‘Tis a pity that we didn’t discover Brunet until we were toward the end of our journey through the Wine Spectator 100 Great Cheeses list. ‘Tis a pity that neither Colleen nor I could find it in our local cheese shops, so we had to turn to the pricey mail-order option (though we appreciate that it is an option – thanks, Murray’s!). But we won’t have a pity party today because Brunet is such a find, such a cheesey revelation, that we should only celebrate its deliciousness and forget about shipping fees.

I don’t often associate Italy with goat’s-milk cheeses. Cow, definitely, sheep, occasionally, but not goat. Brunet is here to make you forget your prejudices for the Italian cheeses produced from the milk of those two animals, though. Hailing from the Piedmont region and made with pasteurized milk, Brunet has the texture of a French triple-crème but the lightness of a clean-tasting chevre. Left out on the counter for a couple of hours, its paste becomes liquidy and oozing – you could just as easily eat it with a spoon as you could with a knife and a cracker. Its goaty flavor, though subtle, comes through at the beginning and the end of each bite, and if you hold the rind on your tongue you get the tangy sensation that goat-cheese lovers crave.

Brunet would pair nicely with a Chardonnay or any light sparkling wine. If not pregnant, you could bet I’d be toasting its fabulousness with a bubbly beverage, so I may have to reward myself with another shipment come May. It’s just that good.

Camembert is one of those cheeses that I should really like, and don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike it. But out of all of the yummy soft-ripened cheeses available today, it ranks toward the bottom of my list. Shocking, I know, to say such a thing about one of the world’s best-known and lauded cheeses, but it’s true.

True Camembert is made in the Normandy region of France with raw milk, but of course, you won’t find it here in the United States because it isn’t aged long enough to meet our government’s standards. So we get a pasteurized version that purists would probably call an imposter, but unless you’re traveling to France, it’s the best you’re going to get. I haven’t been to France in nine and a half years and I wasn’t crazy into cheese then like I am now, so I’ve never had “real” Camembert and have no basis for comparison. But the pasteurized Camembert I did buy earlier this week just didn’t impress me. Sure, it had the creamy paste I adore, but the rind crumbled into tiny pieces that weren’t very pleasant to the palate. And the taste was more earthy and funky, for lack of a better term, than I typically enjoy in a soft-ripened cheese. Perhaps I didn’t let my wheel sit on the counter long enough (though I think two hours should be adequate), or I got an older wheel, but something tasted off. It wasn’t buttery or grassy, as Artisanal Cheese says it should be.

Of course, I’m not about to let the rest of my 8-oz. wheel go to waste, so I’ll still eat it. I’ll let it sit out for three hours and maybe add some fruity accompaniments. My pregnancy won’t allow me to try Camembert with wine, unfortunately, but Wine Spectator recommends Chardonnay or hard cider from Normandy and Artisanal suggests Cabernet Sauvignon.

Better late than never! After searching in vain for one of the Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery goat cheeses (rumored to have been served at an official inaugural dinner) prior to Jan. 20, I finally got my unmanicured hands on the Moonglo cheese over the weekend. Thanks to my new friend Benjamin, fellow cheese blogger and manager of the great Cheese Shop at France 44, Twin Cities residents can get their first taste of this Illinois cheesemaker’s offerings – and if you live here, you really should.

Has this cheese passed the lips of our new president?

Has this cheese passed the lips of our new president?

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband opened Illinois’ first farmstead cheese-making operation in 2005, raising Nubian and La Macha goats and turning their milk into fantastic goat cheeses: fresh chevres, bloomy-rind cheeses and whole-goat milk ricotta. I purchased Moonglo, an aged, raw-milk tomme-style cheese. Jarrell and Cooperband wash the rind with a “tea” they make from Moonglo pear leaves. The result? A sumptuous, creamy cheese that coats the palate nicely and offers a pleasing tang. The fragrance may be a bit too “goaty” for some, but once again, this cheese passed the toddler taste test, so you know it can’t be too goaty.

Benjamin from the Cheese Shop at France 44 recommends serving the Moonglo with a Chardonnay, and I’d add some luscious fruit to your cheese platter. Prairie Fruits Farm is also home to an orchard and berry patch, and when the summer rolls around, the Moonglo would be delightful with some fresh blackberries and peaches.

A special note for Twin Cities cheese lovers: the Cheese Shop at France 44 received a shipment of 9 lbs. of Moonglo this past Saturday. Be sure to drop by before it’s gone!

I know that the Scots probably don’t care much about American football, but it seems to me that their Isle of Mull Cheddar was made for the Super Bowl. A cheddar with flavors of mustard and malt? Score.

The mustardy flavor of Isle of Mull Cheddar makes it an ideal match for pretzels - and football.

The mustardy flavor of Isle of Mull Cheddar makes it an ideal match for pretzels - and football.

What gives Isle of Mull Cheddar its distinctive flavor? The cheese’s island namesake, located off the western coast of Scotland, is home to the Tobermory malt whiskey distillery. The cows that supply the milk for this aged raw-milk cheese feast on the distillery’s leftover fermented barley, which in turn give the cheese a Scotchy taste. Once brought to room temperature, the Isle of Mull Cheddar has a mustardy aroma that intensifies with each bite. Bring on the pretzels!

As you might expect, Isle of Mull Cheddar is a natural match for Tobermory Scotch, but for those of you who aren’t planning on breaking out the hard stuff during the game, consider serving the cheese with a Pinot Noir or, as Jamie Forrest of Curd Nerds suggests, a California Chardonnay. But let’s be realistic – you’ll be serving it with beer for the Super Bowl. In that case, DiBruno Bros. suggests an ale.

Special note: Isle of Mull Cheddar has also been toddler-approved. My 1-year-old son couldn’t get enough when he spotted some on the counter yesterday.

I’m sure someone has put together a list of classic American cheeses by now, but if that person was me, I’d put my cheese of the week, Cowgirl Creamery‘s Mt. Tam, at the top of the list. (Humboldt Fog, of course, would be there, too). I got my first taste of this California-made triple-cream cheese back in 2006 when Cowgirl Creamery opened its Washington, D.C., store just a few blocks from my office. A cruel twist of fate moved me to Minneapolis mere weeks after the store opened, but thankfully I can get my Mt. Tam fix at Surdyk’s.

Named after Mt. Tamalpais in Northern California, Mt. Tam is an aged cow’s-milk cheese that is similar to Chaource. Upon reaching room temperature, the cheese’s interior achieves the ooey-gooey consistency that tastes like heaven on a cracker. It doesn’t have the same after-bite tang as the Chaource does, but you’ll be so busy swooning over Mt. Tam’s rich, buttery flavor that you won’t miss it at all. You’ll often hear Mt. Tam described as “mushroomy,” but I didn’t detect a strong mushroom flavor in the wheel I bought (which is fine with me because I’m not a huge mushroom fan).

Mt. Tam pairs beautifully with sparkling wine, and a California variety would be most appropriate. I like Trader Joe’s almond champagne, which probably doesn’t make me all that sophisticated among the wine-loving crowd, but it tastes good to me. A sparkling rosé would also be a good match, and Food & Wine magazine also recommends a “moderately oaked Chardonnay.”

If you’re visiting the San Francisco Bay area, be sure to allow some time on your schedule for a visit to Cowgirl Creamery – it offers tours at its original creamery in Point Reyes Station and its new creamery in Petaluma. Cowgirl Creamery also offers its delectable cheeses by mail through its artisan cheese clubs. You know, Valentine’s Day is coming up. Is there a better way to say “I love you” than with cheese?

Being a Wisconsinite, I love my cheddar. Sharp, mild, aged, young – I love them all. I don’t limit myself to Wisconsin cheeses, even though I do take special pride in my home state’s offerings, because then I’d miss out on gems like Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm’s Clothbound Cheddar.

Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farms cave-aged clothbound cheddar

Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm's cave-aged clothbound cheddar

How can two cheesemakers take credit for this cheese? In the words of a song from one of my childhood Sesame Street LPs, “Co-operation makes it happen!” Cabot Creamery gets the cheese started, but it is then cave-aged in Jasper Hill Farm‘s cellars. The result is a mild yet full-bodied cow’s milk cheese that has a comforting presence on your palate, even long after you’ve swallowed your last bite.

A classic combination

A classic combination

I usually enjoy my cheddar with apples, but I don’t think the Granny Smith apple I had on hand was the best match for this cheese’s subtle sweetness. I’d like to try it with my favorite, the Gala, or a Honeycrisp when the variety is in season. (Honeycrisps were developed in Minnesota, by the way.) Normally, I have my cheddar and apple as a mid-day snack at work, which means I’m not savoring them with a glass of wine, but Liz Thorpe, the wholesale manager at Murray’s Cheese, recommends a medium-bodied Chardonnay.

Cabot Creamery only produces a limited amount of Clothbound Cheddar each year, so act fast! If you have trouble finding it in your local cheese shops, mail-order may be the way to go. Cabot recommends checking with Murray’s Cheese or Artisanal Cheese for availability.