Formaggio Essex, where I've been putting in a few hours each week helping out behind the cheese counter, doesn't have tons of cheeses, but what they do have is carefully selected and often somewhat rare. A good selection doesn't have to be a gigantic collection, and other cheese shops could learn something from this example.
I brought my notebook last time I worked there and here are my tasting notes:
(You'll please pardon my lack of umlauts and accents; this blog program doesn't allow me to add them, as far as I can tell.)
Alpine cheese. cows' milk raw. semi-firm, solid with some medium eyes and cracks. pale straw color. From Eastern Switzerland. Sweet, lightly pungent, grass/hay, nutty, milky, robust, a little barnyard on the finish. Exclusive to Formaggio Kitchen/Essex.
Pecorino di Pienza Stagionato di Fossa
Buried in limestone caves in Emilio-Romagna. Semi-firm crumbly, plae, white, pungent, sour, acidic, numbing the tongue. Lingering cabbagey aroma. Can't say I'm a fan of the Fossa cheeses...
Cut from 250-pound wheels. yellow solid semi-firm with medium-sized eyes. smells milky and nutty. texture a little grainy mostly smooth. creamy mouthfeel. milky, sweet, a little sharp, full-flavored.
Black Diamond Cheddar
Canada. Triangular, black wax covered. Semi-firm, flaky, quite solid. Sharp, a little like vodka. yes, really. rather flat tasting. very sharp.
Well, the vodka notes on the Cheddar were interesting, but as you may have gathered, I didn't love that cheese. I'm really picky about Cheddar, and so should you be.
Although the story behind the Formaggi di Fossa is cool - being buried in limestone caves and unearthed on St. Catherine's Day - I just don't really like the cheese much, and I've tried a fair handful of that type. I find them far too acidic, almost acrid. Are they placed in plastic before being buried? Is the Italian government requiring this now to satisfy modern sensibilities/ paranoias about sanitary practices? Because the cheese certainly tastes like it's been aged in plastic. Maybe I need to figure out how to get to Italy in November and try some there that I can see hasn't been matured in plastic bags, only limestone holes-in-the-ground.