Harbison for Breakfast
“So what’s your favorite cheese?”
I’d say I get this question at least three or four times a day, every day. And do you know what? It is a freaking hard one to answer. I mean, I get it – customers want to know what their monger thinks is the best of the best. Sure, fair enough. But I always end up launching into a spiel about different cheeses tasting better at different times of year… Different cheeses being more or less appropriate in varying situations… The fact that my mood changes and with it, my “favorite” cheese… The fact that the words “best” or “favorite” are completely subjective.
But more often than not, I receive a reply along the lines of, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…
But really. What’s your favorite cheese?”
And that’s when I turn to my dear friend, Harbison. Named for Anne Harbison, affectionately known as the “grandmother of Greensboro”, this wonderful little cheese hails from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. And while I stand by the fact that I crave different cheeses at different times, different cheeses are good for different things, (blah, blah, blah... you get the picture), this is the cheese that I turn to time and again as my tried-and-true, year-round, no-qualifiers-needed favorite.
True story – the year that I discovered Harbison, I brought a couple of wheels home for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately for my family, one of those wheels didn’t quite make it to the holiday table – I ate an entire wheel by myself for breakfast. That whole self-control thing goes right out the window when you get a perfectly ripe wheel of Harbison.
So what makes this particular wheel my go-to? Well, let’s count the ways – first, it’s a straight-up beautiful cheese. Whenever people come to my counter looking for something “different” or want to impress at a party, I always point them to the Harbison. It’s striking – modeled on the famous Vacherin Mont d’Or from Switzerland, Harbison is a 9oz circle of ooey gooey cow’s milk covered in downy white mold, which has been encased in a ring of spruce bark, mottled with blue, white, and green.
In addition to the fact that it looks gorgeous as soon as you unwrap it, the best way to serve it is also a bit different than your average cheese. Instead of cutting it into wedges as per usual, I usually advise that customers use a butter knife to slice off the top rind, thus turning it into a self-contained cheesy dip. Believe me – it’s something that’s going to stand out from your average hunk of cheddar or a wedge of brie.
And finally, let’s talk flavor – while not, in my opinion, a real stinker, Harbison is chock full of flavor, making it ideal for a wide range of people. I always find tons of meaty, mustardy flavors hiding beneath it’s surface, along with a silky, spreadable texture that just won’t quit.
So next time you see that beautiful little wheel with the blue label and downy white coating, do yourself a favor and grab one. Slice that top rind off and you've got yourself the perfect appetizer... Or, if you're like me, breakfast.