Whole Story

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Let’s Talk Cheese Tasting

This cheese plate is divine!Our upcoming Cheese Night on Tuesday, April 1 will focus on five of the best raw milk cheeses we have to offer. A distinguishing feature of cheeses made from raw milk is, as Cathy Strange, our Global Cheese Buyer says, “a complexity of tastes, your mouth comes alive with flavors!” In preparation, let’s explore the best ways to taste cheese.

The Nose Knows

Smell the cheese! In terms of the ability to perceive subtle variations in flavor and the broad spectrum of tastes, the nose beats the mouth. Once that wedge of cheddar or Manchego warms to room temperature, lean in, or better yet, break off a hunk and bring it right up to your nose. Breathe in deeply. The aromas and flavors lay out before you like a plentiful dinner table. Note: raw milk cheeses stand out by their umami, meaty, almost roast-beefy aromas.

Just the Cheese, Please

When you take that first taste, put only the cheese in your mouth. Breads, crackers and other accompaniments can come later. If the cheese is of the firmer variety, feel free to break off a chunk — it will naturally come free along pre-existing fissures. If the cheese is softer, slide a bit off with a small dull cheese knife. Pop it in your mouth and give it some time — it will almost seem to expand in your mouth, offering new, sometimes surprising, flavors.

Go From Mild to Wild

If you find yourself with a variety of cheeses to taste, start with those more mildly flavored. A delicately complex Brie will be completely overpowered by the residual robust Roquefort you just tried.

When to Eat the Rind

While all rinds can be eaten, some enhance the cheese, adding complexity and often a nice brininess. Others should be avoided.

  • If the rind is white, eat it. The same goes for the orange to light-orange rinds of washed rind cheeses. These rinds are integral to the true taste experience of the cheese.
  • If the rind is dark and thick, while technically edible, it will convey a gritty earthy flavor most people find unpleasant.
  • Rinds on blue cheeses often add a lovely savoriness to the overall flavor, so give them a try.
  • Cooking tip: If you find the rind too forward in flavor or too gritty in texture, grate it into a soup or stew to bring out those wonderful umami notes.

The Language of Love

Matching the right words to what your mouth is experiencing makes the tasting that much more rewarding. A few useful terms: sharp, nutty, fruity, mushroomy, toasty, grassy, buttery, earthy, herbaceous, sweet, dirty socks (really!), creamy, and briny.

Cheese Night

Whole Foods Market has more Certified Cheese Professionals than any other retailer, and on April 1, they’ll be sharing five of the world’s best raw milk cheeses:

  1. Parmigiano-Reggiano: the King of Cheeses! Firm, nutty, slightly grassy toward the end
  2. Manchego: six-month aged Spanish sheep’s milk cheese
  3. Le Gruyére Reserve: 12-month aged, dense, nutty and rich. From Switzerland
  4. Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue: sweet, fruity, slight vanilla notes
  5. Grafton Classic Reserve Cheddar: aged two years. Creamy, slightly tart finish. From Vermont

The event is free, so come taste and learn with our experts! Check your local store for details.

Which of these cheeses do you want to try?

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Edith Helmich says …

A cheese-tasting is a wonderful event for Whole Foods to sponsor. So many tempting international cheeses are available in the store, but few of us have tasted all of them ... so without a taste, we might just pass by the untasted ones!

kirsten says …

looks awesome - but having trouble finding a store that is doing this event.

D says …

this cheese event is being held at the wholefoods market off arroyo pkwy in the city of pasadena. please contact the store for any details. 626.204.2266

Patricia Bell says …

I would love to try the reserve cheddar. I've not tasted it before.

Ginette says …

How about a "French" Swiss cheese so to speak, like Comte

Carlotta says …

Sounds great! I'd love to come, but I cannot find stores nearby that will host the event. Are you having this event anywhere near Norwalk, CT? or New York?

charles jones says …

I would like to try them all

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@CARLOTTA - The exact event details will differ between stores so check with the store closest to you to find out. We have quite a few locations in New York and you can find their specific info at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list.

Judy marvin says …

What time does the cheese tasting start on April 1?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JUDY - The times will differ between stores. Check with your local store for detailed info!

Julie D says …

We *love* cheese in our house, so we always have several varieties, thanks to WFM. I wonder if WFM carries formaticum cheese bags? I've read that these bags are the best way to store cheese, but haven't been able to find them locally. Thank you! Looking forward to cheese night :)

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@JULIE - Since our products differ between stores, check with your local store to see if they have these in stock. If not, they can look in to possibly special ordering it for you!

Linda says …

My nearest store is (New) Highland Village, tx. I have not shopped there yet but they are a lot closer than the others I had been going to. Why is it so hard to find Dry Jack cheese? I used to serve it with water crackers, Kyoho grapes, and wine as a pre dinner service when I flew to Japan as a Flight Attendant at Northwest Airlines (Delta). It is such a wonderful cheese. I have only found it at Central Market but they have discontinued it. I can order it on line but by the time you pay shipping it is costlier. Respectfully Linda

Rosa Jones says …

Parmigiano Reggiano is my favoriite

Pat M says …

Since we can't get true Reblochon in America, what is the best substitute when making a Tartiflette? Thanks for your time!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@PAT - Since our exact cheese options differ between stores, check with your local store. The cheesemonger will be happy to suggest a sub based on the items they have in stock!

Marta Alvarez says …

when will you have cheese tastings at the Oxnard store? great information on my favorite food group -cheese ... & very exciting that you are doing the tastings ... disappointed it's not near me though. Marta