Hooked on curds

Where to feed your need for cheeses

Susan France

My transcendental fromage moment occurred in 2004 during an epic lunch with my family at L’Espadon restaurant in the Paris Ritz hotel. I was duly impressed by the crisply coated, soft-boiled egg with black truffle, the seared cod with lobster sauce and a singular chocolate soufflé emerging from the kitchen that chef Escoffier made famous.

Then, the cheese cart rolled up to our table with 20 perfectly ripe French cheeses displayed as if they were precious gems. I already was excessively fond of cheese but this was a higher level of dairy bliss. All I remember is the Epoisses, a pungent, super-creamy cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy with a compelling salty, nutty and custard-y flavor.

Resistance was futile.

A few years back there was a report by some groups suggesting that cheese is as addictive as crack and heroin. In truth it was misreporting one small study, but the fact that so many people believed it tells you something.

Flash forward to 2018 and brie is not welcome in my home. Neither is Emmenthaler nor Camembert and certainly not Gorgonzola or Epoisses. If they are within the premises, I will eat them at the door. I will eat them on the floor. I’ll eat them by themselves, with crackers, pasta and berries.

I’m not addicted, but in pursuit of health, I know my weaknesses.

When I feel the need for cheese, I eschew the store-brand Swiss and save my fat grams and calories for the best, most memorable moments of curds and whey. Here are some of the local cheeses, menu items, shops and schools where people of our ilk are known to feed.

Spring cheese incident

Slow Food Boulder County hosts a spring cheese tasting class on May 6 at Cure Organic Farm with Jessica Beer, focusing on the first local goat and sheep’s milk cheeses of the season. slowfoodboulder.com

The truffle table

More melted cheese please! Two key words capture my attention at this Denver establishment: “All-you-can-eat” and “cheese.” In this case it is the every-Wednesday all-you-can-eat raclette: broiled melting Swiss cheese atop baguettes, salumi and veggies. The eatery is also one of the best places in the state to sit and taste cheeses from across the globe. Great mac and cheese, too. truffletable.com

Eastern cheese oasis

For those of us living on Boulder County’s eastern side, Atlas Valley Purveyors is an unexpected culinary find, with a well-curated roster of great cheeses. Packed in the shop in northern Lafayette are charcuterie, breads, grocery items, a real butcher’s counter, a wine and liquor shop, and pharmacy. It’s worth stopping by just for their house-made sausage beer cheese soup. avpurveyors.com.

West meets East fondue

Denver’s Fusion Fondue is a wonderful Asian-accented mashup of international fondue styles. There are a half-dozen cheese fondue variations including cheddar artichoke and curried cheese, served with dippable bread, mushrooms, carrots, pea pods and grilled chicken. The other side of the menu features Asian hot pots — steaming broth fondue — with an array of broths and proteins. fusionfondue.com

A cheesehead’s paradise

Springside Cheese operates only one store outside its Wisconsin factory, curiously located in Pueblo. The full fromage roster ranges from asiago and smoked provolone to parmesan and blue cheese cheddar. My faves are the semi-hard Bandaged Cheddar, the Pueblo Jack infused with Pueblo chilies, and the Krakow, a semi-soft, slightly sweet and thoroughly buttery German-style cheese. springsidecheese.com

The 4:45 to Cacio Pacora

The best place to access (via light rail) the wonderful sheep’s milk cheeses from Larkspur’s Fruition Farm and Dairy is at chef Alex Seidel’s Mercantile Dining & Provisions inside Denver’s Union Station. The market stocks Fruition’s creamy Shepherd’s Halo, the even richer ricotta, plus the highly awarded 18-month-old Cacio Pacora. fruitionfarmsdairy.com.

Be the cheese

Walk in a curd novice and emerge a cheese-crafter at one of the hands-on workshops at The Art of Cheese in Longmont taught by Kate Johnson. Classes run from fun mozzarella and ricotta sessions to the more rigorous Cheesemaking Boot Camp June 29-30. The school is located in the same facility producing Haystack Cheeses, so there are ample tasting opportunities. theartofcheese.com

The best grilled cheese

Cured is one of the state’s best places to taste and source global cheeses, but it is also worth stopping by the Pearl Street shop just for a grilled cheese sandwich. This is not your grandfather’s grilled American cheese with Campbell’s — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Cured boasts multiple variations on a grilled cheese using great breads and different condiments and cheeses. One features prosciutto cotto, caramelized onions, mustard and lots of fontina melted between slices of heavily buttered bread inside a hot press. curedboulder.com

My new cheese passion

The new-on-my-radar Moon Hill Dairy near Steamboat Springs produces some extraordinary cow’s milk cheeses. I love the two I’ve tasted: A melty Camembert-style Alpenbert and a fine feta. I really have to try the River Runs Blue, a cheese with the “blue” on the outside, not the inside. Look for them at two Denver cheesemongers: St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop and the Truffle Cheese Shop. moonhilldairy.com

Finding Colorado cheeses

The state’s best place to find the widest selection of Colorado cheese remains the huge walk-in cooler at Cheese Importers Warehouse in Longmont. I look for Colorado cheeses from Ugly Goat Milk Co., Broken Shovels Farm, Mouco Cheese Co., James Ranch, Jumpin’ Goat Dairy and others. cheeseimporters.com

Local food news

The Boulder County Farmers Market has opened its mid-week market 4-8 p.m. Wednesdays in Boulder. … The Gold Hill Inn opens for dining for the 56th consecutive season on May 4. … Meanwhile, the placid slopes of Steamboat Ski Area will be disrupted starting this summer by the Taco Beast, a snowcat providing trailside service, offering breakfast burritos, al pastor street tacos and beer.

Culinary correspondence

A Nibbles reader commented on my praise in the April 26 column of the ribs at Westminster’s GQue BBQ: “As a born-in-southern VA/North Carolina BBQ lover and, I think, connoisseur, I disagree with your casting aspersion on ribs where the meat falls off the bone. To me, that is the perfect rib. You hardly have to even chew it. It is how I measure greatness. Different strokes (tastes) for different folks.”

Comments: nibbles@boulderweekly.com

Words to chew on

“The royal family prefers not to eat cheese in the evening; they find it gives them unpredictable dreams.” — Charles Windsor, Duke of Wales

John Lehndorff is a contributing writer for Cheese Connoisseur magazine. He hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU (88.5 FM, 1390 AM, kgnu.org). 

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