Posted by: fireweaver | October 20, 2009

tasty tuesday: tj’s knock-off cheeses

i told Chris last week about my project to helpfully archive our one-off dinner creations, to which he replied, “well, what if we don’t cook anything worth writing about in a week?”  i laughed and told him that was silly, given our mutual wonderful-ness.

a couple days later, i promptly got sick, and thereby lost most of my interest in food.  sigh.

so rather than quit one week out, i’ll just share a random cheese tidbit that would be tasty no matter when it got eaten/blogged.  as i often tell people, i’m not a wine snob, i’m a wine-o (i very very rarely purchase a bottle over $15, because then you tend to be “saving it for a special occasion,” and i actually plan on drinking my wine.  it is utterly possible to find wonderful wine on the cheap.  but that’s a different story); the converse is very true about cheese, though.  the only time kraft singles make an appearance in the house is when i have to get some meds into the dog, and all other substances have lost their concealing appeal.  excellent cheese, unfortunately, is indeed costy (e.g., $35+ per pound is completely reasonable for the magic of fourme au sauternes).  many european cheeses have a strict DOC process, much like the wines of the surrounding areas – import costs plus these licensing costs may have something to do with the final price point.  enter the crew at trader joe’s.  they’re importing cheese “made in the style of” particular areas, but apparently outside the official DO, and selling them as store-brand.

1.  sottocenere al tartufo

this is a smooth, mild, creamy cow’s milk cheese – just rich enough to stand up to some pinot, good but not amazing.  until someone once got the bright idea to stash itty bitty bits of black truffle in there.  heaven!!  and at $25+/Lb, kinda up there.  tj’s far more affordable store brand has coarser bits of truffles and lacks the traditional herb & ash rub on the outside, but is equally amazing.  i have some pretty active penicillium cultures going on in the cheese bin in my fridge (being a cheese snob has some side effects), so a brick of this tossed unopened into the bin develops a nice white brie-like rind in a month or so, which happily further matures the cheese and makes it even richer (yes, mom, i cut the mold off before i eat it).

2.  petit basque

this fantastic sheep’s milk cheese is rich, creamy, and almost nutty; wonderful with wine or without.  a article i read a good while ago used this as a symbol of what we’re all giving up during the recession – price on this has shot up as the economy has sagged down.  tj’s store brand basque shepherd’s cheese isn’t quite as rich (and with the hard waxy rind, further accidental in-home aging just won’t happen), but it is pretty well delicious.



  1. Never been clear on this point: just what is a truffle, anyway? Some kinda mushroom only pigs can find?

  2. haha, yes Taylor, it’s a type of fungus – the thing is that they’re sorta underground and hard to find, so yes, if you’re hunting them in the wild, you use trained pigs.

  3. Mmmm! I love cheese, too, and TJ’s is my go-to for outside the norm. Norm being Jarlsberg for my hubby’s sammiches. The Stilton w/ apricots- yummy! Though it does give me weird dreams, for real. Goat cheese w/ honey- perfect on toasted anadama bread. I’m not brave enough to let anything “mature” in my fridge, however. 🙂

  4. […] of cheese came up.  i had a pretty even split of horrified and intrigued when i was discussing the in-fridge mold-aging method that naturally happens in my cheese drawer, but there are certainly stranger things to eat.  […]

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