In 2021, Tom and I decided to do a “12 Hot Chocolates of Christmas” to uncover the best hot chocolate recipe. We had so much fun trying the different recipes, rating them and finally settling on our favorite. This year, I happened to be in a Mariano’s when I saw a cheese advent calendar. What a brilliant idea! But the price was exorbitant for what you got. If I curated our own tasting, we could skip blue cheese, which is gross, and I could control the size of bricks.
I started by crowdsourcing opinions from my socials. My friends who had lived abroad had strong opinions about a wide variety of French cheeses. Others were on a different part of their cheese journey and suggested more everyday cheeses that we had already tried. After a bit of effort trying to track down all the special cheeses people recommended, I headed to our local Caputo’s, which has a lovely cheese selection. I picked up a handful there and we started our tasting. From there, I found a flight selection at Costco, which had all cheeses we had never tasted. Before I knew it, we had a bonafide cheese drawer in our fridge and there was a cheese adventure afoot.
When all was said and done, we had actually tried fourteen different cheeses. We liked most of them. We loved a few and really disliked only two of them.
Just want the straight list of what we tried without the notes and funny business? Here you go:
- Wooly Wooly Mitica (Spreadable Sheep’s Milk Cheese)
- Honey Bee Goat Cheese
- Artikaas hey There Gouda with Truffle
- Truffle Trove by Snowdonia Cheese Company
- Fair Oaks Farms Smoked Sweet Swiss
- Juusto with Garlic Baked Cheese (AKA bread cheese)
- Kindred Creamery Sweet Fire Mango Jack Cheese (purchased at Caputo’s)
- Ivy’s Reserve English Cheddar
- Brugge Comtesse
- Cello Sweet Tomato Fontal
- Bustil Il Tartufo Pecorina Toscano
- El Pastor Honey Chevre
- Kourellas Kasserl Cheese
- Spanish Cheese Plate (Tapas de Queso) (Iberico, Manchego, Queso de Cabra).
A more detailed description from the producers as well as our 2 cents on each cheese.
Wooly Wooly Mitica (Spreadable Sheep’s Milk Cheese)
Wooly Wooly is a soft and spreadable sheep’s milk cheese log from Jumilla, Spain. The texture is similar to cream cheese, but even fluffier. Mitica recommends crumbling it over salads, stuffing it into pasta, mixing it into eggs or just having it on toast.
We loved every single bite of it and would definitely have it again. The texture was indeed like cream cheese, but the herbs set it apart.
(Purchased at Caputo’s)
Honey Bee Goat Cheese
Made with a drizzle of honey added to pure goat milk for a cashew-like nutty sweetness. Slightly sweet, full of flavor, yet not strong or salty.
Honey Bee was epic awesome— a must have on hand FOUR COWS kinda awesome. We loved it plain. We loved it on a cracker. We loved it with a slice of salami. YUM. Thank you to whoever recommended it (Camille Hill I believe!)
(Purchased at Caputo’s)
Artikaas hey There Gouda with Truffle
According to Artikaas, trained dogs are used to find the naturally grown Italian black summer truffles that give this Gouda its distinctive woodsy aroma and deep notes of earthy wild mushrooms. The precious truffles are generously sprinkled in to infuse the Gouda with umami goodness
This one was really good. We ended up with two truffled cheeses in this sitting and this was by far the better one. The gouda was soft and mild and the truffles were not overwhelming. We would definitely have it again, but probably only for a special occasion as part of a charcuterie board (Purchased at Jewel)
Truffle Trove by Snowdonia Cheese Company
Taste-tested and graded by the Snowdonia Cheese experts and enrobed in pure white wax, this extra aged Cheddar has a distinctive, earthy aroma and perfectly balanced flavor. Milder than the winter variety, the Italian Black Summer truffle presents undertones of wild mushroom and hazelnut, leading to notes of garlic.
This cheese was crazy strong. The extra mature cheddar alone was strong and harsh, but the truffle was overwhelming and very pungent. I gave the brick to a friend. (Purchased at Costco).
Fair Oaks Farms Smoked Sweet Swiss
Fair Oaks Farms Hickory-Smoked Sweet Swiss is their Master Cheesemaker’s own variety. This cheese is hardwood smoked to give this swiss its unique, rich flavor. Great with nearly anything you can think of, but it is certainly a great companion to barbecue and makes a great cheeseburger.
This smoked Swiss was really good, but not as strong a smokey flavor as smoked Gouda usually is. If we saw it in the store we would pick it up. Yum! Really kinda wished we had tried it on a burger as the tasting notes recommended.
Juusto with Garlic Baked Cheese (AKA bread cheese)
Juusto is a buttery-flavored, flat and squeaky cheese made in Scandinavia for over 200 years, called “Juustoleipa” or “Ostbrod”, meaning “bread cheese”. Pasture Pride Cheese from Cashton, Wisconsin bakes each piece to create a sweet caramelized, toasted crust similar to brown bread.
We gave this one three cows! Who knew that you could buy a brick of cheese and melt it in the oven and scoop it up with a cracker. We would definitely have this one again, but it is VERY salty and best in small quantities.
Kindred Creamery Sweet Fire Mango Jack Cheese (purchased at Caputo’s)
Sweet Fire Mango Jack is a slightly sweet and fruity cheese, spiced with ghost peppers.
Note to self— read the package where it says ghost pepper…This is the only cheese that we flat out rejected. It was way too spicy for us to enjoy. We gave the remainder of the brick to a friend. (Purchased at Caputo’s)
Ivy’s Reserve English Cheddar
Their Cheddar is the best of the best, the cheese that their grandmother Ivy kept back for her own table. Still made to the recipe she perfected almost a century ago, it’s specially selected and aged for up to 18 months under wood until it takes on a very particular creaminess, complexity of flavor and nutty, rounded finish.
This was a nice classic cheddar. While I feel like I am insulting this family’s grandmother, it was tasty, but nothing extraordinary…sorry Grandma Ivy! (Purchased as part of a flight of cheese at Costco)
Brugge Comtesse is the Grande Dame in the range of Brugge Cheeses. With its creamy texture, ivory coloured center and fruity aroma it keeps on surprising. Comtesse has a generous, multi-faceted flavor with notes of roasted hazelnut, vanilla and summer fruit. It goes extremely well with an aperitif, but also in a sandwich or fresh salad. It also combines particularly well with sun-ripened figs, slightly sweet chutneys and earthy root vegetables. The possibilities are endless.
I had no notes written about this one, so I decided to check the tasting notes from the producer to see if it spurred any memories. It did not, which makes me want to go back and try it again. (Purchased as part of a flight of cheese at Costco)
Cello Sweet Tomato Fontal
Cello Fontal Cheese features a smooth, creamy texture and mild, slightly sweet flavor. This wonderfully buttery table cheese melts flawlessly, making it the best cheesy companion for sandwiches, pasta fillings, and sauces. This soft and mild cheese makes it the best choice for spice rubs that are sure to give cheese lovers an entirely new and exciting flavor experience.
A creamy cow’s milk cheese hand-rubbed with sweet vine-ripened tomato and savory herbs, that add bright flavors to this mild, creamy cheese. Cello fontal cheese rubs are added during the 60-day aging process to develop the signature flavor and texture characteristics.
This one was completely new to us and we had no idea what to expect. It was sweet and smooth and so good. Would definitely have it again. (Purchased as part of a flight of cheese at Costco)
Bustil Il Tartufo Pecorina Toscano
Pecorino al Tartufo is an Italian, raw sheep’s milk cheese encrusted with small specks of white and black truffles from the area between Volterra and San Miniato. It is aged for thirty days and pairs well with salami and a good red wine.
Again, I didn’t intend to have three different cheeses with truffles on our list. I wasn’t paying close attention to what I had already bought. Of the three, this was the BEST. When I saw pecorino, I was expecting something similar to a Parmesan, but this was delightful. It was soft and the truffle was incredibly mild— just enough to add a hint of flavor, but not overwhelming like the first one we tried. We definitely recommend this one! (Purchased as part of a flight of cheese at Costco)
El Pastor Honey Chevre
El Pastor Honey Goat Cheese is made from the highest quality goat’s milk in the Zamora region of Spain. Drizzled with sweet honey, this firm, yet wonderfully smooth cheese makes a flavorful appetizer or a show-stopping addition to your cheese board.
We thought this was just going to be just another soft cheese similar to Wooley Wooley. We could not have been more wrong. It was incredible—one of our absolute favorites. Soft, smooth and subtle honey flavor. It was heavenly! (Purchased as part of a flight of cheese at Costco)
A week or so ago, Tom introduced me to a YouTuber he follows called The Wheezy Waiter. In one of the videos he talked about a bread recipe that he said would change our lives forever. He was not wrong…here is the recipe. I made it in the Dutch oven and used the Kitchenaide to knead the dough. It was the easiest bread I have ever made.
What does bread have to do with a post about cheese? Last night, Tom whipped up a small appetizer for us.
- Four slices of the peasant bread (2 large pieces cut in half)
- A bit of olive oil to coat both sides of the bread
- A bit of tomato sauce of your choice
- A bit of the honey chevre
Once assembled, toast them in a cast iron skillet for a few minutes.
The next morning, I made us open-faced breakfast sandwiches with the bread, some eggs, a bit of tomato sauce and sausage. Sprinkle a bit of the honey chevre and take a trip to HEAVEN!
Kourellas Kasserl Cheese
Kasseri is a traditional Greek-Turkish cheese made from unpasteurised sheep milk with no more than 20% goat milk mixed in. It is a springy-textured, stringy cheese belonging to the pasta filata family like Provolone or Muenster. The cheese needs to be matured for a minimum of four months to obtain the correct texture and flavor.
This white-crust cheese also competes against another famous Greek cheese, Feta. Kasseri is used as a substitute for mozzarella by many Americans and is preferred by connoisseurs who like full-flavored cheeses. A bite of Kasseri will enrich your palate with exciting salty flavors and a pungent odor. But interestingly, it soon leaves behind a sweet aftertaste because of the usage of sheep milk.
This is a harder cheese that is similar to the taste of a Paramesan, but not as strong. We had it twice— once on crackers and then once mixed into a Greek breakfast shakshuka. It is delicious both ways and does melt really well.
A quick look on Kouruella’s website uncovered some amazing looking cheeses. After loving this one so much, we will definitely keep an eye out for this brand.
(Purchased at Jewel…I think!)
Spanish Cheese Plate (Tapas de Queso) (Iberico, Manchego, Queso de Cabra).
Queso Iberico is a Spanish cheese made from a mixture of cow’s, sheep’s, and goat’s milk. The ratio of blend used in making this hard cheese is constantly altered according to seasonal availability.
The distinctive piquant taste of this white cheese ranges from nutty to fruity. This Manchego like cheese has a rich, buttery texture that goes well when served as a snack cheese, a grating cheese or a grilling cheese. The ageing time for this cheese varies from a couple of months to a year.
The Manchego cheese is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain, which is also home to Don Quixote. It is made from pasteurized sheep’s milk. It is one of the popular cheeses from Spain. Authentic Manchego is only made from the Manchego sheep’s milk.
We have been gigantic fans of Manchego since well before we went to Spain. Going to Spain just affirmed our love for it. I was curious about the other two cheeses in this tasting sampler. To our very inexperienced palates, they did not taste drastically different. But, like I said, we LOVE manchego, so they were good— just not earth shattering. (Purchased at Jewel.)