Europe's best.


I suspect you and I are in complete agreement on this, although I'd add Indiana's Capriole and Kenny Mattingly's cheeses in Kentucky, and the Trappist monastery at Gethsemane, too, in evidence that you don't have to go to the coasts and get it.

But that's a far cry from saying that cheese in the US is like cheese in France or Italy or even the UK. Yes, our best cheeses are every bit as good as theirs and will stand in competition with their best. But on a percentage, per capita or sales basis? Kraft General Foods is to artisanal cheese as Anheuser-Bush is to artisanal beer. I'm absolutely delighted that we can get great local cheeses now. It was much harder to do that 20 years or even 10 years ago (although we did have Gethsemane).

But you're arguing against a point that I didn't make. I SAID our artisanal cheeses are fine. But I also said that here they are only a niche industry serving a niche market. And on that basis, I don't see how anyone could do anything but laugh at the assertion that our cheeses - <i>taken as a whole</i> - can be compared with France or Italy. The UK? Maybe. :)
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby DebA » Mon Sep 04, 2006 5:57 pm

Bill Hooper wrote:The best thing about Cheese, as in wine, is the wonderful world of diversity. But if pressed, which is your favorite?


My heart leads my palate in these matters and Italy has got it all for me. France definitely has given us some beauties; Brillat Savarin and Brie are two fine examples that tickle my cravings. For me though, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a robust, aged hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like syrah or zinfandel...heavenly! :cool:
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Ian Sutton » Mon Sep 04, 2006 6:05 pm

Deborah Ackerman wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:The best thing about Cheese, as in wine, is the wonderful world of diversity. But if pressed, which is your favorite?


My heart leads my palate in these matters and Italy has got it all for me. France definitely has given us some beauties; Brillat Savarin and Brie are two fine examples that tickle my cravings. For me though, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a robust, aged hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like syrah or zinfandel...heavenly! :cool:

Until I'd tasted it, I'd never thought of matching P-R with wine, yet it can make a stunning combination. I love the way good Italian wine bars have a cheese menu, where in effect you make up your own cheese board, match to the wine you have or just go for the biggest wedge of what you like.

To the P-R praises I'll also add true mozzarella di bufulo, which has a mouthfilling creaminess that's unmatched. Incidentally, have others here tasted smoked buffalo mozzarella? Not scomorza the harder cheese often described as smoked mozzarella, but one that retains the moistness of mozzarella with a light smoking. Stumbled across it in Italy and was blown away by it.

regards

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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby JoePerry » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:30 pm

I've never had a bad Spanish cheese.

Forget TCA, about 25% of French Cheeses are either unimpressive or outright nasty.

Italian cheeses are almost as unpredictable with lots of inspidness floating around.

There's really no contest in my mind...
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Larry Greenly » Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:01 pm

Personally, Robin, I think you're more advanced than American artisanal cheesemaking and I don't mind telling people.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby TimMc » Mon Sep 04, 2006 8:55 pm

I went with Spain mainly because I love sheep's cheese, but a strong argument could be made for any of the above, IMHO.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby DebA » Mon Sep 04, 2006 9:30 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:
Deborah Ackerman wrote:
Bill Hooper wrote:The best thing about Cheese, as in wine, is the wonderful world of diversity. But if pressed, which is your favorite?


My heart leads my palate in these matters and Italy has got it all for me. France definitely has given us some beauties; Brillat Savarin and Brie are two fine examples that tickle my cravings. For me though, there is nothing quite as satisfying as a robust, aged hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a glass of gewürztraminer or a rich, fruity red like syrah or zinfandel...heavenly! :cool:

Until I'd tasted it, I'd never thought of matching P-R with wine, yet it can make a stunning combination. I love the way good Italian wine bars have a cheese menu, where in effect you make up your own cheese board, match to the wine you have or just go for the biggest wedge of what you like.

To the P-R praises I'll also add true mozzarella di bufulo, which has a mouthfilling creaminess that's unmatched. Incidentally, have others here tasted smoked buffalo mozzarella? Not scomorza the harder cheese often described as smoked mozzarella, but one that retains the moistness of mozzarella with a light smoking. Stumbled across it in Italy and was blown away by it.

regards

Ian


-------------------------------
I haven't tried the smoked mozzarella you refer to, Ian, but I've made a mental note to; it sounds incredible. As for your comments on a true mozzarella di bufalo...a resounding YES! Excellent choice! :cool:
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Hoke » Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:58 am

Oh, I suspect we are closer to agreement than appears, Robin.

I thought you were right on with all your comments (which I did read, by the way---even went through from the start and re-read to be sure). You were doing great! Then I read the jarring line about the laughingstock and figured you'd taken a u-turn somewhere along the way.

And by the way, I wholeheartedly agree that the Indiana Capriole and the Gethsemane cheeses belong in the lineup. I'd like to be able to add the cheese from Mattingly, but I've not had that. Yet, anyway.


Is America as far advanced in cheesosity as France, Italy, or Spain? Heck no. But American cheeses are by no means laughingstocks.

And I might remind you: it's just as easy to get that Cheese in a Can stuff in France, and Holland, as in America. I know that for a fact. Don't ask me how, I just know. :lol:

But you're right. I wasn't comparing the entirety of cheeses between one country and another. I was just reacting to you deciding that American cheeses were a laughingstock. I thought that was overstatement, and incorrect at that.

What the hell, let's decide this over a slice of Cowgirl Creamery Pierce's Point.
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Sep 05, 2006 2:05 am

Even if pressed, I can't answer this one. I'd give Italy the vote for Parmigiano alone, but then I start thinking about some of the great French cheeses, some of the Spanish stuff, American cheeses... I just can't go with a single country. When we buy cheese, we almost always buy more American than anything else. But then you look at the history and culture in France and Italy, you look at how good an aged gouda can be, and how do you vote against a really good manchego?

No can answer.


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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Hoke » Tue Sep 05, 2006 1:03 pm

Mike Filigenzi (Sacto) wrote:Even if pressed, I can't answer this one. I'd give Italy the vote for Parmigiano alone, but then I start thinking about some of the great French cheeses, some of the Spanish stuff, American cheeses... I just can't go with a single country. When we buy cheese, we almost always buy more American than anything else. But then you look at the history and culture in France and Italy, you look at how good an aged gouda can be, and how do you vote against a really good manchego?

No can answer.


Mike


You've eloquently echoed my own sentiments, Mike.

When I go out to buy cheese...or, as so often happens, when I linger next to the cheese section long enough to have no resistance left whatsoever...I don't think "What country shall I buy?"

I gaze fondly at everything available, wish I could eat all of it, and start narrowing my choice down to a few that most appeal to me at that moment. Then, usually, my wife steps in and narrows it down even more, darnit.

It's seldom I go out to buy "French" cheese, or "Dutch", or "Spanish". Now, I do go out to get Edam, or Gouda, or Cambozola, or Roquefort, or Manchego, or Point Reyes, or Parmigiano Reggiano, or Neal's Yard---in short, I look for a particular type or a particular favorite producer, or a style ("Hmm. What would be a good goat cheese to try? Or sheep? What's Cowgirl got out this month? Any Drunken Goat in stock? What would go well after the main course tonight...maybe a hard, a brie-style and a goat trio?) But I almost never go out looking for cheese from one country---unless perhaps the theme for the night might be the produce of one country.

Why limit yourself to one world, when so many exist and are immediately available?
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Re: Best Country for Cheese

Postby Dave Erickson » Wed Sep 06, 2006 1:49 pm

My head and heart are in agreement on this one: For sheer variety and quality, France is the cheese center of the world. Besides, was it not the French who invented the cheese course? I'll have a big ol' gloppy piece of that Epoisses, please... :D
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