Most of my friends call me a cheese snob, I disagree of course, but, yes I am picky about where I buy cheese. Living in NYC, I have options… lots of options. But Taylor challenged me to visit a grocery store in a less-cheesehead town and find the best grocery store cheeses. At the time, I was visiting Atlanta, so I went to a grocery store on Ponce de Leon and found myself pleasantly surprised at the cheese selections. Cheeses that not only would I eat, but cheeses I do eat.
Raymond’s Best Grocery Store Cheeses
- Grafton Cheddar – Great cheddar, I’ve been a fan for years. Can be used as a table cheese, melted into macaroni for a decadent mac & cheese, or melted on your favorite sandwich.
- Gruyère – The classic Swiss cheese, I use this cheese in so many ways. Melted on a slice of crusty bread, grated into soup, cubed in a salad. The cheese has a nuttiness that’s always satisfying.
- Wine-washed goat cheeses – A firm goat cheese washed in red wine from southern Spain. This cheese has a purple rind from a bath of three red wines and you can eat the rind — it adds a slight sweetness. Traditionally used as a table cheese, but it’s tasty grated on top of hot tomato soup.
- Manchego – Spain’s most well-known cheese, made from sheep that roam in La Mancha. Very wine friendly, from rich whites to big, earthy reds wines. Great with ripe pears and nuts. (If you’re lucky, you find young Manchego, nicknamed Boychego – Taylor)
- Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese – I found this one in pre-cut wedges. This cheese comes from happy cows living in San Francisco Bay area’s Marin County. It’s rich and creamy, great on a grilled cheese, made into a blue cheese dip or crumbled on a salad.
Tips: When buying cheeses in a non-service store (i.e. grocery stores without cheese counters), shy away from soft cheeses with white bloomy rinds like camembert and brie. Choose firm cheeses instead since they can better withstand being pre-cut and wrapped. When you get them home, remove them from their plastic tomb and wrap in cheese paper or parchment paper, then place in a covered plastic dish like tupperware. And always bring them to room temperature for an hour before you serve them.
Overall I was happy to see you can buy some decent cheeses at a standard grocery store. I still strongly urge you to buy them from a cheese shop or specialty store, but when you can’t, go with these.
I make a cauliflower gratin made out of gruyere that’s simply earth-moving. I’ll post the recipe one of these days.
I love cheese! When I lived in NYC I frequent Zabars but now I have moved to St. Petersburg, FL. I would love to find a gruyere that you picture but I have not found that quality here. Mazzaros is okay but there has to be some place better. Please advise!
Have you tried mail order?
AmyG: Raymond’s suggestion is a good one but have you traversed the bridge and visited the cheese section at Whole Foods? And the Saturday morning farmer’s markets in downtown St. Pete sometimes have some great cheese purveyors.
My Kroger store in Northern Kentucky now has Murray Brother Gourmet Cheese Shops that sell cheeses from around the world. They have free sampling all day long and I have a new respect for cheese.
Bob: I’m jealous you have Murrays! And cheese deserves a lot of respect… it can kick your butt.