Tasting blue cheeses is not as intimidating as it can seem for a novice if you balance the offerings with a variety of styles. These are some of our favorites to enjoy alone or as part of a cheese platter. —INGRAIN, Fall/Winter 2019
STORY / Cara Condon
Keep in mind that pairings can help change your perception and experience with a cheese. A little honey can soften some of the more angular flavors of a piquant blue. A rustic, earthy blue paired with charcuterie is an excellent picnic option. Dark chocolate and a rich mild blue is the most decadent dessert and works perfectly with your post-meal amaro or espresso.
ROGUE RIVER BLUE
Central Point, Oregon
This insane cheese takes the term handmade to a whole new level. Made in the fall, when the rainfall increases and the grasses and wildflowers are at their tastiest (at least from the cow’s perspective), Rogue River Blue is wrapped in hand-picked Syrah grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy. It’s a special cheese that deserves fanfare, so pop open that crazy barrel-aged stout you’ve been hiding in the basement and enjoy.
$28 for 8 ounces, Murray’s Cheese (available late fall through early winter)
Technically a cheddar that is inoculated with some blue mold, Dunbarton is not a full-on blue but has those telltale earthy and slightly fruity notes. Regardless, it’s certainly an excellent choice for someone just beginning to spread their blue cheese wings.
$9.50 for 8 ounces
Pairing With a firmer texture and rustic character, it pairs well with malt-forward beers (stouts, porters, brown ales).
COLSTON BASSETT STILTON
Stilton doesn’t have the sour tang typical of the flavors you would find in the dressing that accompanies your buffalo wings. Of the more popular blue cheeses, it’s outstandingly fudgy and rich, almost toasty, and that roasty quality means it pairs exceptionally well with darker beers.
$16 for 8 ounces, Artisanal Premium Cheese
Pairing Stilton and port is a very traditional pairing, but try barleywine.
SMOKED KENTUCKY BLEU
Smoked blue cheeses taste like fall to me. This version is briefly applewood smoked (20 minutes) to lend a soft sweetness and balanced with a salty and meaty quality and spreadable texture (thanks to added cream and a light pressing). It’s a blue that begs to be enjoyed with dark honey (think buckwheat) or play up its savory nature with salami.
$11.50 for 8 ounces
BLU DI BUFALA
In terms of Italian cheeses, this is a relatively new cheese. Made by two guys, the brothers behind Quattro Portoni, Blu di Bufala is super rustic and has a nice semisoft texture. It’s rich as hell, ’cause it’s made with buffalo milk; buffalo are stingy with their milk production, but what they give can be described only as dairy gold.
$15 for 8 ounces, Murray’s Cheese