Big Wheels

Part two of our guide to the best cheeses of the Twin Cities—ever

I've never had such wonderful Gouda. It's sweet, almond-nutty, has a subtle butterscotch thread that weaves through it, and, if you can imagine mellow and mild as a thrilling experience, this is that: mellow and mild like an arrow to the heart. Both Surdyk's and Farm in the Market sell this Marieke Gouda (at Surdyk's it's $15.79 a pound) as well as Holland's fenugreek-flavored version, which I could live without, but which is evidently winning all kinds of awards. It's worth asking to taste a bit to see if you like yours fenugreek or plain.

Hook's Tilston Point Blue

Tilston is an anagram for Stilton, England's only name-protected cheese, and, say cheesemakers, one of the world's most difficult blues to make. Ideally it's made with full-fat, pasture-raised cow's milk, set into rounds, and then periodically pierced with large needles to aerate the interior and to distribute the naturally occurring mold that gives the cheese its characteristic blue color. The ideal Stilton is creamy and rich and mineral-and-mold tart and bracing—the classic iron fist wrapped in velvet.

Hook's Tilston does all this and plenty more. This well-aged blue has a plush, buttery, silky cream to it, interrupted sometimes with the sharp crystals that announce true age. The creamy parts are well-threaded with blue mineral tang and white pepper, each of which lights on your tongue like a brief bit of pretty fire, like the light of a sparkler in the night. It finishes forever and, I swear, sometimes even offers a whiff of an almost oyster-like, sea-mist quality. Does that have something to do with the well-known mineral riches of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, where this magnificent cheese comes from?

A few of Farm in the Market's all-star local cheeses
Bill Kelley
A few of Farm in the Market's all-star local cheeses

Location Info

Map

Surdyk's

303 E. Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Category: Restaurant > Deli

Region: University

Details

CHEESE DIRECTORY
  1. Raclette - Cow Milk
    Northern Lights
    St. Paul, MN
  2. Northern Lights Blue - Cow Milk
    Northern Lights
    St. Paul, MN
  3. Gouda - Cow Milk
    Pasture Land Dairy
    Dodge enter, MN
  4. Chèvre - Goat Milk
    Donnay Dairy
    Kimball, MN
  5. Shepherd's Hope - Sheep Milk
    Shepherd's Way
    Nerstrand, MN
  6. Friesago
    Shepherd's Way Farm
    Nerstrand, MN

Pick up a wedge from Surdyk's ($13.49 a pound), pair it with a glass of port on Christmas Eve, and discuss. If you have a fireplace before which you can have that conversation, know that I'm intensely jealous. You're now living like an English lord. 

Shepherd's Way Friesago Grano

I'm planning to write more about Shepherd's Way soon, so I'll keep this brief. Shepherd's Way was once one of the nation's largest sheep dairy operations, pasturing, milking, and making cheese from their ewe's milk just an hour south of the Twin Cities, in Nerstrand, Minnesota. Then, in 2005, right after the new spring lambs were born, an arsonist set fire to the operation's lambing barns, and it lost hundreds upon hundreds of animals. Ever since, the company's been teetering, trying to regain economic stability, production, and everything else. In fact, if you are a committed cheese lover looking for a Christmas gift for someone who has everything, you can buy that someone a sponsorship of a Shepherd's Way lamb. For $100 you'll be, literally, fighting crime and helping undo the work of villains, and Steven and Jodi Ohlsen Read will send a certificate in time for the holidays, and a picture of the very lamb you have sponsored when it's born.

If you include a chunk of Shepherd's Way's very limited-release Friesago Grano, well, you have a gift that fuses the aspirations of altruism with the pleasures of the body: I mean, wow, this is some cheese. It's a three-year-aged sheep's milk cheese with a washed rind, and it has much in common with a good Parmigiano Reggiano: Dense, golden, nutty, sweet, a little mushroomy, a little woodsy; it's a stellar cheese to showcase simply grated over buttered pasta, or paired with honey as a dessert course. The Friesago Grano is in extremely limited distribution, but you can find it, if you're very, very lucky, at Surdyk's (called Friesago Reserve, $14.99 a pound), the East Side Co-Op, Premiere Cheese, E's Cheese, and Golden Fig. To sponsor a lamb, check the Shepherd's Way website: www.shepherdswayfarms.com.

AND THAT'S IT! The highs, the other highs, and still other highs of the local cheese scene. May your holidays, and your New Year, be just as cheesy as you want them to be.

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