This weekend I was invited to join in the celebration of my friend Colleen’s birthday. It was a day of summer fun on the back patio; there were super adorable kids (Ada Ray and Biba), some very nice grown ups (you know who you are) and – of course – the essential vast array of beverages and snacks to keep everyone nibbling. My friend Sam even made a birthday cake out of a watermelon! Who knew he had those skills? Color me impressed.
Naturally I was asked to bring cheese to the festivities, so I spent some time picking the best family-friendly options for the occasion. I chose the requisite cheddar, a camembert-style cheese and a creamy French cheese for the kids, then remembered Colleen absolutely adores a well-aged Gouda. I went on a cheese quest the next day and procured a big chunk of Roomano, one of the most delicious four-year-old Gouda-style cheeses I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.
The Roomano had the browned butter color that is an indication of quality ageing; the tiniest of eyes, or small holes; a slight oiliness; and the visible protein crystals that give the cheese that wonderful crunch. It smelled of dark caramel, and had tasting notes of butterscotch and dark-roasted pears. The sweetness of this cheese was subtle, and it boasted a bit of an acidic element that gave it a mild sharpness.
Clearly, the Dutch do an amazing job of ageing and transporting their cheeses. They ensure their Gouda cheeses are consistently in great shape when they reach American retailers, striving for an even denseness while retaining some moisture in the form of the flavorful oil that is released when the cheese is cut at room temperature. They also aim to guarantee an evenly dispersed protein crystal crunch. When shopping for this type of cheese, try to purchase it at a shop that will cut it to order for you; otherwise some of the more subtle flavors will be lost.
While Gouda itself is the most noted export from the eponymous city in the western Netherlands, it is now made all over the world. The Gouda-style cheese we had at Colleen’s party was from Holland; some of my favorite additional options are Beemster (a delicious goat’s milk version), Lamb Chopper (made from pungent sheep’s milk), and the perfectly aged Rembrandt. Branch out and try a few, but remember to be grateful to the Dutch for this unfailingly delicious import!