Monday, April 22, 2013

Artisanal Premium Cheese Club, Months One and Two

A few months ago, I realized I was tired of the kinds of cheese available in our local stores, so I decided to join the Artisanal Premium Cheese Club.   For $55, you get approximately 1/2 lb. each of four different cheeses each month.  That sounds kind of pricey, but when you see how expensive these cheeses are bought separately, it's not really too bad of a deal, considering that the flat fee also includes overnight shipping anywhere in the continental United States.

I was all set to blog about our selections each month when I got hit by an unexpected development.  Apparently I am one of the many people who get severe headaches from eating too much aged cheese.  Two of the cheeses in the first month's shipment left my head throbbing, so I had to give up on them after a while, and I was worried the whole experiment might turn out to be a costly mistake.  Fortunately, I've had much better luck with the cheeses in the second shipment, and I've also discovered that taking a probiotic tablet immediately before eating iffy kinds of cheese helps to moderate the headaches I get.  So, without further ado, here are the cheeses we've gotten and what I thought of them.  (I didn't take pictures, but I'll include a link to each of the varieties on Artisanal's website, and I'm sure their pictures are much better than mine would have been anyway.)

Month 1:

Coupole-- This was a nice goat cheese from Vermont.  What Artisanal calls a "slightly wrinkled skin" looked to us just like the folds and crenellations of a brain, leading to cries of "Brains!  Brains!" whenever we brought this variety out.

Seven Sisters-- This was a wonderful cheese from Pennsylvania.  Artisanal describes it as mild, but the wedge we received was quite strong (and apparently very well-aged according to my headache meter).  It tasted a lot like Parmesan, and we all loved it.  I just wish I could have eaten more of it. 

Hittisau--   This was a hard, mild cheese from Austria.  Artisanal describes it as bold, but it was actually much milder than the Seven Sisters.  Sometimes I wonder if they mixed up the labels on those two!

Four-Year Gouda--  This was wonderful.  Too bad even a tiny flake of it would give me a headache that lasted for days!  Fortunately, a co-worker of my husband's took it off our hands.

Month 2:

Purple Haze--  This is definitely the most unusual cheese we've gotten so far.  It's fairly standard goat cheese from California, with one difference-- the top is sprinkled with fennel and lavender pollen.  I absolutely detest lavender and don't like fennel much either, but I loved this cheese, which had a mild licorice flavor.

Royale-- This is a sheep's milk cheese from Spain.  It reminded me a lot of the Hittisau, hard and nutty, but not particularly interesting.

Quicke's Cheddar--  This tasted like no cheddar I've ever had.  It was so sharp that it ceased to taste sharp at all, and instead it had a very complex flavor of many things, including Grandma's basement.  The men in my life thought this was the best one so far, but it's a little too strange for my taste.  But I have become totally infatuated with the Quicke family's website, which gives all the details of their farm in Devon, England.

Crater Lake Blue--  If I had any doubts about continuing my membership in the club, they vanished the minute I tasted this cheese.  I didn't really think I liked blue cheese before, but this wonderful specimen from Oregon has changed my mind.  I may have to order this one again in the future!