Leaves are Falling, Flavors are Amping Up
So you guys, it’s official – summer is finally over. And I, for one, am THRILLED. Don’t get me wrong – I love me some 4th of July fireworks, grilled meats, and summer-only cheeses paired with some gorgeous tomatoes or cucumbers. Those are all lovely things. Add in some chilled rose, and I’m a pretty darn happy camper.
All that being said, I decidedly do not love the hot, sticky, sweaty, mosquito-y weather that DC calls summertime. Holy moly. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love living here, but this little swamp-town known as our nation’s capitol is pretty darn unbearable from June until about halfway through October. Woof.
But it’s over! It’s finally over! And with the weather graciously subsiding, not only are wardrobes changing – oh hey there sweaters, scarves, and boots! – but tastebuds are starting to change as well. When the temperature starts dropping and leaves start falling, bigger, bolder flavors that are just too darn much in the oppressive heat suddenly seem incredibly appealing.
Which leads me to one of my all-time favorite cheeses: aged gouda. For me, fall means it’s time for some butterscotchy, nutty, salty/sweet aged gouda. And no one does aged gouda better than L’Amuse.
Let me back up for a moment – what is gouda? Strictly speaking, gouda is a cow’s milk cheese made with washed curds that traditionally hails from the Netherlands. Actually, the name “Gouda” comes from a town of the same name where the cheese was originally traded. This is about as specific as gouda gets, though. The name itself is not protected, so when you see the word “gouda” on a package, it can mean many different things. It can come from different places, be aged for varying degrees of time, be made from different milks – all things that lead to very different flavor profiles and/or textures.
So how do you know if the gouda you’re buying is the right one for you? How do you know you’re not going to end up with plastic wrapped, pre-sliced, rubbery cheese that tastes like fake smoke? My answer is the same one I pretty much give in any cheesy situation: talk to your cheesemonger. It’s our job to find the best cheeses around and then pair you with the right one.
Now, some of you may be asking yourselves – but how do we cheesemongers find these delicious cheeses? Magic? Osmosis? Secret handshake? Well, in the case of the gouda that I carry, the answer is simple: I turn to Essex St. Cheese Co. For those of you who read my blog post about feta, that name will sound familiar – this team of fantastic importers provides my counter with a simply fabulous feta, as well as manchego, and gouda. To refresh you guys on what Essex St. does, I turn to my previous post: “Rather than importing many different types of cheese, Essex finds the best of the best and brings in only a handful of cheeses, with each type only having one producer. Their bar is extremely high.”
Not only is this high bar met, but I dare say that it’s exceeded by the goudas coming out of L’Amuse Fromagerie in Santpoort-Noord. L’Amuse is owned and operated by master-cheesemonger and affineur Betty Koster – I had the privilege of meeting Betty during CMI and not only is she amazing at what she does, but she can also only be described as thoroughly warm and decidedly delightful.
But back to the cheese – L'Amuse offers a few different varieties of goudas. There's their classic Signature Gouda, a delicious golden creation with butterscotch, caramel, toasted hazelnuts, and cream ensconced in its dense yet velvety paste. There's Brabander, L'Amuse's goat gouda - pale white with a sweetness that can only be described as downright dessert-y. And then... there's Black Betty.
Only available for a very short window during the tail end of the year, Black Betty is one of the most sought-after cheeses around. These striking, black-wax-coated wonders start out their lives as Brabander goat gouda. A few very special wheels get hand-selected and are aged for an extra 6 months during which time they transform into Black Betty. Explosively salty and sweet, with those ever-so-enticing tyrosine crystals throughout, this is definitely not a cheese to be missed. And girl, it goes real quick.
So, my dear friends, I'll end with this: if you haven't had the pleasure of sampling this rich, decadent, nibble-able treat, get ye to a cheese counter pronto! You don't want to miss out. For realz.