Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Let’s Talk Cheese Tasting

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?