Robiola Tre Latti Cheese

Robiola Tre Latti – Italy

I picked up a wheel of Robiola Tre Latti at the Alex Farm Products Cheese store located in the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto (Ontario, Canada).

Robiola 3 Latti cheese

Robiola 3 Latti Cheese from Italy

This cheese is imported into Canada. It originates from the small town of Arona, in the province of Novara, in the Piedmont area of Northern Italy.

Province of Novara in Northern Italy

Province of Novara in Northern Italy

The small wheel of Robiola that I bought was produced by the Luigi Guffanti company. The company’s beginning dates back to 1876. They have an extensive line of cheese and they make several styles of Robiola. The term 3 Latti is Italian for three milks. This cheese is made from an equal mixture of cow’s milk, sheep’s milk and goat’s milk. There is a picture of three animals on the cheese’s label.

Robiola 3 Latti Cheese Label

Robiola 3 Latti Cheese Label

This sign was displayed at the Alex Farm Product’s cheese counter.

Robiola Cheese Sign

Robiola Cheese Sign

A Robiola cheese isn’t always made from three milks. It is often made from just cow’s milk, or goat’s milk, or the two combined. This particular Robiola takes the blending to the next level with the addition of sheep’s milk. It is a soft cheese produced in small wheels. In making this cheese the curds are hand ladled and allowed to drain naturally with no pressing. Robiola is a fresh style cheese aged as few as three days but up to three months. It ripens from the outside in. The Robiola Tre Latti cheese was wrapped in paper and had a very thin, almost non-existent rind.

I was surprised to find a  “fresh” cheese that was imported from so far away. The importers have a short window of time to get this cheese from the farm in Italy to the cheese counter in Toronto without spoilage.

This Robiola was very pale, with a buttery tinted rind and a very white paste (center).

Robiola 3 Latti Cheese from Italy

Robiola 3 Latti Cheese from Italy

What does Robila Tre Latti taste like? This is a mild cheese. It is very soft and spreadable. The equal mix of different milks is interesting. You can sense some characteristic of each milk as you taste. It carries a taste reminiscent of fresh milk.  I would say the goat milk was the dominant flavour followed by sheep with the cow’s milk along for the ride. To really appreciate this cheese I think you would need to have some taste experience with goat and sheep cheeses.

The sign at the cheese counter suggested that this cheese is earthy, mushroomy with a sour hint. I did not find it earthy or mushroomy. Those are flavors that are usually opposite fresh. The sour hint was definitely there mixed with some saltiness.

The flavor of the three milks blend together well into a delicate, mellow, easy going cheese with a smooth texture. This is a cheese to chillax with. This cheese should appeal to most palettes. It is more prone to calm than excite. This cheese is good for spreading on crackers and it would work well as a dessert cheese.

Bleu Benedictin – Made in Quebec Canada by Monks

Bleu Benedictin Cheese

Bleu Benedictin Cheese

I had the chance to try a nice Canadian blue cheese over the Christmas Holiday. I found Bleu Benedictin at my neighbourhood cheese shop, Goat Inc. in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada. Bleu Benedictin is made by the monks at Benedictine Abbey in Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec, Canada.

I have tried a few other cheeses made by the monks at the Benedictine Abbey.  See my posts on Mont St. Benoit cheese and Frere Jacques cheese for more information about the Abbey.

Bleu Benedictine is made from cow’s milk and is classified as a semi-soft blue cheese. It is fairly heavily veined with the Penicillium Roqueforti mold. This cheese is produced in 2 kilogram wheels and aged over 90 days.

What does Bleu Benedictin taste like? If you’ve tried one cow’s milk blue cheese cultured with Penicillium Roqueforti then you’ve tried them all. Well, that does not hold exactly true. Of course there are subtle differences, but my point is that there were no surprises with this cheese. It is milky, salty and has a “classic” blue cheese flavour.

The Bleu Benedictin cheese that I purchased was pretty firm. This is not a soft blue cheese like St. Agur. This blue cheese is not going to spread easily. I thought I would get clever and try slicing some for my cheese board. Bleu Benedictine does not slice well. It crumbled very easily and as hard as I tried, I could not end up with a decent slice. The good news is that I have discovered a wonderfully crumbly blue cheese. I would recommend it as a topping for salads or other situations were a beautiful crumbled cheese is desired.

Bleu Benedictin

Bleu Benedictin

I would consider this a solid blue cheese but not a stand out. My son, a blue cheese lover, gave it a thumbs up. Blue cheese lovers won’t be disappointed with this Canadian blue cheese.

Blue Haze and Memories of Algonquin Park

Blue Haze – Canada

Blue Haze Cheese

Blue Haze is a Canadian blue cheese with a little something special. I found this cheese at Whole Foods in Oakville.

This is a smoked blue cheese, made from cow’s milk, that is produced by the the monks at the Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac in Quebec. I’ve tried other cheeses made by the monks such as Frere Jacques and Mont St. Benoit. This one is my favorite so far.

Blue Haze is aged 10 weeks at the Abbaye then it is shipped to Provincial Fine Foods in Toronto. There it is packaged in Cryovac to set the curds and it is held for 4 weeks to firm. After that, it is transported to Hansen Farms in Cayuga, Ontario for smoking. The journey is worth it. The result is a smokey rind that transitions into a creamy salty and sweet center enhanced by the special tang and flavor of the blue veins. It all comes together so nicely.

When I try a cheese I savor the flavor and let my mind wander as my palette searches to interpret the texture and gracefully separate the mixture of subtle flavors. Strangely, while tasting the Blue Haze, I began thinking about camping and sitting by a camp fire. Slowly my mind drifted into fond memories of a Canoe trip that I had done last fall with friends through Algonquin Park. This is a little bizarre since although we had taken some cheese for snacking, we didn’t eat Blue Haze on the trip. Maybe it was the cheese and smoke combination that stirred something.

That’s the power of cheese. Sometimes when I eat a cheese it prompts a memory. Music does this for me too. I’ll hear a song and it will remind me of a place I visited, or a person I was with. Maybe that’s weird, but that’s me. None-the-less the Blue Haze cheese had me thinking about canoeing, camping and Algonquin Park.

Our Canoes for the Algonquin Park Trip

Portaging in Algonquin Park

Algonquin Park in the Fall view from my Campsite

However my mind works it does not matter, I enjoyed the cheese and I enjoyed the memories of Algonquin Park. On a cheese board, save this cheese for last. Its flavor will overpower the milder cheeses and the smokiness may linger.

When I consider the interesting flavor, the nice texture and the fond memories it spurred; the Blue Haze is on the favorites list for me.

Vacherine Mont D’Or – Like Brie with Balls

Vacherine Mont D'Or

When I came across this cheese at the The Cheese Boutique I was informed that the “season was over”. Season? What season? I only thought there were four seasons.

But having tried Vacherine Mont D’Or I now recognize five seasons. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall and Vacherine Mont D’Or cheese season.

This cheese is a gooder (if that is a real word). For me, it was another step up the ladder of cheese nirvana.

Vacherine Mont D’Or is only produced between August 15 and March 15, and sold between September 10 and May 10. In other words, it is a limited edition cheese and this was the last batch available from The Cheese Boutique until next year.

Vacherine Mont D’Or is a cow’s milk cheese. In 1981 it earned a classification as an AOC (Attestation of Origin) cheese. This cheese is produced in Switzerland and France in the Jura mountain region. While researching this cheese I discovered a lot of  confusion about whether this cheese is of Swiss Origin or French Origin. It ends up that it is both, due to shifting political borders in the area where the cheese is made. I found a great online article which explores that subject in depth at Practically Edible.

Vacherine Mont D’Or should be served at room temperature whereby it becomes very soft. It can be eaten like a fondue. It literately oozes out of the rind. I hope you can see that in the picture.

But let’s cut to the chase. What does Vacherine Mont D’Or taste like?

Oh boy, I fell in love with this one. It has a smell that does NO justice to the taste. In fact, the smell was unpleasant to me. It’s a stinker and it smells RIPE. I’m not talking about a fruity sweet and good ripe. Nope this one smells like it’s rotten, take it to the curb, ripe.

Trust me, don’t let the smell stop you. The flavor is amazing.  It is rich and smooth with a unique flavor very distant from the smell. This stuff was addicting. I ate some and it confused my palette. It smells bad, it tastes good, how can this be? Then I had to have some more, to figure it out. Then I had more, and more, and more. I didn’t want to stop.

The only thing I really figured out was that this is one fantastic cheese. This is a cheese that I would serve to guests to WOW them. They will balk at the smell and then I’ll get to watch their legs go weak as they try it. I think Vacherine Mont D’Or is a cheese that you will not forget.

Here is a point of comparison. If you’ve tried Brie then Vacherine Mont D’Or looks like Brie. It is gooey-er than Brie. It is stinkier than Brie. It is Brie’s big brother … on steriods. Vacherine Mont D’Or is Brie with balls.

Try this one next season if you get the chance.

Here is the official Vacherine Mont D’Or website.

Le Mamirolle – The Canadian Version

Le Mamirolle Cheese

I came across some Le Mamirolle cheese at a local Longos Supermarket.  This is a Canadian cheese that I have never tried before.

This cheese has an interesting history. The recipe for the cheese originated in the small village of Mamirolle France in 1935. Mamirolle is home of the French National Dairy School called the École Nationale d’industrie laitière.

Mamirolle France - Image from Wikipedia

The recipe was brought to Canada and in 1996 Eco Delices secured an exclusive license through the École Nationale d’industrie laitière to produce this cheese in Canada using the Le Mamirolle name.

Eco Delices is located in Plessisville, Quebec which is about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City.

Plessisville, Quebec - image from Google Maps

Le Mamirolle won the Selection Caseus award in 1999 in the category of artisan cheese.

This cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is a semi-soft cheese with an orange coloured rind.

What does Le Mamirolle taste like?

This cheese has a fairly strong smell that my kids did not find appealing. I can’t decide if it smells good or not. The paste (a fancy term for the cheese inside the rind) is mild, and somewhat rich. Beyond that, I find this cheese hard to describe.

I probably would hesitate to serve this cheese to guests because I think the smell might deter some people from trying it. This cheese was not a stand out for me.  I would classify it in the “runner up” category relative to some other cheeses that I’ve recently had the opportunity to try.

Who the heck is Saint Agur?

Saint Agur – France

Saint Agur Blue Cheese

Today our cheese adventure takes us to the Auvergne region of central France to discover Saint Agur Blue Cheese.

Auvergne Region in France

Auvergne Region in France – Image from Wiki

I found this cheese at the deli counter at Michael-Angelos Market. They have a cheese case where they will cut the cheeses from the wheel in the amount you request. This was cut from the wheel … well it’s not really a wheel because Saint Agur Blue Cheese comes formed in an octagonal shape and wrapped in foil.

Image showing the octagonal package of Saint Agur Blue Cheese

Saint Agur Blue Cheese Octagonal Form – Google Images

Saint Agur Blue Cheese was introduced in 1988 by the French Cheese Company Bongrain. When I first saw the name I assumed the cheese was named after some famous Saint in ancient history. I thought it would be interesting to find out who Saint Agur was and what notable accomplishment he must have achieved to have such a lovely cheese named in his honor.

The fact is, there is no Saint Agur and there never was. There isn’t even a town in France called Saint Agur. The name appears to be the result of a creative marketing department at Bongrain. I have to give them credit. The name is pretty swanky. And the cheese … well it is really good. Perhaps it will be a name that will live on for hundreds of years and someday will become a classic.

The cows milk for Saint Agur comes from the village of Beauzac in central France. The milk is pasteurized. This is a rich cheese with 60% butterfat which qualifies it as a double-cream cheese. The blue comes from the fungi penicillium roqueforti which is the same fungi used in Stilton, Cambozola and Roquefort.  The Saint Agur has a short aging time of 60 days. The foil wrap prevents the cheese from becoming more blue.

How does it taste?

I like blue cheese. When a I tried Cambozola it become my favorite blue, until now. Saint Agur might be the perfect blue for me. I find the Danish Blue cheese Rosenborg Castello a bit too salty. The Cambozola was nice, but it is very mild. I like a bit more blue flavor. Then along comes Saint Agur which is just right. It is a perfect balance of creamy and blue cheesy. It is buttery, like a triple-cream brie. It melts in your mouth and spreads smooth. It’s awesome.

The blue flavor I would classify as medium strong. If blue cheeses intimidate you then try Cambozola before stepping up to The Saint Agur.

I would suggest pairing it with any full bodied red wine, port or dessert wine.

Vive La France!
Vive La Saint Agur Blue Cheese!

Cream Cheese by President’s Choice

President's Choice Cream Cheese

I was reviewing some of my recent posts and developed a sense that my blog was beginning to drift into the unique, exotic and more expensive cheeses. Today’s post brings things back to center by exploring a food staple, at least in our home … Cream Cheese.  This is an affordable, and very versatile product.

Cream cheese is a soft white cheese with at least 33% milkfat and a moisture content of no more than 55%. Historical reference to cream cheese can be found going back to 1651 in France and 1754 in England. Cream cheese was first made in the United States in 1872 in New York City. In 1880 Philadelphia Cream Cheese was adopted as a brand name. It has been around a long time.

Cream cheese tastes good by itself. It is used as a spread on toast or bagels. It is a common ingredient in baking and cooking.

In Canada every Tim Horton’s offers a variety of flavoured cream cheeses to compliment their bagels.

Tim Horton's Bagel and Cream Cheese

Tim Horton's Cream Cheeses

Cream cheese is difficult to manufacture. Lactic acid bacteria are added to pasteurized and homogenized cow’s milk to catalyze a fermentation. At a critical point the milk begins to couagulate and the bacteria must be killed with temperature to maintain the cheese at the proper consistency. Guar and carob gums are added as stabilizers to prolong shelf life.

It’s not exotic, it’s not expensive, and it deserves attention simply because it is a delicious cheese.