With the previous installment of Cheese 101 featuring very unique cheeses from Switzerland and Italy, in this installment, I decided to feature two domestic cheeses and one from Germany.

Cheese 101: Beecher's Marco Polo

Marco Polo

Background

This favorite from Beecher’s fleet of artisan cheeses celebrates the great thirteenth century adventurer Marco Polo – credited with bringing pepper and other discoveries to Europe. Beecher’s Marco Polo takes lightly milled and cracked green and black peppercorns and blends them with our creamy cheese. The resulting cheese is rich in savory umami and butter notes. (Beecher’s)

Marco Polo has won many awards including 1st place at the American Cheese Society 2008, gold medal at the World cheese Awards, 2007. (Cheese.com)

Aroma/Flavor

I have loved Beecher’s cheese ever since I tried their Flagship many years ago. I was even lucky to visit their shop in NYC. Although I have sampled Marco Polo previously, when I saw it in the “odds & ends” basket at Heinen’s, I knew I had to purchase it for Cheese 101. The base of Marco Polo is very smooth and creamy providing a great canvas for the whole peppercorns to work their magic. Marco Polo has a nutty aroma that turns into a powerful pepper flavor when you sink your teeth into this cheese.

Cheese 101: Beecher's Marco Polo

Final Thoughts

I have yet to be disappointed with any of Beecher’s cheeses that I have sampled, and Marco Polo is no exception. The creamy texture combined with the bite of whole peppercorns creates a cheese that provides a flavor that definitely isn’t subtle. If you are searching for a powerful cheese to enjoy, this one is for you.

Cheese 101: Point Reyes Toma

Toma

Background

The Giacomini family traces its roots to the mountainous terrain of northern Italy. In the early 20th century, Tobias Giacomini left Europe to settle in Northern California. A half-century later, his grandson, Bob, and Bob’s new wife, Dean, bought a farm near Tomales Bay and began raising Holstein cows and selling milk to a local creamery. Their herd grew from 150 to 500 by the mid-1990s, and the farm’s lush pastures are now certified organic. Bob and Dean had four daughters and, in 2000, the family launched the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, using its own milk to make its first cheese, Point Reyes Original Blue. (Cowgirl Creamery)

Milk comes from the Giacomini’s own closed herd of Holstein cows that graze organically certified pastures overlooking Tomales Bay. Following on the heels of their success with the Original Blue, the Giacomini family decided to create their version of a classic Italian cow’s milk table cheese.

The result is Toma. Milk for production of Toma is pasteurized, and after the curd is formed and cut, Hemmerling uses a traditional gouda technique of washing the curds with water which slows down the acidification process. The curds are then drained, placed into gouda-shaped cheese molds and pressed before being unmolded and allowed to sit in a brine solution for two days. Brining helps to harden the exterior and promote the development of a rind. (culture)

Point Reyes Toma, introduced this year, is only the second cheese in their line. Jill Giacomini Basch, one of the three sisters who run Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, says the Toma is intended as a simple table cheese for people who don’t care for blues.

“We didn’t want a finicky cheese. We didn’t want a precious cheese,” says Basch, describing the discussions the family entered into when a new cheesemaker, Kuba Hemmerling, joined the company…

The Giacominis renamed it Toma, an Italian word for a cheese made on the farm that produced the milk, as the two Giacomini cheeses are. (SF Gate)

Aroma/Flavor

When I see that a particular cheese is classified as a “table cheese,” I don’t really have high hopes. To me, that description has a negative connotation as I believe it simply means the cheese is simple, not very exciting. After trying Point Reyes Toma, I no longer have that opinion. This cheese was delicious. The sweet, buttery and mild aroma is tantalizing, inviting you to sample the cheese as soon as possible. The minute you bite into Toma, you know it is extremely well crafted and well rewarded. (It was won multiple judged competitions.) The flavor consists of buttery, creamy and a mild grassy finish that lingers and is extremely enjoyable.

Cheese 101: Point Reyes Toma

Final Thoughts

Point Reyes is traditionally known for their Original Blue, which is delicious. However, they should also be known for Toma. This cheese not only surprised, it also impressed. I would highly recommend it, with it being perfect for grilled cheese, pastas, cheese plates and so much more.

Additional Resources

Cheese 101: Champignon Cambozola Black Label

Cambozola Black Label

Background

Sure, you’ve heard of Cambozola. Brie-style pasteurized cow’s milk cheese with the barest hint of blue veining – what’s not to love? Well, until you’ve tried the Black Label, you haven’t experienced the utmost in creamy blues. How’s this one different? Well, for starters, the gray mold on the rind brings another layer of nuance to the flavor profile. A longer ripening time also enhances the taste and texture. (Murray’s Cheese)

A buttery triple crème laced with gorgonzola-style blue veining, Cambozola “Black Label” is aged three weeks longer and at a cooler temperature than traditional Cambozola, and its dusky gray rind is produced using a different strain of Penicillium Candidum. (culture)

Aroma/Flavor

Although everything I read, see below, said this particular cheese is more on the mild spectrum of blue cheeses, I tend to disagree. The traditional strong blue cheese flavor is evident throughout this very smooth and creamy Cambozola. After sitting out for a few minutes, the cheese seemed as if it was starting to melt, making it perfect to spread over your favorite crackers.

Cambozola Black Label melts delicately on the palate, and this Black Label version boasts bolder sweet and nutty flavors. The end result is a cheese with blue veining that’s subtle enough for sensitive palates, with the crowd-pleasing texture of a triple crème. (culture)

A great introduction to blue cheese for those who might be intimidated by some of the more intense specimens on offer – try it with something bubbly and brut. (Murray’s Cheese)

[It] is neither pungent like Stilton, nor crumbly like Roquefort. The cheese, a cross between Camembert and Gorgonzola, is creamy, moist and rich like a Camembert with the sharpness of Gorgonzola. A soft-ripened cheese, the insides reveal pockets of blue veining and a unique exterior of grey mold. Its savory, nutty flavour with undertones of sweetness enhance the wonderful characteristics of the cheese. (Cheese.com)

Cheese 101: Champignon Cambozola Black Label

Final Thoughts

At its heart, Cambozola has the flavor of a blue cheese and the texture of a Brie creating a unique combination. I would definitely recommend trying Cambozola to see if you believe it is strong, as I did, or mild, as the internet did.

Additional Resources