The Cheese Shop

Cleveland's Fromage Destination

Located in the Historic West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio, The Cheese Shop offers an impressive imported & domestic cheese selection.  We maintain our unique niche by offering more than 175 traditional & rare cheeses from all over the world as well as a diverse line of specialty items.

We take pride in excellent customer service & exceptional quality –we encourage you to sample cheeses before purchasing to guarantee satisfaction.  We cut your cheese to order ensuring freshness & allowing you to determine the size to fit your needs.

Protecting the Production of Cheese

Back to Cheese 201

The Beginning of Name Protection

The 15th century, as people were awaking from the slump of the Middle Ages, was a time when cheese production caught on & its rich history commenced.  It all starts with Roquefort, a cheese that can be traced to the first century where Pliny the Elder (23 AD – 79 AD) mentioned the beloved blue.        

Countries take the production of specific cheeses very seriously as they are seen as a reflection of integrity to their homeland.  These regulations govern not only the cheesemaking process (ingredients, methods, aging) but also dictate specific animal breeds, grazing areas, milk source, cheese composition including fat content, physical characteristics & specific attributes.  The following are the most common designations:

AOC:   Appellation d'origine contrôlée, French & Swiss 

DOP:   Denominazione di origine protetta, Italy 

DOC:   Denominazione di Origine Controllata, Italy  

DO:     Denominación de Origen, Spain

PDO:   Protected Designation of Origin, British/Europe

AOP:  Nomenclature of Protected Origin, Europe.  As AOC, for example, is governed on the national French level, the appearance of AOP is its equal on a European level.  Over the next few years, AOP will be the dominate label to look for to locate name-protected cheeses across Europe.   

 *It is important to note that cheese is not the only item that carries name-protection but also extends to wine & food, for example, Champagne & Puy lentils.    

The Beginnings of Cheese

Back to Cheese 201

The myriad cheeses displayed in our cheese cases signify thousands of years of discovery, technological advances, experimentation & finesse.  Some of the earliest cheeses still present today include Cantal & Roquefort, both which date back to the 1st century AD.

 From Accident to Aspiration

Various discoveries show that cheesemaking developed in different parts of the world with the most prehistoric signs found in ancient Sumerian & Mesopotamian cultures (7000 BC) & Egypt during the First Dynasty (ca. 3000-2800 BC).  Pinpointing the birth of cheese is impossible because it predates recorded history. 

Once people realized that animals could be milked, the concept of souring milk could not have been far behind.  Milk would have been stored in wood, pottery & leather containers—vessels difficult to keep clean.  Bacteria would have caused curds to form that then would have been separated from the whey resulting in a form of fresh cheese.  While this may have been cheese’s earliest form, its flavor would have been tart & acidic. 

One myth declares nomads in Central Asia used animal skins as saddlebags to carry milk.  At some point, the stomach of a calf was used, which contains the enzyme rennin—the coagulating agent for cheese.  When the travelers went to enjoy their quenching beverage they discovered it had become clumpy & hence cheese in its present-day state was “discovered.” 

By 800 BC references of cheese in literature began to appear (the Iliad & Odyssey, for example).  Over the ensuing centuries, cheese became more finessed as devices & techniques were created such as molds to shape wheels & pressing the curds to expel more whey.  Cheese began to pervade Greek & Roman literature & by 50 AD the first cheesemaking book was written by Columella, a Roman food writer.  

The Proliferation of Cheese

Throughout history, the detriment of invading armies, as one culture attempted to control another, often resulted in some form of amalgamation on both sides.  Warriors from distant lands would bring their traditions & practices to conquered people & sometimes vice versa—those conquered would introduce culture to their new “masters.”  Many of the things we know today were spread in this fashion & cheese is one of them.

Cheese Production

Back to Cheese 201

The appeal of cheese both captivates our palate & challenges our intellect.  Simple in nature yet seemingly complex in process, cheese intrigues (& sometimes intimidates) us with myriad flavors, textures, colors & aromas cultivated from just four basic ingredients: milk, culture, rennet & salt.  The manner in which these items work together to create the diverse realm of cheese can be easily understood by realizing that cheese production is simply “stages of controlled spoilage,” an apt description put forth by cheese guru Steve Jenkins.

Milk:  Cheese can be made from a variety of animal milk.  In the United States the most common are cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo, or an amalgamation of these milks.  Throughout the world, however, cheese is also made from camel, yak & reindeer milk.  The amount of milk yielded by different animals varies-for example, cows yield the most (about 20 to 50 quarts a day), followed by goats (3-4 quarts) & sheep (about 1 quart a day).     

Starter Culture: Often a unique recipe, starter culture remains active during the ripening/aging process & is one of the key components in a cheese’s flavor, appearance & aroma.  The starter culture (often containing a bacteria strain such as Streptococci or Lactobacilli, for example)  is also sometimes used to coagulate the milk by lowering the pH  (see below).

Coagulation:  There are two methods for coagulating milk and creating curd—Lactic Coagulated and Rennet Coagulated. Each of these methods use the starter culture to perform different tasks in the cheese-making process

Lactic Coagulated Cheese:  The bacteria in the starter culture begins feeding on the milk sugars, or lactose, and the by-product of this feeding process is lactic acid, which acidifies (drops the pH) the milk.  These increased levels of lactic acid coagulate the milk into curd. Cheeses made using lactic acid (or other acids like lemon juice or vinegar) will also use rennet to help firm up the curd—not create the curd.  Lactic acid coagulated cheeses, like chevre and bucheron, are often softer & moister.    

Rennet Coagulated Cheese:  Rennet contains the chief enzyme rennin, which, in rennet coagulated cheeses, is responsible for coagulation by reacting with the casein micelles in the milk. Almost all hard cheeses are rennet coagulated cheeses. Traditionally, rennet was only extracted from the fourth stomach of young ruminant animals, though today it is often commercially produced & can be microbial, vegetable or synthetic.

Cheese & Wine Pairings

Back to Cheese 201

On their own, cheese & wine each encompass a vast world of connoisseurs, societies & government-dictated standards as well as historical significance & flavor profiles that rely on diverse features & delicate subtleties.  Bring these two realms together & it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to understand what guidelines to follow to make sure you “do it right.”

 The first thing to do is: Take a deep breath & relax.  If you’re new to cheese or wine or both there are a few simple generalities to get you by.  As you learn & taste, you can become more specific & adventurous in your pairings.  It is important to know that taste can vary from person to person, so what is intensely salty & dry to someone can be pleasantly balanced to another.

 That doesn’t make it a free-for-all-there are certain taste guidelines that enhance or detract from the flavors of the wine & cheese.  This introduction gives you the foundations of taste to create a stress-free cheese & wine pairing.  When choosing a cheese to go with a wine or vice versa, start with these 6 elements:

 

  1. Texture: Compare & contrast the textures of the wine or cheese you wish to pair in terms of creaminess, body, dryness & crispness.
  2. Intensity: Young or aged cheeses pair well with young or aged wines, respectively.  
  3. Acidity: This is perhaps the most important, & tricky, component with pairings as both cheese & wine have levels of acidity that need to be taken into consideration. 
  4. Sweetness: Cheeses with sweet overtones, like an aged Gouda or fruited Stilton, need to be balanced with off-dry dessert wines. 
  5. Mold: Blue cheese molds negate the fruitiness of any wine but work wonderfully with ports, rich dessert wines & sparkling wines.
  6. Region: When in doubt, pair cheese & wine from the same region (though there are of course exceptions to this fall back plan.)

Building a Cheese Plate

Back to Cheese 201

A cheese plate can serve as a quick & satisfying meal or snack, a bountiful Hors d'œuvre, a savory introduction to a meal, or a tasteful after-dinner course.  Depending on its purpose, different cheese pairings accent various needs.  For example, a cheese board appetizer before dinner should maintain mild & light flavors—an introduction to the tastes to follow—while after-dinner cheeses can include notes of caramel, sweet, rich & buttery.      

  What we present in these cheese pairings are ideas & not rules.  However, like pairing cheese with wine, certain flavors react in a way that enhance or detract from each other.  And while any cheese you like is perfect for any kind of cheese board, developing a little bit of knowledge & understanding can elevate the flavor & enjoyment of all cheese!

Serving

 Three to five cheeses work well and won't overwhelm your palate or guests. Let cheese stand unwrapped at room temperature 30-45 minutes before serving. Provide each cheese with its own serving utensil. Allow a large enough serving plate so guests can comfortably maneuver all the cheeses.  

Depending on the occasion, there are a variety of options for cheese presentation:

1.       On a serving plate as whole wedges

2.     On a serving plate with each wedge started (slice or chunk pieces of each wedge)

3.      All cheeses cubed, chunked, sliced or shaved (depending on the cheese)

4.      Each guest presented their own plate with a 1 to 2 oz. slice of each cheese 

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes to prepare any cheese plate.  The great thing about building a cheese board is that it can be done in advance, loosely covered & refrigerated.  Just be sure to allow time for the cheeses to warm up before presenting.   

Cheese Pairings

Classic cheese tastings generally progress clockwise from mild to strong, light to heavy, etc…. This encourages the opportunity to compare & contrast during the initial sampling & prevents strong cheeses overwhelming the palate before a more delicate selection can be tasted.  From there, cheeses are enjoyed freely in any order.  The cheese pairing ideas offered here are listed in a suggested progression. 

Blue, Brie & Cheddar

The most classic of pairings, the flavors & textures these cheeses encompass flatter & enhance one another.  The blue adds visual interest &, through a range of piquancy, extols the flavor boundaries of cheese.  The cheddar’s tang balances the strength & sharpness of the blue & offers textural variation.  Rounding out the board with the brie’s creamy texture complements the blue & contrasts the cheddar’s crumbliness while mellowing the tang of both. 

Cheese Board #1: Appetizer

Camembert Supreme, France, cow’s milk: A smooth & subtly complex bloomy-rind cheese, it serves as a balancer between the two sharper flavors. 

Old Quebec 4 Year Cheddar, Canada, cow’s milk: A compatible cheddar, nicely sharp yet retaining a lovely cheddar flavor, it makes a great choice for any cheese board.  

Point Reyes Original Blue, California, raw cow’s milk: This cheese presents a crumbly & firm texture with a creamy mouth-feel that delivers a rich blue flavor.  

Cheese Board #2: Snack or Meal 

Mirabo Brie with Walnuts, Germany, cow’s milk: A mediator by bringing out the earthy notes of the blue & the cloth-bound cheddar.

Jasper Hill Farms, Vermont, raw cow’s milk: The cloth-bound rind evokes a natural earthiness in both flavor & appearance while its crumbliness & mildly sharp flavor also make it a perfect fit. 

Roquefort, France, raw sheep’s milk: A blue that highlights this earth-bound cheese board with robust flavors influenced by its aging in the famous caves of Combalou.

Cow, Goat & Sheep

This combination can go anywhere & really gives you the chance to explore different flavors.  You can choose cheeses from the same country or from different regions of the world.  But because flavors can vary so widely, don’t hesitate to taste a sample before choosing!

Cheese Board #3: Appetizer 

Pecorino Toscano, Italy, sheep’s milk: Young & mild with amazing buttery & complex flavors that open up at room temperature.  

Bucheron, Wisconsin, goat’s milk: The exquisite dual texture (creamy near the rind & crumbly towards the center) & log-shape make it a perfect cheese to present. 

Cantalet, France, cow’s milk: A firm texture, rustic natural rind & slightly sharp flavor provide just the right amount of sapor to pair with the goat without overpowering the milder sheep.

Cheese Board #4: Snack or Meal

Urgelia, Spain, cow’s milk: Semi-firm, mildly assertive with a paste punctuated with tiny eye-holes, this pick balances the assertive goat & sheep cheeses.

Garrotxa, Spain, goat’s milk: A firm cheese enveloped in an eye-catching natural rind, Garroxta brings looks, texture & flavor (tangy with a concentrated goatyness) to this board.

MitiBleu, Spain, sheep’s milk: A texture that’s filled with granular glory & satiny creaminess coupled with a piquant flavor, this cheese speaks loudly on any cheese board.

Alternative Cheese Boards

Cheese Board #5: Snack or Meal  

-A selection of washed-rind cheeses

Chimay, Belgium, cow’s milk: Thick, creamy texture with a complementing granular rind that imparts a pleasant yet biting flavor.

Taleggio, Italy, cow’s milk: Full-flavored, Italian-style brie with a meaty, farmyard-like flavor.

Munster, France, cow’s milk: Luxuriously supple texturally & very pronounced aroma with a milder flavor.

Cheese Board #6: After Dinner 

-A selection of aged cheeses

Piave Vecchio, Italy, cow’s milk, aged 14 months: A gem of the Italian aged cheeses, milder than Parmigiano Reggiano with a slightly creamier texture.

Beemster Classic, Holland, cow’s milk, aged 24 months: Filled with an array of flavors ranging from slightly sweet & nutty to rich with hints butterscotch.

Finally, choose cheeses that offer visual & textural interest.  Cahill Porter, Five Counties cheddar & DaVinci provide nice flavor while adding interest to your cheese plate.  If you think you have too much flavor going on, try Primo Sale, Toma Piemontese, or Rustico to tame your plate.  Accompany cheeses with bread, crackers, honey, fruit pastes, dried or fresh fruit, nuts or meats.  And always, freely ask your cheesemonger at The Cheese Shop questions regarding serving suggestions, presentation & pairings!

 

 

How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?
— Charles de Gaulle

Classic Seafood   |   Urban Herbs

©2007 - 2017 The Cheese Shop, All Rights Reserved