Europe is a foodie paradise for fromagophiles (cheese lovers) like yours truly. After years of taste testing (and more taste testing, just to be sure), here are my top five picks. But don’t take my word for it; book your own cheese tasting trip through Europe!
Parmigiano Reggiano (Italy)
Parmagiano reggiano (pictured), the official cheese of Parma (Italy), is a hard cheese that is best enjoyed shaved over salads or pastas. It is typically aged between 24-36 months to acquire its distinctive flavor (which changes, depending on what the cows have been eating). Winter Parmesans take on a stronger, earthier flavor, while Parmesan made in the spring tends to be milder and more floral.
One of the most sought after cheeses in France, Dauphin is made from a Maroilles cow’s milk (from northern France) and is seasoned with tarragon, parsley, pepper and cloves (to create a unique, and strong, flavor) and aged for 3-4 months. Dauphin is best paired with beer or hearty red wine like a côtes du Rhône (luckily, France has plenty of both).
Gjetost is a rich, sweet cheese from Sweden with a dense texture. As far as cheeses go, it is truly unique. The process used to make gjetost is time-consuming, and requires the slow and continuous heating of cream, milk, and whey, until the milk sugars caramelize. It is best enjoyed thinly sliced over crisp green apples or toasted bread.
Cabrales is an intense Spanish blue cheese made by rural dairy farmers in northern Spain. It is typically made from cow’s milk blended with goat or sheep’s milk, which gives it a slight tang. It is best enjoyed with simple, rustic country bread and a glass of Spanish red wine.
Though it is officially classified as a “milk product” and not “cheese,” I had to include this semi-hard lactose delight on my list. Halloumi is made from a mixture of goat’s milk and sheep’s milk and set with rennet (no bacteria is used in its production). It’s best enjoyed lightly fried in oil and eaten alone or with marinated vegetables.
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