Gourmet Cheese From Around The World - Europe
Author: Chef George Krumov
When it comes to cheese, there are just a few things better in life than a gourmet cheese platter and a nice glass of wine. If you are looking for ideas what cheeses to use for your gourmet cheese platter, you have come to the right place. I have selected some very nice European cheeses, that are not exactly the mainstream but at the same time are not very difficult to find. Some grocery stores carry some of the cheeses from my selection, and for the rest I recommend checking a specialty store, or Middle Eastern or Italian store.
Lets start with Italy, because many of my favorite cheeses come from there:
Piave Vecchio - Piave is made only in the the Piave River Valley region of Belluno, Italy. It is known in North America as Piave Vecchio (Aged Piave). When it is aged, the flavor resembles that of young Parmesan. A nice feature of the Piave is that unlike the Parmesan, it has very thin skin. Piave can be grated on pastas, but its awesome taste can be best enjoyed in a cheese platter with a glass of full-bodied red wine.
Pecorino Crotonese - Pecorino Crotonese is a hard cheese made of sheep milk, with a very pleasant rustic flavor. It is an exceptional grating cheese, a nice substitution for Parmigiano Regiano, but can be enjoyed in a cheese platter as well.
Bocconcini - Bocconcini cheese is soft, unripened mozzarella cheese. It is sold in brine, in the form of little balls, from where the name comes. Bocconcini is very good for salads, vegetarian sandwiches and on original Italian pizzas instead of mozzarella. It can, also, be breaded in panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried for a nice appetizer.
Asiago - Asiago cheese is a wonderful Italian table cheese with a hard texture and sharp taste. It is very well regarded in North America and is widely used in Italian restaurants around the world. The name of this delicious cheese comes from the alpine town of Asiago.
Grana di Padano - Grana is one of the most popular cheeses in Italy and comes from the valley of Padana. Grana refers to its grainy texture. It is similar to Parmigiano Regiano cheese.
Another very interesting cheese-producing country is Bulgaria:
Bulgarian Sheep Milk Feta Cheese - It is arguably the best feta cheese in the world. I used to work in a Greek restaurant, whose Greek owners used to buy Bulgarian feta for caterings, because as they said it is the best.
Bulgarian Kashkaval - Kashkaval is a yellow cheese of delectable flavor, comparable to those of Asiago. Kashkaval can be made of sheep's or cow's milk, but the sheep's milk one is the most popular. It has sharp flavor and semi-hard texture and can be consumed as it is or melted on top of different foods.
Haloumi cheese - Haloumi cheese is a hard feta-like cheese originating from Cyprus, also produced in many Middle Eastern countries. Haloumi cheese is white cheese with very hard layered texture. It is very salty and resembles the taste of Pecorino Romano and mozzarella combined. It melts at higher temperature, which makes it perfect for grilling and frying. Haloumi can be fire-grilled until it gets nice grill marks and then served on top of a salad or in a sandwich with some roasted red peppers, grilled eggplant or other Mediterranean ingredients.
Manchego cheese - Manchego cheese is a sheep's milk cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain. Manchego is aged at least 3 months in natural caves, which contributes to its unique flavor. Manchego is a semi-hard cheese with a nice golden color and small air pockets. Its taste varies from mild to sharp, depending on how long it is aged. Although Manchego cheese is the most popular Spanish cheese around the world, it is still not easy to find outside of Europe, but if you want something really interesting for your cheese platter it is worth trying to find it.
And of course France:
Rocamadour - This soft goat cheese takes its name from the commune of Rocamadour in the department of Lot in France. Rocamadour is a cheese of controlled origin like several of the other cheeses from this article. It is a very young goat cheese suitable for spreading on a brown bread toast and enjoyed with a glass of red wine.