If you’ve met me, then you’ve almost certainly heard of the Infamous Cheese List; some very fortunate people have even seen this illustrious document. But, for those who don’t know the story, let me elaborate.
The first week I started college at Berkeley, I learned of the existence of a magical place, a place that dreams are made of, called the Cheeseboard. I had already established myself as a cheese freak in high school, so discovering that there was a place nearby overflowing with every type of cheese I could imagine was like winning the lottery. Except better.
From that first week on, I went to the Cheeseboard, unfailingly, every week determined to try every cheese they stocked. Looking back, it was likely that cheese, not alcohol, was solely responsible for those freshman 15. After a couple of months of weekly cheese orgies, I had completely lost track of what I had sampled and liked, and which I preferred not to buy. Thus, the decision was made to put a tracking system in place, and the infamous cheese list was born.
Since 2004, anytime I try a cheese that I absolutely love, or hate, I write it on the list. Cheeses that I'm mildly fond of, or simply enjoy, generally do not make the cut, leaving room for only those that I find really exceptional. And, since I never know where I’ll be when a life-changing cheese experience occurs, I have kept this list in my wallet at all times for these last six years.
Part of what makes it so special is that, although it has taken a bit of a beating and is essentially falling apart, I have never made a copy of the list; it’s a part of my life history, and is irreplaceable. While I've never wanted to create an electronic copy, I was recently hit with a thought: why keep this list all to myself? Why not share my gift of cheese with the world?
Therefore, I’ve decided to give the list its proper pedestal by providing it with a dedicated page on KelsEats. For some listings I’ve provided descriptions, while others just list the name and basic info. All of them are magically delicious. And, as I haven’t stopped expanding my cheese horizons, this list is by no means static or final; there are always new cheeses to add (please shoot me an email kelsey[at]kelseats.com if you have any suggestions!)
If sharing this list brings someone even 1/10th of the happiness it has brought me, then my mission is complete. Enjoy!
The Infamous Cheese List
**denotes my all-time favorite cheeses
Maroilles – French, semi-soft, washed-rind (orange), cow’s milk cheese. Very flavorful but not too aggressive. A nice introduction to orange, washed-rind cheeses.
Prima Donna – Dutch Gouda, semi-hard, cow’s milk cheese.
Vacherin Mont d’Or – French (or Swiss), soft, cow’s milk cheese. This is a seasonal cheese, only available for sale from September to May.
**Époisses – French, soft (can almost be runny), unpasteurized, washed-rind, cow’s milk cheese. Like most orange, washed-rind cheeses, époisses has an extremely pungent aroma and strong flavor. Not recommended for those that prefer mild cheeses.
Livarot – French, soft, washed-rind (orange), cow’s milk cheese. Like époisses, strong but not as strong.
Pont l’Évêque – French, soft, washed-rind (white), cow’s milk cheese. Relatively mild and creamy - very comparable to brie or Fromage d’Affinois.
Comté – French, semi-firm, unpasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Extremely common in France – eaten like Cheddar is eaten in the US.
Reblochon – French, soft, washed-rind (orange), cow’s milk cheese. Creamy, used in Tartiflette.
Brie de Meaux – French brie, soft, ripened, cow’s milk cheese.
Tomme Crayeuse – French, firm, raw cow’s milk cheese. While I discovered it at a farmer’s market in Lyon, Coi recently featured it on its tasting menu.
Tomme de Chardonnay – French, hard, cow’s milk cheese.
Urgélia – Spanish, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Semi-soft, creamy, somewhat sweet, not aggressive – like an interesting Havarti
Saint Nectaire – French, semi-soft, washed-rind (white), cow’s milk cheese.
Scimudin – Italian, semi-soft, cow’s milk cheese (used to be made with goat). Much like brie, but with a more subtle flavor, like Fromage d’Affinois.
Rolf Beeler Gruyère – Swiss, firm, cow’s milk cheese.
**Red Hawk (producer: Cowgirl Creamery) – Local (Marin), triple-cream, washed-rind (orange), cow’s milk cheese. Full flavor, strong but not too assertive. Pairs beautifully with Vouvray.
St. Marcellin - French, soft-ripened cow's milk cheese. As it ripens, it becomes so creamy and runny that it's usually sold packaged in a ceramic pots. Creamy, fatty, and the older it gets, the more intense and pungent it becomes.
**Rush Creek Reserve (producer: Uplands Cheese Co.) - American (Wisconsin) raw cow's milk cheese. Texturally it's so creamy and gooey that it could be eaten with a spoon. Made in the style of a Vacherin Mont d'Or but not as funky or pungent. Rich, balanced (not too assertive, not too mellow) flavor with a distinct smokey, bacon-y quality that distinguishes it from other cheeses.
**Noord Hollander: a deeply flavorful, orange-colored, unpasteurized cow's milk gouda from the Netherlands. Aged for 4 years, the long aging process gives this hard cheese its nutty, salty, butterscotch notes. Tiny crystals are formed in the body of this cheese, giving a slight crunch to its texture. Would pair well with the caramel flavors of an aged sherry, or with a bottle of Goose Island' Bourbon County Brand Stout.
Graskaas (producer: Beemster) - an orange-colored, young cow's milk Gouda from the Netherlands. Made with the milk produced by grazing on spring grass, Graskaas resembles a real, edible American cheese. Slightly sweet, semi-firm yet pliable in consistency, and is wonderfully melty making it perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches.
Harbison (producer: Jasper Hill Farms) – pasteurized cow’s milk cheese. Woodsy, full-flavored and pungent when ripe but not like an orange washed-rind. Creamy, gooey, often eaten with a spoon (by me). Similar to the Rush Creek Reserve. Basically, everything that's right in the world.
Blanc Bleu du Rizet – French, raw milk blue cheese (cow). I’ve only had this once, from a farmer’s market in Lyon.
Cashel Blue – Irish, semi-soft, blue cheese (cow’s milk). Notably creamy texture, medium-strength. Was served at Gary Danko.
Roquefort – French blue cheese (raw sheep's milk). One of the strongest blue cheeses.
Valdeon - Spanish blue cheese, made from either cow's milk, goat's milk, or a combination of the two. Valdeon is wrapped in either oak or maple leaves, and aged until it obtains just the right flavor and texture - a strong-flavored blue that is less salty, more barnyard-y, and creamier than a Roquefort.
Manchego – Spanish, firm, sheep’s milk cheese.
Moliterno Tartufato (Moliterno Black Truffle Pecorino) – Italian, firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese. Infused with truffle after it has been aged, so truffle appears as veins in the cheese and oozes out when cut.
**Istara – French, semi-hard, sheep’s milk cheese.
**Petit Bébris (Agour)/Tomme Brebis (as it's more commonly named) – French, semi-firm, raw sheep’s milk cheese. Creamy, not much of a bite like many sheep's milk cheese can have. Slightly sweet finish.
**Queso de la Serena - Spanish, semi-firm, raw sheep's milk cheese. Pretty hard to find, but you can get it at Bi-Rite Market (Dolores and 18th).
Basseri – California, semi-firm, sheep’s milk cheese.
**Clisson (aka Tome d'Aquitaine) – French, semi-soft, pasteurized, washed-rind (pale yellow/white from being washed in Muscadet and Sauternes), goat’s milk cheese.
Cabra al Romero – Spanish, dense, dry, goat’s milk cheese. The outside is coated in rosemary, and it has that goaty lemony flavor.
Pata Cabra (Queso Pata Cabra) – Spanish, firm, washed-rind, goat’s milk cheese.
**Chevrot – French, semi-soft, pasteurized, goat’s milk cheese. A very dependable goat – sure to be liked.
Leonora – Spanish, semi-soft, goat’s milk cheese. Rather creamy for a goat.
Picodon de Dieulefit – French, unpasteurized, goat’s milk cheese. There are 6 different varieties of “Picodon” cheeses, and this type is sold as both a young and mature varieties, which changes the flavor/texture.
**Besace du Berger – French, ash-covered, ripened, goat’s milk cheese. One of my all-time favorite goat cheeses. Comes in the form of a pyramid, is soft, slightly runny in the middle, very creamy, exceptionally well balanced (not too lemony or sharp).
**Selles sur Cher – French, ash-rind, goat’s milk cheese. One of my longtime favorite goat cheeses, it’s slightly salty and gets soft (but not runny) as it warms.
Cabricharme - Belgian, semi-soft, creamy, washed-rind, unpasteurized goat's milk. I recently tried it at Cyrus - pungent but not near as assertive as most orange washed-rinds. Strong but totally approachable.
**Acapella (producer: Andante) – Local (Petaluma). Soft-ripened goat's milk. Creamy, slight tang but nothing too intense.
Evalon (producer: Saxon Creamery/LaClare Farm) - American (Wisconsin) raw goat's milk cheese. A semi-soft, supple texture - not crumbly or chalky like a more aged goat's milk cheese. Slightly sweet, rounded flavor - not tangy at all, but slightly bites the sides of the tongue.
Tumalo Classico (producer: Tumalo Farms) - American (Oregon) aged goat's milk cheese (3-6 months). A semi-firm, gouda-esque texture - not too dry or chalky. Incredibly nutty with hints of brown butter.
Bonne Bouche - American (Vermont) ash rind, goat's milk cheese . Very similar to Selles Sur Cher, creamy, gooey around the rind, salty.
Campo de Montalban – Spanish, semi-firm, mixed milk cheese (cow, sheep, goat).
Robiola a due Latte – Italian, soft, mixed-milk cheese (cow and sheep).
Testun al Barolo – Italian, semi-firm, mixed-milk cheese (cow and sheep).
Robiola Rocchetta – Italian, semi-soft, mixed milk cheese (goat, cow, sheep). Similar to la Tur. Flavorful, smooth texture, softer around the edges, absolutely delicious.
**La Tur – Italian, semi-soft, pasteurized, mixed milk cheese (goat, cow, sheep). Possibly my favorite cheese of them all. There is a perfect balance between the flavors provided by the 3 different milks. Creamy, oozy around the edges. I’ve never run into someone who didn’t like it.
Affinato de Tuste – Italian, ???
Gran Gousie (supplier: Jean d’Alos) – French, ???
Tomme Avcriaz – French, ???