International Cheese Day

These days, hyper local foods often get the most love. So this International Cheese Day I’m celebrating the best underappreciated cheeses of the entire world. Many of these are my refrigerator staples or Sunday afternoon go-tos, and all are readily available in supermarket specialty cheese departments and great independent stores:

Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog: Oh, ye haters of goat cheese—take a risk and try this. Snowy white, crumbly, and just the right amount of lemony, Humboldt Fog is a new American classic that converts more people to the “3rd milk of cheese” than any I know. That wavering blue line across the middle isn’t blue, it’s decorative vegetable ash with no discernible impact on flavor. Instead, enjoy moist, tangy, smearable goodness, best enjoyed with crisp, dry white wines.

Comté: The most consumed cheese in France should be more frequently consumed here! Made exclusively of unpasteurized, grass-fed cows’ milk, Comté is similar to Swiss Gruyere but mellower, less salty and subtler in flavor. Oh yeah, and it melts like dreams of a cheese river. The classic Croque Monsieur gets an upgrade in our house with a fried egg. It’s ideal in winter, when one and a half year old wheels showcase the floral and grassy flavors of summertime milk.

Pecorino Romano: “Pecorino” refers to Italian sheep milk cheese, but pecorinos can be big or small, young or aged, mild or intense. This classic of the Roman countryside is intensely salty and aggressive when eaten on its own, but it’s meant to be used as a seasoning. I turn to it instead of salt for a variety of dishes, but the ultimate display of this cheese’s greatness is the pasta classic Cacio e Pepe: liberal grindings of black pepper, finely grated Pecorino Romano, butter and al dente spaghetti. Supremely delicious, and ready in 15 minutes.

Clothbound Cheddar: Look beyond the block this International Cheese Day and seek out true English cheddar, otherwise known as clothbound. The best and most available makers are Montgomery’s and Quicke’s. Also the “Borough Market” brand can be frequently found. Drier and flakier in texture than block cheddar, with flavors that reach far beyond mild, medium or sharp. Earthy, savory, and brothy flavors are common. Don’t waste it trying to melt, but enjoy with fruit chutney (plum or cherry) or pickled vegetables. American versions like Cabot Clothbound, Beecher’s Flagship Reserve and Flory’s Truckle are equally delicious but edge more toward caramel and butterscotch flavors.