Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cheese Please

Cheese platter at Hutchmoot
Photo by Mark Geil
We like cheese. I wouldn't call us connoisseurs, but we do like good cheese. Real cheese. My children have been known to get excited about grilled cheese sandwiches at friends' homes only to push them away when received because of they were made with American cheese or processed. I've apologized for this, and we're working on their response to undesired foods. I won't apologize for their taste.

When we got to Guadalajara, we realized very quickly that we were going to have to learn new cheeses. This was exciting, but was also daunting, particularly when one is used to using particular cheeses in certain recipes and suddenly one has to scramble to find it or an equivalent. We did break down and get a Costco membership, partly because at Costco we can get the cheddar and Monterey Jack we're used to, not to mention we have access to good Parmesan and gouda if we really need them.

As for the cheeses we've found here my primary impression is that most of them are--well--bland. Not bad. Just, well, they're all kind of the same. Please note that I have only been here for three months, so my learning is still in its infancy. My impressions are still first impressions. And Kraig and I lean toward strong cheese. The sharper the cheddar the better. Asiago and Romano? Sure--we'll take them over Parmesan. We've even ventured into the realm of limburger, much to our children's dismay.

Of course, we've tried various cheeses here. When Kraig and I visited in June we tried a local cheddar, and while I had to break down and get some last week because Costco was completely out, we've given up really calling it "cheddar." It just isn't. After that we tried out Manchego which turned out to be a good substitute for Monterey Jack. But Monterey Jack isn't known for its pizazz in the first place. On one of our first outings we stumbled upon a sampler cheese plate and so discovered Panela and Adoberra. Adoberra, from what I can gather, is good for quesadillas and has a little bite. Unfortunately, more often then not I've managed to get it when it's on the edge. While we like sharp cheese, we don't like edgy cheese.... I need to find better places to buy it, I suppose.

Panela is very white and bland. I picked up a block of it because I'd mixed it up with one of the other cheeses that melts well, only to discover that panela does not melt. At. All. It grates well, and one often sees it on top of dishes like chilaquiles. It has its advantages, I guess. But I haven't quite seen the purpose of a cheese that doesn't melt, and I can't help but wonder why it doesn't....

Oaxaca (pronounced wah-há-kah) does melt. It is very like mozzarella in flavor, but could also work beautifully as a base for a cheese fondue, and is often served completely melted and hot as a dip for grilled meats. I do like this one. Stretchy, melted, bubbly cheese has a sweet spot in my soul. One of the ways they serve it here is in a molcajete which is a basalt mortar that the food is cooked in and then served in. I've had it with some rich meaty stew, but we also had it once full of melted oaxaca with sausage and mushrooms.... Okay, that one is drool-worthy.

I still need to sample more. I probably should have waited on this post till I was more informed. I still need to check out queso fresco and Chihuahua (like the dog...and the place). I am sure there are other ones I haven't discovered yet as well. I will try them, and find out where they taste best, and you can believe that we'll eat them.

But Costco had better have cheddar back in stock this week. And this time, I'm going to pay for the sharp.

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