The Cheese Quest
Of Unknown Repast
title with apologies to HP Lovecraft
I am on a quest. This is an ongoing quest – I may never complete it and, should I pass from this plane before doing so, I would not be too disappointed. However, I believe that I would in some small measure feel as though I had accomplished something, should I in fact finish this quest.
Sad, isn’t it?
The quest is this: To find and consume each type of cheese mentioned in Monty Python’s Cheese Shop Sketch. This is not some crazy “I idolize Monty Python and want to do somthing crazy like eat all the cheeses in their sketch and get them to notice me” stunt. Mostly because I’m not the first person to do this, and as such am below notice. Truth be told, I’m actually just a fan of cheese. There are thousands of different kinds – and they’re all made by allowing milk to go bad in strange and interesting ways. I’m fascinated by the fact that what I’m eating is full of mold – and also by my own tendency to throw away cheese that’s become moldy. I’m tryin to break myself of that habit. The variety is just incredible – it’s akin to wine, actually, in that the palette is constantly changing and tasting new cheeses is as much about appreciation as pure gastric enjoyment. The true quest is, of course, for that one cheese (or variety of wine) that hits you just right and you can never again live without (though, again, in the same way as wine, the danger is that through your tasting your appreciation will change and a cheese you once loved will become something unremarkable while something you once disliked will become a treasured find.)
I have collected the names of the various cheeses below (with some possible spelling errors) and I will begin to work my way through them as I find them – and I’ll mark my impressions below (just for the hell of it). This site is really more for myself, but I felt like writing it down and this is my site, so I’m going to do it here. Thanks for bearing with me
I’m rating these in the order in which they appear in the sketch. If something doesn’t have a rating, I haven’t tried it. The ratings are coming out somewhat like the Book of Ratings, but aren’t meant to mimic it. I’m just in the habit of thinking like that.
It has been suggested that I at least LINK to the sketch in question. I’d be perfectly willing to do that, but with two caveats. First, I need to be able to LINK to the site, rather than host it here, for copyright reasons. Second, I want the names of the cheeses to be accurate. I may have things wrong here, and that’s fine (and will be corrected if someone points it out) but if you can’t spell “Danish Bleu” I can’t reasonably expect any of the other cheeses to be correct. (yeah, “Danish blue” wouldn’t be so bad. “Danish brew”, however, makes me sad.) So, if anyone out there has a GOOD version of the sketch I can link to, please let me know.
I’m now (slowly) linking from this page to somewhere you can buy each cheese. Have fun!
Many thanks to all of you who have shown up through del.icio.us and from Livejournal (through too many different sources to quote). It’s nice to be recognized. I’m sorry I haven’t updated in a while – moving will cause people not to have quite as much time to sit and eat cheese.
In response to some of the comments I’ve seen in LiveJournal comments –
* Glad you pointed out about the Camembert. I’ll have to try for a good one.
* To some extent, yes, I’m just going and picking up something off the shelf from my local Wegmans. Mostly with cheeses I’m already familiar with (cheddars, for example) where I’m also looking for a wide variety of different kinds to really “get” the cheese.
* Because I *am* going to Wegmans, there is a very knowledgeable cheese staff to help me out when I can’t find a particular cheese or need to know which one to pick (because of lack of familiarity)
* In a lot of cases, however, (e.g. bresse bleu, pont l’eveque) there are no real options and I am forced to choose the particular variety they have. Wegmans being by far the most well stocked cheese shop in my area, I don’t really go too far afield to find others (as I’ve started – and been unable to continue – my quest in other locations before).
So there you have it. My methodology, in a nutshell. As for how I taste the cheese – well, it’s a lot like wine, now, isn’t it? completely subjective and all to do with the words that pop into my head when the cheese is in my mouth. Thank God I don’t have tourettes.
This is actually a rather strong Dutch cheese. A bit firm, but not hard. I don’t really recommend it. It’s got the same qualities that make me avoid swiss. C-.
This is a bitter, pungent, slightly hard cheese. I didn’t like it – and I don’t intend to buy enough to perhaps change my mind. D.
Bel Paese (09/10/04)
I’d call this “semi-soft” – a very mild flavor, but good. Definitely something I’ll be eating with some frequency. A-. (I’ve raised the rating recently given the frequency with which we seem to be buying this one.)
Bleah…I just don’t like cheeses with bleu veins. I don’t know why. That may be the one thing that eventually keeps me from completing this list. I think it’s the overly salty flavor, the grainy texture, and the fact that the taste lingers with you for ages afterward. I really had my hopes up for this one after I enjoyed the Bresse Bleu, but sadly it’s not to be. D+.
Ahh, emmentaler. How very different from swiss you aren’t. I can see how you’d be excellent, melted with a little wine, with chunks of bread floating in you, but alone, you really lack something. C. (This may change when I actually make fondue.)
Hmm. How best to describe gruyere. I really must say that the only thing I can think to do with gruyere is turn it into fondue. It’s like a hard, sharp swiss. Lacking basic fondue making skills (primarily due to the low-carb diet) I still have yet to unlock the full potential of so many cheeses. alas, and alack. I dub thee “C”.
Norweigan Jarlsberg (1/19/06)
Do the norsemen never give up? I mean, really. How many kinds of fondue do we need, people? I know, I know. Some people really like these kinds of cheeses, especially with a hard, crusty bread and some fresh fruit (apples and such) but I just can’t get into them. Sorry! you get a C, too.
White Stilton (09/10/04)
This is a kind of Stilton that I haven’t yet found on its own. I *have* found it with apricots, and I highly recommend it that way. It’s nothing like its cousin “Stilton” – or, at least, with apricots it’s not. I really don’t hold high hopes for this one on its own, as I didn’t like Stilton and I do like cranberry Wensleydale (but not Wensleydale on its own). So tentatively a B-.
Double Gloucester is a mild, nutty cheese I’ve heard described as “mellow”. Upon procuring this Gloucester, I had the unmistakable sense of deja vu. I had a vague sense of “I think I like this” but I was still apprehensive considering some of the disasters I’ve experienced recently. Fortunately, I had nothing to worry about. It was mildly reminiscent of a mild American cheddar, but creamier than your average cheddar. Definitely worth your time. B+.
Cheshire is a very crumbly, mild, tangy cheese. I like it, but I don’t think I like it enough to get it again without a specific purpose in mind. I give it a nice, average C.
Dorset Blue Vinney
Very soft. Comes in MANY varieties, and usually very good. You might want to have crackers on hand. A.
The first variety I tried was very bitter. In the interests of open-mindedness and friendship, I tried another. It was way too salty, still slightly bitter, and just generally too strong for my liking. I’m actually going to have to knock this one down to D+.
I broke down and bought a block of this. It’s actually not that much (though it looks it) – the one I got was small – about 3 inches to a side, one inch high. This is another one that is reminiscent of brie – the major difference being its lack of bitterness and its buttery flavor. I’d begun to think that I didn’t like cheese as much as I thought I did, but this one made me feel pleased about cheese again. Definitely an A+
Port Salut is semi-soft, mild cheese. Good to just slice up and eat. A-.
Carre de L’Est
Bresse Bleu (8/10/04)
This cheese has been called a blend of Brie and Bleu – sort of a “bleu for people who like brie, but don’t like bleu”. I can say that, irrefutably, it is a blend of brie and bleu. Apparently the bleu molds are placed very carfully into this cheese in little pockets, and the individual cheeses are quite small, so it’s a very…”cute” package, overall. I liked it. A lot. I feel that it’s going to be my “gateway” cheese to get me to enjoy bleu cheese at last. Sabrina, however, did not. She found it to have a funky aftertaste. This is, unfortunately, true. The aftertaste is a bit of the bleu flavor left behind after the stronger brie sense kicks in. So, it’s not bleu for people who don’t like bleu – it’s bleu for people who aren’t completely enamored of the cheese but are intrigued enough to keep trying it. In light of my wife’s thoughts, I have to knock it down a LITTLE bit, so I give it an A.
Boursin is intriguing, primarily because I can’t find it without herbs of some kind mixed into it. Every description I find explicitly mentions the herbs, so I’m going to go with it. It’s quite good, and I like it. B+.
Once again, the variety I had was extraordinarily bitter. Maybe I have bad luck buying some cheeses. Maybe this cheese just tends to be bitter. Whatever it was, I give this one a D+.
What can I say? It’s a firm cheese with a good flavor. Some kinds have far more flavor than others. B+
I like this one – very similar to gouda. It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it. B+
Japanese Sage Darby (nonexistant)
I have, in my posession, “Sage Derby”. I’m going to believe that they are the same thing. It’s very…green. And now, having tasted it, can say without fear of contradiction, that it tastes INCREDIBLY like SAGE. In hindsight, I should have realized this. I should have looked at the cheese and thought “hm. sage darby (or derby). I’ll bet there’s some sage in that”. But it never entered my mind. And it really should have. Because I HATE sage. For some reason it’s just a lousy herb to me. I particularly can’t stomach it in sausage. And while it’s not nearly so bad in this, it’s still not going to be a cheese I purchase with any regularity. If ever again. D- (Since this time, I’ve determined that Japanese Sage Darby does not exist. “Darby” does and “Sage Derby” do, so I’m just going to give myself an A for effort and let it go)
Wensleydale (updated 1/19/06)
I’ve heard wensleydale described as tasting like a dirty sock. I’d say that’s a pretty fair description, and leave it at that. D.
I find it interesting that adding cranberries to wensleydale VASTLY improves the flavor. Cranberry Wensleydale gets an A+.
Cherry Wenselydale, on the other hand, gets a B.
Ahhh….Feta. I wonder about Greek Feta being significantly different from, say, Australian Feta. But that’s neither here nor there. Feta is best when crumbled on things, topping style, but I’ve been know to eat it by itself. It’s deliciously salty (this from a guy who’s not a fan of too much salt) and has a fairly strong flavor. It’s very distinctive, but it seems to blend well with many things. If you haven’t tried it, do so. A+.
Oooookay. So I’ve been warned about gorgonzola. I was not looking forward to gorgonzola. I am, in much the same way, not looking forward to Limberger. My grandmother, apparently, is a fan. Not of the cheese itself, but of a spread made to be flavored like the cheese. I have still not *tried* gorgonzola…but I have tasted the spread. It tastes very much like a strong bleu. I’ve been told that this is surprising, since the two are supposed to be nothing alike. I don’t know about that…all that I can say is that my terror is somewhat diminished. I still have not completed the task.
Parmesan is completely overrated. In its natural state it’s hard and dry, and people grind it up and shake it on things. Sometimes people make fun of things by saying they smell like parmesan. And they want me to EAT this? Granted, it’s not really all that bad. But it doesn’t add much, and you wouldn’t exactly want a slice of it with a cracker. Or with anything, for that matter. It’s really more of a topping than a food. Since it’s a topping I usually use lots of when it’s fresh, I have to give it a C+.
I nearly live on this stuff. Low moisture part skim sticks, low moisture part skim fried bars and sticks, whole milk chunks in salad or in olive oil or shredded over various foods and melted. The possibilities and varietes are endless. And don’t forget pizza! (although I haven’t had one in far too long, myself…). Mozzarella gets an A for effort. And for being delicious. Yes. An A for deliciousness.
Triple Crème (10/29/04)
Ah-HA! It’s NOT “pippo crème” or “paper cramer” or whatever. It’s “triple crème”. Haven’t bought any yet, but I’ve got it in my sights!
Annnnnnd now it’s out of my sights. Okay, the particular variety of triple crème that I picked up tasted an awful lot like Bresse Bleu, without the Bleu. Initially, at least. It has a staying power that most cheeses lack…at least, cheeses that I tend to eat more than once. And it actually seems to get stronger. I’m waffling on this one. On the one hand, I really like that Bresse Bleu flavor. On the other hand, I like to like it a little less powerfully. While I won’t hold this against the variety “triple crème” generally
This used to be one of my favorites from the sketch. That’s because I thought it was “Danish Bimbo”. Then I heard it was “Fimboe”. I can’t find any information on THAT as a cheese either. Now I don’t know WHAT to think, and I’m just generally disgruntled about the whole thing. Regardless, I don’t think there is now any way that I could reasonably expect to try it. Null Score.
Czech Sheep’s Milk (updated 1/19/06)
A “joke” cheese, I’m sure. I can find no information on it anyhere. Null score.
hm. So it appears I was wrong. I’ve been informed that not only is this real cheese, I should be able to get it at my local grocery store with some ease. I’ll be looking for it.
Venezuelan Beaver Cheese
I’m now absolutely certain this is a joke. It was just plausible enough that I couldn’t drop it off the list entirely, but it was always a tad on the unbelievable side. I can give it no marks. The proof. Null score.
According to the Pythons, it’s the single most popular cheese in the world. I don’t see how. Not to disparage the mighty cheddar in any way (it can be the perfect cheese is some instances) but I’m missing it. Your standard Wisconsin cheddar (Which is what us Americans are used to) is pretty good. The sharper the better (in my opinion) – though this is nearly the only cheese which I like to be particularly strong. There are, however, many other varieties that are just bizarre, not to mention thoroughly unpleasant to my palette… I’m going to give cheddar a C+. It might have gotten a B-, but I just recently had to throw out a block of “farmhouse cheddar” because I couldn’t bring myself to swallow it.
can I just say I’m not looking forward to this?
Cheeses Not From The Sketch
Brau Kasse (8/25/04)
If you don’t like strong cheeses (and I mean STRONG) avoid this at all costs. I almost gagged upon tasting this one – and I tasted it several times, on several kinds of crackers. My wife liked it (which was shocking) but I just can’t stomach it.
Ahhhh, chaumes. Nice, soft cheese (though not so soft you’d have to spread it) with a good, buttery flavor. High up there on my list. A+
Jack (various kinds) (10/25/04)
I like Jack cheeses. They’re not particularly nuanced or complex, they’re not high on the lists of cheeses that you can say “now THERE is a triumph of cheese”. It is, however, incredibly versatile and you can put just about anything in it. Caraway seeds, salsa, herbs, jalapeno, habanero (yes, lots of peppers), and so on down the list. It makes for good quesedillas, and it’s just good cheese to munch on. Definitely an A
Provalone is primarily a sandwich cheese. I don’t really enjoy it on its own – though it is particularly useful for making rolls of cheese and meat – the staple of any good low-carb diet. I suppose you’d call this a utilitarian cheese. It’s what mozarella would be if you couldn’t make salads out of it. B
Havarti is another one of those cheeses that you find filled with other things. It used to be one of my top cheeses – but then I started this quest and found some really good cheese. It’s unfortunate, but it has to fall to a B+
More to come…