Specialty cheeses add value to the menu and money to the bottom line.
| Above are several Wisconsin specialty cheeses, including Cave-Aged Cheddar, Aged Gouda and Applewood Smoked Gouda. |
Today's savvy diners are looking for more variety and robust flavor in their meals. One way to deliver both is by menuing specialty cheeses. Whether offered as ingredients in salads, sandwiches, ethnic dishes or as European-style courses, specialty cheeses offer plenty of opportunities to boost the perceived value of your offerings.
Check with specialty distributors to see what's available, and don't forget to “romance” these ingredients on your menu descriptions.
Here's a “quick course” on some of the most common cheeses in this category. You can also find more information on the websites listed below.
Danablu (Danish blue cheese):This white-yellowish cheese has blue veins and a sharp, distinctive flavor.
Danbo: Light yellow with regular round holes and a firm texture, it varies in taste from mild to spicy, depending on how long it's aged. Danbo is also available with caraway seeds.
Cheddar: Many gourmet Cheddars are available, most are aged to particular specifications. Cheddar is a cow's milk cheese ranging in color from white to pale yellow (it can have an orangish tint if color has been added.) It is slightly crumbly in texture and has a flavor that sharpens with age.
Cheshire: Firm in texture and crumbly, Chestire is rich, mellow and slightly salty. Flavor sharpens with age.
Double Gloucester: This hard cheese is creamy yellow in color and has a mild, rich flavor and smooth texture.
Leicester: This hard cheese is rich and mild with a flaky texture and deep orange color.
Stilton: A blue-mold cheese, it has a rich, mellow flavor and piquant aftertaste and is a good salad topping.
Brie: Characterized by an edible, white rind and a creamy, buttery-soft interior that “oozes” at peak ripeness, Brie should be served at room temperature.
Camembert: Like Brie, this cheese is soft and creamy with an edible crust.
Chevres: This goat's milk cheese has a tart flavor and textures ranging from soft and firm to very hard.These cheeses come in round patties, log and drum shapes, pyramids and long and round loaves, and are often served as dessert cheeses.
Mimolette: Semi-hard cow's milk cheese with an orange rind and interior, Mimolette has a firm texture and mild flavor.
Roquefort: This blue-mold cheese has a sharp, peppery distinct flavor.
Limburger: Known for its pungent odor, Limburger is a strong, softripened cheese.
Tilsit: A natural hard cheese, Tilsit has tiny holes and a firm texture. It is a good sandwich cheese.
Feta: A sheep's milk cheese, Feta is white and crumbly with a strong, slightly acidic flavor. Though considered an eating cheese, Feta is often used as a salad topping.
Kasseri: Made from sheep's or goat's milk, this pale yellow cheese has a mild buttery flavor and springy texture.
Edam: A semisoft to hard natural cheese with a taste that's similar to Gouda, but drier in texture and less creamy.
Gouda: Pale yellow, slightly sweet and nutty, Gouda is suitable as a table cheese and dessert cheese.
Leyden: Part skim and laced with caraway or cumin seeds, Leyden is semisoft to hard with a bland flavor.
Smoked Gouda: This sausageshaped cheese is smoked in brick ovens or over smoldering hickory chip embers. It has a creamy, yellowish interior and an edible brown rind.
Asiago: A hard cow's milk cheese with a fruity, slightly sharp flavor, it is compact with a grainy interior full of small holes.
Fontina Val d'Aosta: Named afterits Italian-valley home, Fontina has a pale yellow interior and a brown rind. A smooth and delicate cow's milk cheese, it has a mild, nutty flavor and melts easily.
Gorgonzola: Made from cow's milk, this soft table cheese has a rough, hard exterior with a reddish crust. The interior is firm but mellow and streaked with bluish-green veins. Tastes range from mild to sharp, depending on age. Gorgonzola pairs well with fruits including apples, pears, and peaches and is a good accompaniment to salads.
Grana: A hard grating cheese made from cow's milk, it is aged up to four years and has a “melt-inyour-mouth” texture—similar to Parmesan.
Mascarpone: Velvety smooth, this cheese is often sweetened with sugar and used as a pastry filling.
Ragusano: made from unpasteurized cow's milk, this hard cheese is salted prior to an aging period of six months. During this time, it is regularly rubbed with a mixture of oil and vinegar, creating a strong, savory flavor. Ricotta: White, creamy, mild Ricotta is made from whey collected from other cheeses and re-cooked.
Taleggio: Buttery and semi-soft with a supple, fruity taste, it is an excellent dessert cheese.
II Boschetto al Tartufo: This mild, semi-soft, flavorful cheese is made from a blend of sheep's and cow's milk and studded with white truffles.
Asadero: A semi-soft, sweet, creamy cheese carrying a yellow tint, it melts without separating and is excellent for slicing.
Cotija: The most popular of Mexican cheeses is dry, hard and crumbly with a strong, sharp taste. It is touted as the “Parmesan of Mexico.”
Queso Fresco: Meaning “fresh cheese,” it is a semi-soft, finegrained sweet cheese.
Queso Quesadilla: A creamy white cheese that melts without separating.
Queso Para Freir: A fresh, salty cheese ideal for frying, it typically is used in Caribbean cuisine.
Burgos: This slightly salty, fresh sheep's milk cheese is milky white and highly perishable.
Cabrales: A creamy blue-veined hard cheese, Cabrales is made from raw cow's milk or a blend of cow's, sheep's and goat's milk.
Iberico: Made from a blend of cow's, sheep and goat's milk, it has a mild flavor and is ideal for grating and melting.
Idiazabal: A hard, salty, spicy cheese made from sheep's milk, it has a strong, pungent aroma and slightly nutty flavor. It is sometimes available smoked.
Mahon: It features a distinctive orange-colored rind that's been rubbed with olive oil and paprika. This semi-soft cheese made from cow's milk has a creamy flavor that varies from nutty to sharp, with a texture similar to Parmesan.
Majorero: This slightly salty goat's milk cheese has a springy texture and fresh aroma.
Manchego: Made from pasteurized sheep's milk, it melts easily and has a rich, tangy taste and firm, slightly grainy texture. It is available semi-ripened, ripe and aged.
Tetilla: A semi-soft cow's milk cheese with a mild, tangy flavor.
Valdeon: A high-fat, strong blue cheese, it is usually made from cow's milk but sometimes is produced using a blend of cow's and goat's milk. Use sparingly.
Zamorano: Similar to Manchego but drier, it has a nutty, slightly sharp and salty flavor. It is ideal for grating.
Appenzeller: Similar to Emmentalbut with fewer, smaller holes, it has a unique sharp flavor.
Emmental: Commonly called “Swiss Cheese,” it is characterized by a nutty flavor and large holes. Swiss works well for sandwiches and salads and has good melting properties.
Gruyere: A hard cheese similar to Emmental but with smaller holes, it has a chewy texture and good melting properties.
Raclette: A hard cheese with subtle flavor and firm texture, it has a pale yellow interior and inedible crust.
For more information on specialty cheeses, check out: