Help me get started with cheese
June 18, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I've been a picky eater all my life but I am trying to expand. I go into the supermarket and see all the different cheeses and I really want to just try something, do something, but I'm scared to just buy a hunk of cheese and eat some. Where do I start with cheese?

In my family my father cooked most meals and he hates cheese (except on pizza). I cook my own meals now and live alone and I know for a fact that I'd probably like more cheeses.

I like to eat simple foods with minimal components. I use seasoning and herbs to add layers to my foods and love all kinds of seasoning and herbs if that will help with the cheese journey.

Foods I've had with cheese:
Up till now, I have only mainly eaten American cheese, mozzarella cheese and I'm pretty sure I've had cheddar before in the form of a cheese stick. I have also put cheeses like cottage cheese and neufchatel in smoothies, but I don't really know what these taste like on their own. I used them precisely because they seem to become indistinguishable from the milk.

I'm sure I've had pizzas with multiple kinds of cheese on them but I don't remember the taste of anything but mozzarella. Pizza is my favorite food and I like to make my own pizza so that might be a place to start with new cheeses.

I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I've only ever had them with American cheese. The combination of bread and cheese (sans meat) appeals to me greatly and I'm sure cheese and bread can be mixed together in some other ways besides grilled cheese and plain cheese sandwiches but I don't know where to start. Cheese on crackers also very welcome. Again, I've only had American cheese on crackers. So I'm pretty much a blank slate with cheese.

Cheese problem areas:
I don't eat melted cheese on meat. No cheeseburgers, no cheese on chicken, no cheese steaks. I know this might limit my options but I really don't like melted cheese and meat together. However, I don't know if I'd be against some kind of LIGHT cheese sauce (so light it's more like a flavoring than a separate component). I just don't know anything about sauces or creams. I've never had any kind of cheese in a sauce or creamy form. I rarely eat any kinds of sauce or creamy things on my foods but I am willing to expand in this area. It's just ignorance and fear of the texture and bad memories of a creamed chipped beef punishment I endured.

Also no melted cheese and cooked vegetables mixed together please. But cheeses that enhance raw vegetables and salads (especially raw spinach) would be very welcome.

I don't care if the cheeses are sweet or not, if they are soft or not. I don't have a lot of money so I'm nervous about where to start.
posted by Danila to Food & Drink (65 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
If you go to a cheese shop, or the cheese counter at a deli or market, they will let you have tastes. Then ask them for advice!
posted by musofire at 2:11 PM on June 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

I would start with just cheese, nothing else, to see what you think, go and buy 2-3 cheeses and try them by yourself, make up a little plate, maybe with a few grapes too.

Suggested starter cheeses:

Fontina - a mild, fruity Italian cheese.
Gruyere - a Swiss cheese with medium flavour.
Real cheddar - a 2-5 year old good quality cheddar would be lovely to try as well.
posted by Cosine at 2:13 PM on June 18, 2013

Best answer: Easy one.

Go to your town's fanciest cheese shop, and arrive during a lull (maybe 3 or 4 on a weekday afternoon). Tell them you really want to learn about cheese, and ask for a guided tour. They will give you samples of the major types to try.

Here's the essential step: if you're given something you have the least preference for, order a substantial amount of it. Try to spend at least $15-20 on it. This will demonstrate that you're a serious customer, not a freeloader, and encourage the counterperson to do what they'd really like to do anyway....really show you around the cheese department.

Try to buy a hunk (subsequent ones can be a bit smaller) for every 3-4 tastes. If you wind up with too much cheese, you can give some away as gifts. But you're demonstrating you're serious, and the tasting can literally go on infinitely so long as you're buying. In fact, the buying helps guide the server re: your preferences, so you'll get more tastes of the sort you seem to enjoy. If you spend $40 doing this, you've 1. had fun, 2. learned lots, 3. created a relationship with the store, and 4. have lots of good cheese! $40 well spent.

Most cheese counter people LOVE this sort of thing (though freeloaders can try their patience). But if you don't feel like you're clicking, thank them politely and return another day and try another worker.

Another thing you can do is fax (yes, fax) the store's manager. Explain your eagerness to learn...and interest in buying a decent amount. You may very well get the VIP treatment if they look kindly upon your they should, given that you are a prospect to be a regular customer for years and years. If they don't "get" that, you need to try another store.

So you need: enthusiasm, a friendly desire to be taught, and conspicuous indication that you have money to spend. And, again, you need to show up when they're empty.

This will work out really well for you!
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:14 PM on June 18, 2013 [17 favorites]

Grilled cheese with gouda is divine.
posted by jabes at 2:15 PM on June 18, 2013

Best answer: You can try eating around the wheel of cheese (click image to embiggen).

Feta is my favorite cheese over raw spinach, followed closely by sharper goat cheeses such as Humbolt Fog.

I dislike melted cheese too, even though I like the same cheeses varieties unmelted. It's OK if you never melt any cheese.
posted by jamaro at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

I love, love, LOVE a good slice of crusty bread with melted cheese on it. I would recommend muenster or gouda as good branching out cheeses. Havarti is also a good choice (and dill havarti is amaaaazing if you like dill!)
posted by brilliantine at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2013

Best answer: You should start with port salut. Put it on some crusty bread.

Port salut was my gateway cheese.
posted by phunniemee at 2:18 PM on June 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Add wine to your cheese. Any decent wine will do.

The first time I had blue cheese it was paired with a white wine and it was like a party in my mouth.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 2:19 PM on June 18, 2013

One thing you can do at a real cheese shop (or even somewhere like Whole Foods that has a serious cheese counter) is order exactly as much as you want. Only have five bucks for cheese? Order five bucks of cheese, even if it costs $25/lb.

I might start with a mild cheese and go from there. Maybe a double cream brie, or the texture of really soft cheese is off-putting, then something semi-soft but still creamy and not at all pungent. A fresh gouda might be a good choice.

Think about flavors you already enjoy. Do you like creamy? Salty? Earthy? Really strong flavors? Bring a description like that (and pick a firmness you might like to try) and talk to the guy at the cheese counter. Tell that person you have five bucks to try a new cheese with. They will help you. If they judge you for not having more money, go somewhere else.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:20 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Just going to second everyone's recommendation to talk with the folks behind the cheese counter at your Whole Foods (pretty good) or local cheese shop (better). Whole Foods does often sell the odds and ends of cheeses, which makes it a much more manageable hobby to taste many kinds as you're not making an enormous investment for something you may not like.

But cheeses that enhance raw vegetables and salads (especially raw spinach) would be very welcome.

Feta and really good light goat cheese, crumbled, are wonderful for this. I love blue cheeses on salads (especially with apples and walnuts or pecans) but that might be a bit intense for you to start off with. Parmesan curls on argula with olive oil and salt.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:21 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding havarti -- it's a very creamy, mild, buttery cheese. Good on crackers or bread, by itself or topped with a little slice of tomato or avocado.
posted by scody at 2:21 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

If there's a Whole Foods near you, the folks in the cheese department generally love to talk about cheese and give you tastes. (I used to do this when I worked there. I loved it - at least, when it wasn't at a time when we were totally slammed.)

I've never had any kind of cheese in a sauce or creamy form

If you have had mac and cheese, you have had cheese in a sauce or cream form! Yes, even out of the box!
posted by rtha at 2:22 PM on June 18, 2013

if you like herbs i bet you would like havarti with dill.

fresh mozzarella! an easy recipe that could enlighten you to what cheese tastes like could be a caprese salad or those components on crusty bread with some balsamic vinaigrette. no melting involved. its fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato! so simple.
posted by c at 2:24 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: If you have had mac and cheese, you have had cheese in a sauce or cream form! Yes, even out of the box!

I have never had macaroni and cheese in my life!
posted by Danila at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2013

Another thing to learn about cheese concerns quality and handling. It's easy to find sub par cheese, eat it right out of the fridge and be disappointed.

For Mozza you'd want to try real buffalo milk mozzarella. For Feta it's sheep's and/or goat's milk.
Some hard cheeses need a few years to develop the rich flavor and their young counterparts just don't measure up (but are cheaper).

In France, the cheese country, people take their cheese out of the fridge well before they eat it. Allow the cheese at least some rest at room temperature, best if it can warm up to room temp before you eat it. The flavors will be more intense.
posted by travelwithcats at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty sure I've had cheddar before in the form of a cheese stick. I have also put cheeses like cottage cheese and neufchatel in smoothies, but I don't really know what these taste like on their own.

Well, you could always start from there. Next time you're at the supermarket, buy a block of good quality cheddar. I like Tillamook on the West Coast and Cabot on the East Coast. English cheddars are the Real Deal, but are also more expensive and IMO not really necessary to start with for someone who has literally only ever had American cheese and American-made pizza quality Mozzarella.

Likewise, buy neufchatel or cottage cheese and just try a spoonful or a small piece and see what you think. I mean, just, like, put it in your mouth and eat it. You have now officially tried them! Keep in mind you don't have to like every cheese. I'm a huge cheese obsessive and don't think I've ever tried neufchatel, and have no particular love for cottage cheese.

Also, Mozzarella. The stuff you've had on pizza is the bottom of the barrel. Try a "fresh mozzarella" (they are very white and usually sold in ball shapes the size of a fist), or if you want to get even fancier, try buffalo milk Mozzarella or burrata, which is Mozzarella with a cream center.

I'm not a huge fan of melted cheese + other foods. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll eat a quesadilla, a grill cheese sandwich, cheese fries, pizza, queso dip, omelets, etc. But I don't really see the point of steamed broccoli + melted cheddar. Broccoli is broccoli. It doesn't need cheese melted on it to be edible. Good cheddar should stand on its own. I think if you don't like cheese presented this way, it's totally fine not to eat it.

Once you start to get more confident about what you like, here are some other typically affordable cheeses that should be available at your local supermarket:

Chevre - soft goatmilk cheese, French in origin (though, like Cheddar, a lot is made in the US). Has a stronger flavor than something like Mozzarella but isn't stinky or anything.

Feta - brined cheese, usually made of cow's milk but sometimes sheep or goat. It's "Greek", but there's also Feta from Bulgaria, Turkey, and other parts of the Mediterranean. It's firmer than chevre or mozzarella, but not hard. It's very salty from being brined.

Cream Cheese - you've had cream cheese, right? Surely? If not, pick some up and spread it on a cracker. Cream cheese is also great with jam (either savory or sweet), chutney, and salsa, spread on a bit of bread or crackers.

Colby Jack and Monterrey Jack - these are a lot like cheddar, but they melt better so are more commonly used for things like grilled cheese sandwiches and quesadillas. You can also get Pepper Jack, which is monterrey jack mixed with jalapenos for a slight kick.

Provolone and Gruyere - the former is Italian, and the latter is Swiss. (Think of gruyere as "Swiss Cheese", but better. In fact, ignore products in the store called Swiss Cheese.) These are both mild cow's milk cheeses similar in texture to cheddar, but they melt well and are great for anything that calls for melty cheese. Gruyere is often used in fondue, which is something else you should try if you start finding that you really love cheese. A grilled cheese sandwich with gruyere, hearty artisan or multigrain bread, and some caramelized onions is about as good as it gets, in my opinion.

If you want to spend a little more money, you might want to try:

Gouda - very similar to a good Gruyere, but you should hold out to try the expensive aged versions that are actually produced in the Netherlands rather than what passes for gouda in the supermarket.

Parmesano-Reggiano - this is the ancestor of that bland stuff that comes in the green can that you shake over pasta and pizza. It's not cheap, but it's typically eaten either shredded finely and sprinkled over other foods or on its own in minute slices. It will last forever in the fridge and is a good thing to have on hand if you eat Italian food a lot.

Brie - this is really hard to describe, but heaven. Spend a little more on the good stuff rather than the rock-bottom version you sometimes find at the supermarket. You don't have to eat the rind if you don't want to. Just spread the creamy inner part on bread, or even better, let it melt a little and dip apples into it. You can eat the rind, though.

Blue Cheeses - there are a million different kinds, from different countries, with different flavor profiles and levels of stank. In my opinion you should wait to really delve into blue until you can afford to try the good stuff. The cheap stuff is usually much more pungent and can easily turn you off blue cheeses entirely. Stilton and Roquefort are good choices. This is something else where a little goes a very long way and it lasts forever stored properly.

If you find that you're really into this, you can also start trying all the really wild stinky French stuff, washed rind cheeses, cheeses preserved with ashes and leaves, etc. The sky is the limit for crazy cheese experiences!
posted by Sara C. at 2:30 PM on June 18, 2013 [11 favorites]

Ha! I was pretty sure I had typed something along the lines of "port salut was my gateway cheese" before, and it turns out I had. In this previous thread about cheese. You might find some good answers there!
posted by phunniemee at 2:31 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I love a good cheese shop and a trusty cheesemonger, but I'm honestly not sure you're ready for that. I think if you're not sure whether you've had cheddar, you're going to be instantly intimidated. Also, lots of cheesemongers will ask you questions about what you're looking for and you might not be able to answer them. I don't want you to have an unsatisfactory experience that makes your first trip to the cheese shop also your last!

If I were you, I'd start looking for social opportunities to try new cheeses and start to get a tiny bit more comfort. If you go to a party or event and there's a cheese plate, grab a piece of each variety. If you especially like or dislike one, turn to the person next to you and say, "do you know what kind of cheese this is?" They will answer, and you can make a mental note about it. Or, if you go to a restaurant, order a salad that has cheese on it, and ask for the cheese on the side. Take a small bite. If you like it, add it to the salad, if not, make a mental note and move on. Once you've done these sorts of things for a while, you'll have a tiny bit of working knowledge that will help you at the cheese shop.
posted by juliapangolin at 2:32 PM on June 18, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't know if you have a good local co-op or farmer's market, but those are great places to sample cheeses as well. The co-op that I used to go to in Minneapolis also sold all the little odds and ends from all their cheeses and most were under a dollar, so I got to try a lot of stuff that way, but was never stuck with a ton of cheese that I disliked.
posted by JannaK at 2:33 PM on June 18, 2013

Nthing havarti, muenster, fontina, and gouda as good starter cheeses. They're all mild without being bland, not too far off in texture or color from supermarket cheese, and absolutely delicious. For now, I'd stay away from anything too crumbly or soft, or with multiple colors on the inside. (Crumbly, soft, and colorful cheeses are great, but they can be a shock to the palate if all you've ever had is American.)

Whole Foods and specialty cheese shops often have samples out at busy times; go on a weekend afternoon. If there aren't any samples, it doesn't hurt to ask.

And if you don't like one kind of cheese, don't assume that will extend to other varieties; the world of cheese is large and contains multitudes. I could take or leave fresh mozzarella, and wouldn't mourn feta if it disappeared from the planet, but that doesn't diminish my love for other cheeses.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Also, lots of cheesemongers will ask you questions about what you're looking for and you might not be able to answer them

You can totally do this - you did it at the top of the page. Believe me, I have helped many cluesless-about-cheese people, and have found them cheeses they like based only on descriptions like "Um, it was white? And kind of soft. But you could still sort of slice it. It was pretty mild - but delicious! What are other cheeses I would like?" And I would whip out my cheese knife and some little cups or deli papers for to hold your cheese tastes and go to town unwrapping different cheeses. Do not be afraid to A) taste and B) tell the cheese person "That's too sharp/strong/like feet/etc." We will not be offended, I promise. We want to help you find cheeses to love, and they don't have to be $40/lb cheeses made on a tiny farm with three goats and a yak - they can be common, ordinary, unremarked by cheese snobs. Doesn't matter, as long as you love it, and you get courage to try other new cheeses.

One other thing you can try: host a cheese-tasting party. Ask your friends to bring some different cheeses, and you supply the crackers/bread/fruit to taste them with, and maybe some wine or beer.
posted by rtha at 2:43 PM on June 18, 2013 [13 favorites]

Not being too keen on cooking with cheese is actually a big plus. Cheese is generally best eaten at room temperature and with minimal accompaniment. Sure, some manchenco and quince is lovely, but you won't really appreciate the incredible variety and subtlety of individual cheeses unless you have them with a cracker at most.

This is not to say that it is wrong to cook with cheese. It is like wine, it is a fine ingredient that can really make a dish, but you can't taste the glory of a good bottle when it has chicken and root vegetables in it.

Unlike with sex, go bare.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:44 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I love a good cheese shop and a trusty cheesemonger, but I'm honestly not sure you're ready for that. I think if you're not sure whether you've had cheddar, you're going to be instantly intimidated. Also, lots of cheesemongers will ask you questions about what you're looking for and you might not be able to answer them."

I have no problem, myself, in going to specialists and announcing my complete ignorance. I find it makes them want to help and guide me. All the more so with specialists in a narrow realm like cheese, where the urge to evangelize is part of their entire career choice.

It's true, there are some who will have trouble winding themselves all the way back down to cheese step 1. But then you just need to try another worker another time. It means they're bad at what they do. But what's the worst that can happen? You try a few interesting cheeses for free! Just tune out their blathering and pay attention to what you're tasting. Fun!
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:53 PM on June 18, 2013

I have no problem, myself, in going to specialists and announcing my complete ignorance.

Yes! Yes yes yes! If you can make yourself ok with this, good things will come.

I have gone to a number of do-[specialized thing]-for-a-living folks and said, "hi! I don't know anything about [specialized thing] but I would love some recommendations as to where to start. My budget is [dollars]."
posted by phunniemee at 2:57 PM on June 18, 2013

Yeah, phunniemee. The reaction will be binary: 1. their eyes will brighten as they prepare to seize the opportunity, or 2. their eyes will deaden 'cuz they can't be bothered.

If I spot 2, I prepare my polite retreat. And go try someone else.

But cheese people are pretty heavily stacked to Type 1!

But don't reveal your budget. That makes your time with them finite. As long as you keep buying bits of this and that (per my posting above), you can potentially continue tasting and learning infinitely. Never reveal your pot of chips! Just parcel them out cannily! :)
posted by Quisp Lover at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2013

Try Havarti cut into small pieces, on (Ritz) crackers. The real Havarti, from Denmark.

It's a soft white cheese with a mellow flavor, and contains a lot of fat so it's very satisfying.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2013

Two other suggestions for cheese to eat on (Ritz) crackers:

Kaukauna spreadable smoky cheddar

alouette garlic & herb cream cheese
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:05 PM on June 18, 2013

Grilled cheese with Muenster is the bestest.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:09 PM on June 18, 2013

Best answer: My only reservation in recommending that Danila repair to her nearest specialty cheese shop is that she mentions she doesn't have a lot of money to spend. Not that they're all extremely expensive, and yes, you can order a little of this and a little of that -- and if you intend to make a purchase, there are usually free samples involved -- but I adore cheese and feel perfectly at home in specialty cheese shops, and I've definitely had sticker shock before.

Ain't nothing wrong with getting a nice cheddar or some chevre in the dairy aisle of the supermarket, for starters. Going from zero to specialty cheesemonger is kind of like going from training wheels to building your own fixed-gear Bianchi. One can do it that way, but it's not the only way to get into cycling. And sometimes doing it that way can make the whole enterprise seem much more intimidating than it really has to be.

That said, if Danila lives near a good cheese shop and wants to stop in, yeah, go and tell them you're a blank slate and see what you like! Frankly, if you only sample a couple of things, you don't even have to really buy anything. Or just buy a quarter-pound of something you already know you like. No reason to try all the cheeses in one grand high cheese-tasting mission. They'll all be there for you next time, and the time after that.

Another idea, for the thrifty: a lot of good cheese shops sell little end pieces and odd bits which are extremely affordable. You don't need to have a whole interaction with a human and try a zillion things and get overwhelmed. You can just go straight to the odd bits bin and pick two or three that look interesting. This should cost about $1 per piece, so no harm no foul if you get one you don't like. Whole Foods definitely has this. My local cheese shop back in Brooklyn did, too. No idea whether it's A Thing everywhere, though.
posted by Sara C. at 3:09 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

With sincere respect, because we all start that way, it sounds like you have only eaten cheap cheese. Mass-produced cheese is made for the convenience of cuisine: perfect melt, completely even texture, no crumbling (except crumbly cheeses). It's not terrible, but it is adulterated with refined or replaced oils, stabilizers, etc. That's not to say you'll love cheese when it's high-quality. It may mean that you are being extra-bold to want to try cheese like so, so bravo, really.

If you have any ideas that cheese is a topping, please set those ideas free. Cheese is a wonderful fermented dairy product which is richly flavored and one should enjoy it with other things (crackers, fruit) as a medium.

Your love of grilled cheese is a great start-- not all cheese is great for melting or toasting, but you can experiment endlessly on toast. Some cheeses exude oil when melting, and cheese toast tolerates this very well-- use gentle even heating (oven/stovetop), not harsh uneven heating (microwave) to melt cheese, and shred hard cheese first for even cooking. Try anything and everything on toast if eating it straight doesn't help you.

Only one mention of nuts, above-- I'm surprised. Cheeses go great with nuts, and often, especially toasted, have nutty flavors.

Speaking of cheese shops that you should avoid, there's this one.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:18 PM on June 18, 2013

Lots of good advice above - but: don't overthink this. It doesn't need to be complicated. There is nothing to be scared of. Cheese is awesome.
posted by gyusan at 3:24 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honestly, I think you should start with different grilled cheeses. Mild cheddars, supermarket swiss, provolone are all relatively mild and should be conquered easily, after which you can move on to sharp cheddar, Gouda, and the like.

I LOVE cheese on crackers. Fancy cheese, cheap cheese. It doesn't really matter. Almost anything is better than American, though. Spreadable port wine cheese is great, as are fancier cheeses. There's nothing like some dubliner cheese on a triscuit with a sliced apple. Om nom nom!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:57 PM on June 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Cheese and eggs also go together well! You can add cheese to omelets or quiches (without cooked vegetables to avoid melted cheese + cooked vegetables). Make sure to shred or grate the cheese well so you don't end up with gross half-melted globs. Cheddar, Swiss, and Gruyere are my favorite cheeses to go with eggs. These are also easy enough to find at your grocery store, though you can go to a fancy specialty grocery store, Whole Foods, or Trader Joe's for a slightly higher caliber of cheese.
posted by yasaman at 4:00 PM on June 18, 2013

When I was where you are, 20 years ago, my experience was limited to processed, grocery-store cheese. I had a British friend who offered me a hunk of sharp cheddar, and my reaction was "Gross, it smells like mold!" He nodded happily.

I love all cheeses now, the sharper the better, and good, sharp cheeses no longer smell moldy to me. Work your way up. Havarti and gouda are good places to start, as suggested above. Cotswald is a delicious blend of double gloucester (sort of a mild English cheddar) and chives. It is yummy yummy yummy on its own, and makes an outstanding grilled cheese sammich. You could also splurge and get some Brillat-Savarin, which is a triple creme cheese much like brie or camembert, but it doesn't have the aged funk. It's just smooth and creamy and freakin' delicious.

An aged gouda -- popular brands you're likely to find are Primadonna and Beemster (which is aged quite a bit longer than Primadonna) -- is like candy. That's right, cheese candy. It's caramel-y and rich and salty all at the same time. Try some with a granny smith apple.

A little goes a long way, too, so your money will stretch.

Welcome to the world of cheese. Keep an open mind, and start on the mild side. There's hope for you yet.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:11 PM on June 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

You need to spend a little time with Laura Werlin.

Since you like grilled cheese, maybe start with her Grilled Cheese Please.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:14 PM on June 18, 2013

Are you still in the Philly area? If yes, the cheesemongers at DiBruno's are generally very nice and happy to offer samples and suggestions. The Center City location usually has a lot of samples in little tubs if you don't want to interact with people, but definitely try the samples and only buy things that you like. Primadonna is one of their bestsellers (I think it runs $16/lb, caramelly+crystally and a good gateway cheese to fancy cheese). The problem with DiBruno's is that it is in fact a fancier cheese shop and they also stock a lot of terrific $25/lb cheeses, so it's easy to get carried away.
On your budget, I would splurge on one thing I liked at the fancy cheese place and then go to Trader Joe's for a wide selection of mostly under $10/lb cheeses, many types have already been mentioned above .

I recommend trying cheeses both uncooked and melted, they can be really different experiences.
posted by tangaroo at 6:35 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of good thoughts here and if you find a nice cheese shop that's convenient do take advantage, you can buy pretty small chunks. But don't think it's all one jump, some cheeses are a learned experience, and for a few that can be a long time growing into some of the stronger. Do watch for the platters to taste.

It doesn't have to be extremely expensive, a small piece of really good real Parmesan (from Parma, Italy not Iowa) goes a long way grated over some pasta. And the regular cheeses can be ok, I personally tend to prefer the really cheap feta. Beware the Blues, they can seem almost scary, but when they grab you, just amazing.

And it's not constant, I lost a taste for cheddar for a number of years. And if one doesn't grab you, it may be a few factors, there's one brand of mozzarella I go crazy for sometimes while others are just meh. Then there are some cheeses I love when I can get a cube or two from a platter but I've learned that's all I need is about two cubes, and buy something else.

For grilled cheese, about three different cheeses are best, a very sharp cheddar, a thin slice of mild provolone or munster and perhaps a bit of havarti. I ran over to the fridge to check and counted ten cheeses, most last a reasonable time.

Go easy, find tastes and textures you like, take your time and expand.
posted by sammyo at 6:40 PM on June 18, 2013

A couple of Italian cheeses that are similar in taste and texture to the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano are Grana Padano and Asiago. They're both a little less expensive and a little less intensely flavoured.
Since you like pizza, see if you can find an old-time Italian restaurant in your town that serves a classic, simple pizza - just hand-made dough and simple tomato sauce topped with real, fresh mozzarella and a few basil leaves.
Good cheddar would be my first choice for a little experimentation. The sharp and crumbly aged variety is tasty on it's own, grilled in the broiler on good bread (as an alternative to grilled cheese sandwiches) and goes well with fruit, especially apples, nuts and even honey. Cheddar and honey makes for a great simple sandwich.
posted by islander at 7:20 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lots of great advice here. My local supermarket's cheesemonger has special under $5 baskets of small pieces of cheese. That's a great way to cheaply experiment.

Nth that any shop worth its name will answer your questions and give you tastes.
posted by mmascolino at 7:38 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is absolutely NO need for you to spend money on cheese you don't like in order to make friends with a cheesemonger. Just, no.

Krogers (aka QFC) now has a deal with the famous Murray's Cheese shop in NYC. Their cheese people are flown to NY and given significant training. There are experts in your mix!

Any cheese shop worth anything will let you sample.

I'd try the following categories, as opposed to specific types:
- Texture: hard, medium, soft
- Animal type: Cow, goat or sheep

Sometimes it's helpful to do a tasting with three similar things - say, 3 hard cow's milk cheeses. This will help you build a vocabulary for what you like and don't like. Or you can choose three soft cheeses - one cow, goat or sheep.

The most difficult thing, I've found, is having the right words to describe what it is that I like. Trying several cheeses at the same time helps a person differentiate, which I think is important. And yes, check out the small baskets that are filled with samples in the $3-5 range. You can get a taste of various cheeses without spending a lot of money.

mmmm..... cheese....
posted by frizz at 8:36 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have never had macaroni and cheese in my life!
I'm not a big fan of the mac and cheese made with thick gloopy cheese sauce but I've always loved the way me old Mom made it -
Layer or cooked macaroni
Some diced tomatoes, black pepper, lots of grated cheddar
Another layer of macaroni then more tomatoes, pepper and cheese.
Repeat until your casserole dish is nearly full then top it with breadcrumbs mixed with more cheese.
Bake until the top is brown and crunchy. You can add whatever herbs and veggies you like to the layers and a bit of parmesan on top helps too. (don't tell my Mom but I like it with ketchup).
posted by islander at 9:02 PM on June 18, 2013

Response by poster: This has all been immensely informative and I'm compiling a lot of tips in a document.

Here's the essential step: if you're given something you have the least preference for, order a substantial amount of it. Try to spend at least $15-20 on it.

I don't understand this? Why would I spend any money on the cheese I have the least preference for?

My monthly food budget is about 150, mostly food stamps, which is the only reason I'm reluctant to go to the cheese shops although they look like exactly what I need. On the other hand, I am getting financial aid in the next few weeks so now is the best time for me to do this cheese thing, but I still need to be judicious.
posted by Danila at 9:12 PM on June 18, 2013

Seconding munchingzombie's note about room temperature. Cheese is my favorite thing in the food world next to tea, and I have a friend who loathes cheese. I finally got him to try a piece of something, and it was room temp, a thin shaved slice rather than a giant chunk, and he was kind of amazed at how much he liked it. He'd never really tasted it -- it was always cold, which inhibits taste in a lot of cheeses, and sometimes slicing it thin makes for a subtler bite.

Lately all my favorites are sheep's milk cheeses, but I always have fun trying out new things, even if I normally wouldn't like something. It seems there's always something new to try.

You'll have fun!
posted by emcat8 at 9:13 PM on June 18, 2013

"The least preference" is a way of saying "that you respond to favourably". Turn of phrase.


Feta over steamed veg is a blessing. You don't need an expensive feta for that, just make sure when you buy it there's a little bit of brine in the packaging. It's salty and creamy. Danish feta is creamiest. Just crumble a bit on.

I'd be doing you a disservice if I didn't recommend you try a grilled cheese sammich with some Jarslberg, maybe a little avocado and mushroom. Gods fight wars for that sort of thing.

Really the only way you're going to find what you like is to nibble things. The worst that will happen is you'll find some things you don't like, and others that you do. You don't need to go too fancy with things. Honestly, I learned a lot about cheeses from simply buying things that looked interesting from the Serbian deli near where I worked and just having them on plain crackers with a bit of wine on the side. Okay, a lot of wine on the side. Sometimes some apple slices as a palate cleanser if we were feeling fancy. On occasion I would cock up and wind up with something nasty, but in cracker sized portions and with a strong red to rinse your mouth out you're not going to be damaged for life.
posted by Jilder at 9:35 PM on June 18, 2013

Serious Eats has some tips about Cheese on a Budget and here are some ideas for DIY cheese.
posted by islander at 9:45 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

My favourite ways with cheese (to give you some ideas):
* Mozzarella sliced and layered with ripe tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and black pepper and eat with crusty bread
* Cheddar in a salad with apple
* Edam melted on toast
* Goat's cheese wrapped in foil and baked in the oven then eaten with crusty bread and salad - it goes a bit melty but not stringy like cheddar
* Roast vegetables (tomato, peppers, sweet potato, courgette, aubergine, red onion) with halloumi mixed in - it doesn't melt but crisps up instead. I eat this with couscous, pita bread or just with a spoon.

posted by kadia_a at 11:03 PM on June 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

So many good suggestions. If you're in Philly, I believe there's a cheese shop at the Reading Terminal Market that also does gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, which might be a good gateway.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:43 PM on June 18, 2013

I don't think you should try gruyere yet. It can have a strong smell, especially when heated. I suggest trying cheddar (mild, medium, or sharp), provolone (almost tasteless to me), gouda, havarti (if you want something with a creamy taste). I'm not a fan of swiss so I can't recommend it, but you might like it. You could also try muenster. If you want a softer cheese with a distinctive flavor, you could try brie. If you liked smoked flavor, you could try something like smoked gouda.
posted by Dansaman at 12:32 AM on June 19, 2013

When I was a student I used to buy blocks of economy cheddar for cooking with. This is probably similar to the cheese you've had - very bland and designed for eating with other things.

A few years ago, I was earning a bit more money so decided to pay the extra £2 and buy a block of mature cheddar that was on offer. The difference was amazing. The mature cheddar was strong and slightly salty, and didn't taste anything like the cheap stuff. So you don't necessarily need to spend a huge amount or go to specialist stores - if you've only eaten very basic cheese before, there are probably things in the supermarket which will blow your mind.

I don't know if this is common in the US, but in supermarkets here you can sometimes get mini wedges of Brie or stilton with cranberries or cheddar for about 40p, or a 'variety selection' of these mini portions for £2 or so. This was how I learned I liked various cheeses as a kid. I really like supermarket Caerphilly or Cheshire, which have a crumbly texture and a sharp lemony taste. If you like feta, or kind of like feta but find it a bit salty, you'd probably like these. If your supermarket has a cheese counter, they may sell you 50g or so portions and you can get an idea of what you like.

Blue cheese can be really strong if you're not used to it. My favourite mild ones are Danish Blue and St Agur, the latter has a nice clay-like texture. Dolcelatte and gorgonzola (which is lovely with nuts) are almost sweet. Stilton can be quite strong, especially once it's ripening. Same with Parmesan and Grana Padano - I could happily eat a wedge of Parmesan like an apple now, but when I first tried it I couldn't work out why people liked the stuff.
posted by mippy at 3:12 AM on June 19, 2013

Best answer: Some of the recommendations above are great for people with *some* familiarity with cheese and plenty money to spend. Since neither of these are true for you, Sara C.'s advice is probably the best in the thread.

I would try at least 8-10 different cheeses from your local supermarket (unless you live in the middle of nowhere, there will be more options than that) before even worrying about fancy cheeses.

These are all cheeses you should try which can be purchased inexpensively at supermarket. These will give you an idea of the kinds of cheese that are out there.
  • Sharp Cheddar (move on to Extra Sharp if you like the Sharp) - I recommend Cabot's brand if you can get it. It's often on sale too, and is very reasonably priced for its quality.
  • Provolone - store brand is fine. Very mild cheese with a slight smokey flavor. Note that there is a more expensive aged or Sharp Provolone which is more expensive and generally available at high-end places only.
  • Monterey Jack - a great mild melting cheese and a good option for making grilled cheese sandwiches.
  • Swiss Cheese - nutty and full of holes. It will prepare you for the real cave-aged Swiss cheeses that are actually from Switzerland and have very strong and distinct flavors.
  • Cream Cheese or Neufchatel - creamy. The best way to consume this is spread thickly on a toasted bagel. Seriously, there's no better way to experience it.
  • Cottage Cheese - full fat only. I recommend Friendship brand since it's the only one I've found that has *just* milk in it -- most others have thickeners like carrageenan or food starch. Unless you're on a diet get the full-fat or 2% fat version as it tastes so much better. This will prepare you for fresh curd cheeses like farmer's cheese (also probably available at the grocery store). I like it on its own but it's also good with fresh chopped tomatoes or with fruit.
  • Blue Cheese -- I'd avoid the crumbles; they usually taste dry and too salty. Get a wedge if you can: Danish Blue is generally the cheapest variety and totally stands up to scrutiny. Get the smallest possible piece you can in case you hate it; very few people have neutral opinions on blue cheese.
  • String cheese - related to mozzarella and basically just fun to eat. You can pull off strands of the cheese and pop it in your mouth. Makes a great portable snack, just pop a stick in your bag for when you're out and about.
  • Goat cheese - in a grocery store you might only find the spreadable kind. But that's fine and will expose you to cheeses made from milk *other* than cow's milk. It has a tangy flavor and there are almost as many varieties of goat (and sheep!)
Whole Foods, if you want to "move up" to that, is a great place to try cheese. They're relatively used to freeloaders so they won't complain if you ask for 2-3 tastes and then don't buy anything. If you taste a cheese and love it, by all means buy a hunk of it. However, Whole Foods is considerably pricey compared to other shopping choices.

Have you had cold (i.e. unmelted) cheese sandwiches? If you like cheddar, try making a sandwich with multigrain bread, a "sharp" cheddar, lettuce, butter, and just a little bit of mustard. If you like sweet and salty combinations, you can add a slice or two of very thinly sliced apple.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:52 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how buying 8-10 cheeses, many of which the poster won't like, is the best route if you don't have "plenty of money to spend". In fact, this is THE most expensive option, and one which will leave her with a largest amount of cheeses she won't even enjoy (and, since it's a supermarket, probably none she'll absolutely love).

Again, go to a great cheese shop and enjoy free tastes. Spend $30 (which is less than the 8-10 random crappy supermarket cheeses will cost), and take home splendid cheese that's exactly what you love. It's cheaper, it's better, it's more friendly, and you'll get to try tons of the world's best cheese under expert guidance.
posted by Quisp Lover at 6:56 AM on June 19, 2013

Quisp, I don't think anyone is saying to buy all these cheeses at once. These are all safe cheeses to start with and she can buy a different cheese each time she goes to the supermarket. Over the period of a month, she can buy 2 cheeses per week for a cost of maybe $7-8 per shopping trip and at the end of the month she's spent that $30. But I'm guessing it will cost even less, since some of the options -- cream cheese and cottage cheese -- are really inexpensive. Her question clearly implies that she's on a budget. You cannot dispute that, delicious or not, the kind of cheese you buy at a cheese shop is a luxory item. If she buys cheese at a supermarket, pedestrian as it might seem to you, she is still tasting new things she has never tasted before.

If she has zero experience with cheese -- to the point that she has literally tried only 3-4 cheeses in her entire life -- I feel like going to a cheese shop is not the first step. She doesn't have any context in which to experience cheese. If the cheese shop owner tells her that it tastes like Swiss, or it tastes like Havarti, she will not know what these taste like.

$30 at a cheese shop will get you maybe 1-2 pounds of cheese. $30 at a supermarket will get you closer to 5-8 lbs of cheese, so in addition to tasting it and experiencing it, she can actually incorporate it as a food in her diet, which is in my opinion an important step towards appreciating cheese.

The truth is there are two realities of cheese: one is that it's a relatively inexpensive but tasty foodstuff that can be incorporated into sandwiches, warm dishes, or enjoyed on its own. The other reality is that it's a high-end gourmet item that should be enjoyed in tiny bites with wine or quince jelly. Right now I think it's more useful to focus on the former.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:20 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also: Danila, don't feel like you *shouldn't* go to a cheese shop. Feel free to go if you would like. But know also that if you go to the grocery store and buy store-brand swiss or provolone, you are still experiencing cheese and learning about it. Even if it's not high end, it is still cheese and still worth eating.

The absolutely worse case scenario is you spend $4 (nearly all grocery store cheese is available in small 1/2 lbs portions below that price point) on something that you're not crazy about. However, odds are good that if you like regular cheddar, you're probably like other cheeses like Jack or Sharp Cheddar. If you try sharp cheddar and you like it, you'll probably enjoy other sharp cheeses. If you don't find cottage cheese offensive in your smoothie you'll probably enjoy it on its own. If you like cottage cheese or cream cheese you'll probably like spreadable chevre (goat cheese). If you like the crappy store blue cheese you'll probably like all other blue cheeses too.

Actually, if you would get any cheese in a cheese shop I'd recommend blue. Since some people hate it, this way you could avoid buying a large hunk of it. Just go to cheese shop and tell them you've never tried blue cheeses before and ask to try some. Just be aware that blue cheeses start at $8/lb at the very cheapest (exception might be Trader Joe's which has a house blue for a little over $6/lb). Then if you do like it, unless you love it buy a very small portion. Due to its strong flavor it takes a lot longer to consume than other forms of cheese.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:28 AM on June 19, 2013

If you really love herbs, as you mentioned, you might try some sort of small round of goat cheese that comes coated in herbs -- even if you're only so-so on the cheese, you get the herbal freshness on your cracker. This sort of thing has become more common in the US than it used to be, so you can probably try some on a budget.

However, otherwise, I'd say try one cheese shop visit for broad education (and it's worth buying something as thanks) and otherwise sticking with things you can find at the grocery store (you might ask the cheese shop to start you with "very common types of cheese," not so you can buy elsewhere but so you can find them reliably in life). Store cheese is cheaper, is flavored to common tastes, and tends to keep for a really long time -- a new cheese-taster is likely to not enjoy the "my cheese is coated in a moldy fur after two days" experience of many fresher cheeses. Most common in my experience are cheddar, swiss, jacks, and gouda (plain and smoked). Laughing Cow is surprisingly tasty and real food too.
posted by acm at 7:44 AM on June 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in some light reading on the subject of cheese, I really liked this book. He can get a little ranty and repetitive at times, but overall it's a good introduction to the world of cheesemongering and cheese production, and he provides a few recommendations in the book as well.

And really, even if you only a small amount of money to budget towards cheese, it will go a long way. Expensive cheeses can go upwards of $30/lb, but an eigth to a quarter pound of cheese is a surprisingly large amount for one person to eat, especially with very rich, heavy styles that command the high price points. Don't be afraid to ask for small amounts of anything.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:52 AM on June 19, 2013

$30 at a cheese shop will get you maybe 1-2 pounds of cheese. $30 at a supermarket will get you closer to 5-8 lbs of cheese

True. But that $30 spent at the cheese shop will also buy a dozen tastes, expert guidance, broad overview, and some sublime cheese to take home, every bite a pre-approved treasure.

$30 at the supermarket buys you a bunch of random crap, none of it great, much of it not even good, including lots of cheeses she'll hate.

I don't see how the latter is better in any way (but I don't say that snotty and combatively; I'm just advocating my point, as you are yours! no hard feelings, and cheesy greetings!).
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:03 AM on June 19, 2013

One last point. Some people think that if you lack experience in things like cheese or wine that it's not worth tasting really good stuff, because you're not calibrated enough to appreciate the difference.

It's not true. I've given lots of newbies tastes of all sorts of really really great foods and drinks in categories where they had no prior experience, and unless they happen not to like a given taste (e,.g. some people hate bleu cheese), I find that people (especially curious, open-minded, pleasure-minded people) absolutely do "get it". Good is good! Hence my cheese shop advice, above.

If you start with supermarket cheese, there's a good chance you will conclude you simply don't like cheese....even though you absolutely would if you had the good stuff.

Also, you need to eat less of the good stuff to be satisfied (think Hershey's Ice Cream vs fine Italian gelato). So between the guidance, the free tastes, and the quality difference, cheese shops are the way to go even if on a budget.
posted by Quisp Lover at 8:10 AM on June 19, 2013

You know you don't have to spend $30 at a cheese shop in order to get tastes and expert guidance and the like?

It would be completely OK for Danila to go to a cheese shop, try three things, and buy a quarter or a half pound of one that she likes. Or if she genuinely hates them all, not buy any.

That said, the supermarket is a better place to buy certain cheeses, and other cheeses will be more cost effective for the same level of quality (or a perfectly good level of quality for someone who has maybe never had cheddar cheese before).

Here's what I'd buy at a supermarket:

- good quality cheddar. Get Cabot, not store-brand or Cracker Barrel.

- cream cheese, cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, feta, and chevre. There's really no reason to buy this stuff at a specialty cheese shop unless you just enjoy throwing away money.

- gruyere, provolone, havarti, monterrey jack. These will either be identical and priced higher at a cheese shop, or not available since they are more mundane cheeses that tend to be below the notice of cheese shop folks.

A cheese shop, in my opinion, is more for obscure specialty cheeses and cheeses that are much better from artisanal or imported sources, like brie and gouda. There's nothing wrong with going directly to superb imported cheeses right away, but it can be really intimidating if you don't know anything about cheese at all. And for a lot of entry level cheeses, a cheese store is going to be overkill.

I'd also say to generally err on the side of not ever buying store-brand cheese at the supermarket. Cheese is specific, like wine. It should be a specific type (and made according to the standards of that type), from a specific place*, presented in a certain shape. Those blocks of supermarket brand "mozzarella" and "gouda" bear no resemblance to the real thing.

*This isn't to say that you should only buy chevre from France, cheddar from England, or feta from Greece. But the label on the cheese should say its origin, and it should at least APPEAR to be from a specific place and not just a rubbery orange block wrapped in plastic with the word cheddar stamped on it.
posted by Sara C. at 8:18 AM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Tremendously good advice in this thread! I have spent the day traveling around by bus trying to sample cheese. I took a list of six cheeses from this thread just to start. I went to the Italian Market which has a good-looking cheese shop but they were really busy so I decided to wait on that and go to Whole Foods instead. At Whole Foods South Philly I explained my inexperience and what I wanted to do. I wanted to start with Havarti. I was allowed to sample Havarti, which started off kind of strange but then a nice flavor kicked in. However they would not let me sample any more cheeses because, and I quote, "this isn't a buffet". And here I tried not to look too poor today!

I left that Whole Foods and went to the other one near Ben Franklin Pkwy. There they didn't have a problem with giving several samples although they didn't have everything so that is one more reason to go to the cheese shop. In the end, I loved manchego and port salut along with the havarti and I bought them, along with crackers, flatbread, crusty bread and some good onions and mushrooms for the epic grilled cheese I will be making tomorrow! Thank you all so so much!
posted by Danila at 4:34 PM on June 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

Sorry it went down like that, but I do really like your choices...sounds like you're a natural!

Whole Foods is not a cheese shop. It's not set up for this sort of thing. You're fighting against the momentum of the place, which is: sell cheese and get 'em out of there. It's more like a supermarket.

It sounds like you're in Philly, so I suggest Di Bruno Brothers 930 South 9th Street. They're great and very knowledgable, but, like lots of great places, they do get busy. Figure out an off hour to go (maybe call and ask when their deadest period is....say you want to learn about - and buy - cheese, and that you're a total beginner. They may take you under their wing).

If you arrive and they're busy, just stand off to the side and let people go ahead of you while you taste.

I think you'd really like the place. Across the street, get a dynamite Sicilian sandwich at Paesano's Philly Style sandwiches 1017 S9th. Super informal and not expensive, but they close earlyish.
posted by Quisp Lover at 5:17 PM on June 19, 2013

Yeah, the DiBrunos in the Italian Market (and the other cheese shops in that area) are often very busy. Quisp's recommendation to go on an off hour is good, but I would also recommend going to one of the bigger Center City locations at an off hour instead. I have had wonderful samples/sales from the guys out at the Ardmore one (jamon iberico!!!!) who had such great knowledge about their stuff. Trader Joe's also has quite nice cheeses (and they will often open a pack for sampling, if there's something you're on the fence about). Their manchego is really solid.

It sounds like you had an awesome time though! I'm sensing the need for a cheese-based Philly meetup soon...we have at least one cheese expert in the area!
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:42 PM on June 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Trader Joe's cheese section. Every cheese of theirs that I've tried has been lovely. They have a wide selection, things are packaged in an informative yet easy-to-understand way, and you don't have to weed through the bulk blocks of "mozzarella" to find the good stuff. Their cheeses are also very fairly priced.

I don't know if this is as true of the Philadelphia store as in other places, but their staff is usually very helpful and rarely have a surly "this isn't a soup kitchen" attitude. I've never asked for samples there, and it's not a staffed cheese section, but you should at least be able to ask questions.
posted by Sara C. at 6:46 PM on June 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Quisp Lover: "$30 at the supermarket buys you a bunch of random crap, none of it great, much of it not even good, including lots of cheeses she'll hate. "

Except that she's not spending $30 in one go. She's spending $30 spread out over weeks, and even if the cheese isn't superb it's absolutely acceptable for things like sandwiches and normal eating. I've never, never run into standard cheese that was horrible. I have run across cheese I hated in a cheese shop ironically, which is why it's fortunate that they give out tastes.

So long as she stays away from processed cheeses, I don't see how getting a solid grounding in cheese by trying the standard swiss, jack, etc. could be anything but a positive.

I think you are still answering the wrong question or are being willfully blind. She is not asking where she can go to get the best possible cheese. She is not asking to pay a lot of money to be blown away by amazing cheese. She is saying she wants to spend a little bit of money to find out what cheese is actually like as she's never really had any. For this, the supermarket is the most logical choice.

If a cheesemonger wants to take Danila under their wing with the understanding that this will not be a profit-making venture for the cheesemaker, this will absolutely work. Otherwise, what you're asking is for someone who has $150/month to spend on food to devote nearly a third on that on a small quantity of (admittedly high-quality) cheese. That's just not a viable solution for this situation.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:58 AM on June 20, 2013

Danila: "Tremendously good advice in this thread! I have spent the day traveling around by bus trying to sample cheese. I took a list of six cheeses from this thread just to start. I went to the Italian Market which has a good-looking cheese shop but they were really busy so I decided to wait on that and go to Whole Foods instead. At Whole Foods South Philly I explained my inexperience and what I wanted to do. "

You live in Philly? You absolutely should head back to the Italian Market. The main cheese shop *is* always busy (and expensive) but if you go to Giordano's on the corner of 9th & Washington and go to the back, they have a small selection of high quality and cheap cheeses (nearly all Italian). They're very generous with tastes and the prices are crazy cheap for the quality (we're talking $6-8/lb compared to $10+ for similar cheeses). Definitely taste the sharp provolone & see if you like it, same with the pecorino romano. I suspect if you like manchego you'll like these cheeses. These are sharp, salty and assertive cheeses but they are absolutely marvelous. Nothing makes me feel more like royalty then nibbling on a nice-sized hunk of pecorino romano while lying on the couch watching TV or reading a book.

Also, check your MeMail.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:08 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: please do not argue with other commenters, thanks
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:49 AM on June 20, 2013

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