One of the questions a cheesemonger receives most often is, “What’s a good snacking cheese?” (Or, if you are a cheesemonger in Texas, you are more likely to hear, “Where do y’all keep y’alls’ snacking cheeses?”) “Snacking” is a handy designation for cheese. It can allow the cheesemonger a great deal of freedom and the opportunity to suggest a personal favorite. The snack-cheese seeker usually brings a preference or two, naturally, but for the most part simply wants a not-too-strong, moderately priced cheese he hasn’t tried.
Before we delve into the details of what makes a good snacking cheese, let’s touch on some cheeses that I automatically exclude from this list. Ricotta and farmer’s cheese are both fresh cheeses that are often used in cooking, but are not generally destined for a cracker. Certainly there are preparations of each that go beyond lasagna (try sweetening some ricotta and serve it with strawberries for dessert), but neither is the ideal candidate for an afternoon of cheese-snacking. I also try to avoid very strong cheeses for a snacking session (with a few choice exceptions), as they often require several balancing accompaniments to achieve the optimal experience and avoid flavor overload.
And now, for my first cheese recommendation, I offer you my favorite snacking cheese and perhaps my favorite cheese of all time: Fromager d’Affinois. Let’s call it FDA for short, and if the abbreviation bothers you, just imagine it stands for “Freakin’ delicious, alright?” FDA is a French, cow’s-milk, double-cream brie, which means it has a lower fat content than the highly coveted triple-cream bries. Generally, double-cream bries tend to be less buttery and not as rich as triple-cream bries, but FDA is a major exception. Creamier, smoother, and more flavorful than any triple-cream, FDA is the ultimate brie. It has no hint of ammonia, no bitterness, and no pungency that scares many the snack-seeker away from brie.
There’s no need to pair Fromager d’Affinois with anything besides a crunchy baguette, but a bottle of sparkling wine and a crisp granny smith apple would complement nicely.
I’ve shared my favorite snacking cheese. What do you like to snack on? What kinds of cheese do you want to hear more about?
Until next week,
The Weekly Cheesemonger
Answers to last week’s poll: Brie! Brie has less fat than cheddar or gouda, and any other full-fat cheese (cheeses that are not made with reduced fat milk). This is because brie is nearly 50% water. Cheddar and other hard cheeses have had the majority of their liquid pressed out, leaving more cheese, and therefore a higher fat content. When you see “60% butterfat” on a brie label, that really means the cheese is about 30% fat. So snack away on that brie, guilt-free!