Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Cheese of the Month - Taleggio "La Baita"
Over the past few months I had found myself buying the same three or four cheeses on every single journey to the cheese shop. There's nothing wrong with that I suppose, they're good cheeses, together they make a good, varied cheeseboard, and I'm never disappointed. They are, in case you're wondering, Comté, Valencay goat's, Stinking Bishop and Roquefort - from blue to pungent, soft to firm, cow's to goat's, all bases covered. A good, solid cheeseboard. Something for everyone. But this week I thought it was time to bring a new contender into rotation, and so substituting out the Stinking Bishop (which to be fair only ever I was really crazy about and always seemed to be the one with the most left after guests had gone) I settled on a Taleggio called La Baita.
Most information about this cheese on the internet appears to be in Italian, so you have Google Translate to thank (and possibly blame) for the following. It's DOP designated, which if you trust the Italian government means it's been through a "scrupulous quality process that assesses thoroughly the quality", or if you don't means precisely nothing. It's made from pasturised cow's milk, which means it will last longer in the fridge but not have that extra layer of fresh farmy complexity that marks out the best soft cheeses. And it comes from a breathtakingly picturesque part of Lombardy called the Taleggio Valley, which has been mapped by Google Streeview if you want some serious landscape envy.
And it tastes really lovely. Once you peel off the annoying bits of paper you can appreciate the crumbly salty crust, covering a thin layer of almost liquid flesh just beneath. The main part of the cheese is firm enough to give bite but not soft enough to run, and has an interesting sweet and salty flavour with just the right level of pungent aroma. The layer of liquid beneath the crust apparently means that the cheese is correctly matured, and so it's all the more impressive that the main part of the flesh remained nicely firm - it's a well-made cheese, in other words, with all textures, flavours and aromas nicely balanced. I enjoyed it very much, almost enough for it to earn a permanent place on my cheeseboard. That is, until the next new favourite soft cheese comes along. Call me fickle, or call me open-minded.