Elm City Market

“BellaVitano Gold” and the difficulty of writing well about cheese

My favorite cheese right now–the kind I get all the time for myself and my 2 year old cheese-addict son–is a kind of cheese called BellaVitano Gold.

     Since I’m new to writing about cheese, I’m not sure how to describe it other than saying it’s, “ummmmm, really good.”
     Oy! This description-thing is something I have to work on pretty hard, as it feels like everyone I know who likes cheese is better at describing it than I am.  For example, I gave a wedge of BellaVitano Gold to  the then-protein-craving-pregnant-mother of one of my son’s daycare colleagues,  and she emailed that it reminded her of “Monchego with the saltiness I love in Parmesan, and yet it is totally in a league of its own!  (nutty, salty, and very robust!)”
     Pretty accurate, and much better than I can do right now!  According to the article “Describing Cheese”  by Jennifer Meier at About.com, “Nutty” refers to cheese that’s “a little sweet, often similar to the flavor of hazelnuts.”
     I’ll go with that, adding that BellaVitano is slightly sweet…but also slightly sharp, too….
     Sigh. “Slightly sweet but also slightly sharp.”  Not the best lingo, but whatever. I plan to keep trying to learn from people who really have their cheese-words down.  People who do sound wonderful and metaphorical and mellifluous….A coworker told me how much fun he once had at Caseus,  New Haven’s cheese restaurant, where the owner Jason Sobocinski described all of the individual cheeses on a cheese plate to him.  My coworker was like, “Yeah, baby, keep using those words!” (Sobocinski also has a cookbook out called Caseus Fromagerie Bistro Cookbook: Every Cheese Has A Story and a show on The Cooking Channel called The Big Cheese. Apparently this guy really knows how to talk about cheese!  In an interview for “Guest of a Guest”  he says
My credo is that every cheese has a story, and that’s one of the things that really draws me to it. I’m not necessarily selling just a product; I’m selling all the things that go along with it. Legends, stories, ideas and sometimes just experiences that people have had when they go to a place and try a cheese – that to me is what eating is all about.
     I haven’t found good stories about BellaVitano Gold yet, but it’s  made by Sartori Cheese, and according to their website they also make BellaVitano cheeses infused with Balsamic, Black Pepper, Merlot, Raspberry, Chai, Espresso, and occasionally Cognac, Cannella, and Peppermint.  I’ve gotten the Gold, Merlot, and Espresso from New Haven’s Elm City Market and bought the Raspberry one at Stew Leonards  in Danbury (Stew Leonards is a crazy-huge/strange grocery store, noted by Ripley’s Believe it or Not as being the largest dairy store in the entire world.  It also also has mechanical singing cows, singing milk cartons, singing bananas, singing butter-sticks, etc. in most of its aisles.  Warning to parents of toddlers: this can either be wonderful or absolutely, utterly terrifying….)  So far I still like the Gold best, but maybe I’ll find new favorites as my palete, and vocabulary, develop.
     Ah, here’s another description from the website “Wisconsin Cheese.” I like it.  
Inspired by traditional Italian farmstead cheese, BellaVitano® is a rich, creamy style with a nutty, fruity flavor with caramel and pineapple overtones. The flavor begins in the mouth like a premium Parmesan and finishes with hints of melted butter. The texture combines the creaminess of a young Cheddar with the savory, crystalline crunch of a premium aged Parmesan.

Connecticut caseonauts: check out R.J. Julia!

Because I’m a Nutmegger, I’ve decided to focus Caseonauts esp. on cheeses and cheese-related delicacies that are made or can be bought in Connecticut.  (For example, the other day I wrote about bread-cheese.  The bread cheeses I’ve sampled so far are by the Juusto brand. [I will have to keep exploring bread-cheese, as I just found out from “The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin blog” that Juusto is not the traditional melt-in-one’s coffee bread-cheese, but is instead a spike-it-with-toothpicks bread-cheese. I next want to try the melting-kind!] Anyway,  Juusto is made in Wisconsin, but I  found at the caseonaut-loving Elm City Market in New Haven, where they have a cheesemonger on staff and often hold classes on cheese….The January class focused on Raw vs. Pasteurized Cheese and was subtitled “The good, the bad, and the stuff you never knew.”)

This weekend I found out that R.J. Julia  in Madison– known for being one of the best independent bookstores in Connecticut–is also a decent place for caseonauts. There’s a small bistro in back of the store where one can order cheese plates, grilled cheeses, and salads topped with good fromage.  I ate the cheddar, fig, and arugula grilled cheese and liked it.  My husband pronounced it “okay,” as he doesn’t like grilled cheese with lots of stuff in it. ( In fact, he only likes grilled cheese made with lots of butter and Pepperidge Farm white bread and Kraft American “Cheese,” the latter two products of which which he usually otherwise can’t stand.  So I don’t think he’s the best judge.) My cheese-loving 2 year old, on the other hand, pronounced the kid’s grilled cheese “good.”  He’s a picky eater, so (for what it’s worth to caseonaut-toddlers and their caseonaut-parents,) that’s high praise.
R.J. Julia: well-worth exploring for book-lovers and cheese-lovers alike!