NCheeseAA: Whole Foods Round Of 64
April 7, 2008


Will it be Mimolette or Gorgonzola? Is Saint-Nectaire too smelly for the likes of sweet-natured and addicting Ossau-Iraty? You decide! So, go! Vote! And watch the results!

4 Humboldt Fog vs. 12 Roaring 40s Blue. This could be a bloodbath, actually. Those who stick a snowy wedge of HumFog in their crisper drawer for a little amateur affinage until the sticky grey "fog" ages in toward the ash-striped center are also the ones who will go nuts for the spicy edge of the wax-wrapped Tasmanian devil. There are goat-haters and blue-haters aplenty, but they aren't always one and the same. One thing is for certain: neither choice is for the bland of palate. However, people tend to be more afraid of going blue than goat, so Humboldt Fog will win by a nose-hair.

3 Brie vs. 13 Chabichou de Poitou. The Chabichou is an elegant cheese -- charming presentation, sweet/salty harmonies -- that doesn't stand a great chance against one of the best-known cheeses in the Whole Foods draw. In the States, Brie used to symbolize academic/key-party pretension back in the seventies; nowadays, it's downright mainstream, but heated with a spoonful of apricot preserves on top, it's almost impossible to beat. Tough break for the Chab going out early, but that's what'll happen.

4 Gorgonzola vs. 14 Mimolette. Mimolette is all flash and no flavor. The damn thing looks like a big ol' cantaloupe and is harder to crack than the Gordian Knot. Of course, once you do split open the mite-ridden rind, you're rewarded with an insipid flavor and a waxy, tooth-sticking texture. Gorgonzola, on the other hand, smears a fat, luscious track across black bread slapped with chestnut honey and features in some of the best pasta dishes known. Mimolette has her devoted minions, but Gorgonzola is a cheese of the people and will sweep this one handily.

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano vs. 8 Morbier. Many happy chefs stock a burnished wedge of dot-matrix-rinded Parm and use it like a condiment. As important and flavor-pumping as salt or pepper, Parm is a kitchen staple and often taken for granted. That would seem to give the stinky, ash-slashed Morbier an edge, especially since many love to carve out sticky blurbs of this Jura cheese and slurp it with a banging glass of spicy rosé d'Anjou. But still, Parm-Reg is a classic and can sit on the counter, getting all greasy for months, and still thrill up a bowl of risotto or a spring pea salad. Yeah, the Italian Stallion will take this one.

2 British Cheddar vs. 5 Camembert. For me, there's no contest. Traditional, bandaged-wrapped cheddar, made in Cheddar, Somerset, where the cheese must be imbued with some mystical, druidic properties…British farmhouse cheddar is the most satisfying cheese I can wrap my lips around. Grill it, grate it, fondue it, or eat it plain, cheddar is the Henry VIII of cheese, but with much less gout. The thing is, Francophiles are just as snobby as Anglophiles, and they will storm the beaches to wrap their paws around a raw round of true Normandy Camembert. This is a toss-up, but I'm sadly banking on the ooze fiends having the gaulle to vote France over England.

9 Wensleydale vs. 6 Stilton. In a battle of quintessential Brit cheeses, which wedge wins? Stilton is better known; Wensleydale's flavor is almost as strong, but many consumers find it more inviting and less intense. Not sure how I'll end up voting this pair myself -- Wensleydale with a thick slice of cranberry loaf and a feisty sauvignon blanc is transporting -- but it's probably Stilton's to lose.

16 Pont l'Eveque vs. 11 Roquefort. Maybe we should have ranked the P. l'E. higher; it had a star turn in a Monty Python sketch, after all, while Roquefort has acquired a reputation among civilians (largely undeserved) as a country-club-salad-dressing cheese without much range. Fond memories of my grandmother's "coleslaw bleu" determine which way I'll most likely vote, but Pont l'Eveque has its faithful fans, who may carry the day in its favor.

10 Saint-Nectaire vs. 15 Ossau-Iraty. One of the tougher match-ups to call in the kick-off round; according to the ranking, clearly we thought Saint-Nectaire had the better odds, but it's a cheese that can make itself hard to know. I could say the same, though, for the O-I, which presents subtly and can seem somewhat bland as a result. The S-N is more consistent and more challenging, but the Ossau has a solid shot here.

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