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How to Shop for Cheese

Written by: Elizabeth McCabe

How to Shop for Cheese

The world of cheese, much like the world of wine, can be intimidating if you're unfamiliar with the territory. But the great thing about cheese is, at any reputable cheese shop you'll be able to sample most cheeses before you buy, giving you the opportunity to try new curds, on which you might not otherwise splurge. Another benefit to shopping at a cheese counter is that you can have a piece custom cut to however much or little you'd like, as opposed to having to buy a certain amount of the prepackaged variety.

Most cheeses can typically be categorized by their texture: soft, semi-firm, hard, and blue. When customers come to the counter and are looking to put together a cheese plate, we recommend choosing 3-5 cheeses with varying milks and textures to make the plate more interesting. Soft and semi-soft cheeses are usually aged one week to three months and include crumbly goat's milk cheeses and decadent, buttery triple cremes. A few of our favorites in the soft category include Delice de Bourgogne, a creamy, salty, and tangy cow's milk triple creme that you can spread on a baguette; Humboldt Fog, a two-textured goat's milk cheese that is light and lemony with a thin layer of vegetable ash in the center for a visually stunning centerpiece; and Taleggio, an earthy, mushroomy Italian icon that is just funky enough.

Semi-firm cheeses are typically aged a little longer than soft cheeses, but you don't have to work out your arm muscles to cut through them. Fontina, young Goudas, and Havarti are great examples of semi-firm cheeses and they are often great melting cheeses as well. For a cheese plate, we recommend Drunken Goat, a semi-firm goat's milk cheese that is bathed in red wine, giving it it's signature purple edible rind and slightly sweet, grape finish.

Hard cheeses can be aged for years and range in sharpness and complexity. A few of the Market's best sellers include Clothbound Cheddar, an earthy, complex cheese with fruity notes of caramel and brown butter and a drier, flakier texture than most block cheddars, Manchego 1 year, a grassy, sheep's milk Spanish classic with a signature basket weave rind, and Gouda Ewephoria, a sheep's milk aged gouda from Holland that has notes of butterscotch and caramel and little bits of crunchy crystallization.

People often have a love or hate relationship with blue cheese. For those that are new to the world of blue, we recommend Cambozola, a blue/brie hybrid that is a customer favorite. For true blue lovers, Buttermilk Blue is a classic, creamy choice or Point Reyes Blue made with sweet, fresh milk for a medium-to-strong punch of blue flavor.

Dress up your cheese plate with accompaniments like fresh fruit and berries, dried fruit, salty or sweet nuts, olives, chutney, honey, baguette, crackers, charcuterie, and, of course, wine! Stop by the Market cheese counter for a taste of any of the cheeses mentioned above!

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