If you’ve ever read my column, you know I spend much of my life wandering around tasting cheese; it’s who I am, it’s what I do. On one of these frequent wandering excursions earlier this month, I headed over to Eataly (the Italian super market) to chat it up with Emily Acosta, one of my favorite mongers around. After she gamely treated me to some great cheese samples, I asked her what her favorite non-Eataly cheese was and she didn’t even blink before exclaiming, “Stichelton!” She began telling me her story of visiting the dairy where it is produced at Collingthwaite Farm on the Welbeck Estate in England and she actually started tearing up over how great the cheese was. No joke. If there’s a cheese out there that makes a great monger weep, I want to try some – yes, please.
Some quick background information on the cheese: Stichelton is a raw milk Stilton-type blue, made in Nottinghamshire, England. It can’t technically be called Stilton, a PDO-protected cheese that can only be made from pasteurized milk. No raw milk Stilton has been made since 1989. In other words: a raw milk Stilton-type cheese is a rarity.
Now, back to my cheese-tasting exploits: fast-forward to last week when I was on a mini-tour of the best specialty food stores in Boston. When in Boston, Formaggio Kitchen is a must-see for any cheese lover. When I arrived at this beautiful shop, cave manager Tyler Tripp graciously offered me a tour of their caves. He told me that Formaggio had only recently expanded the cave to make room for more cheeses, and it was now filled with some prime specimens. Tyler – sensing my excitement, I think – then asked if I wanted to go into the cave-within-a-cave to see the most special cheeses they stock. Oh, heck yes!
Upon entering, one cheese caught my eye within seconds. I must admit it looked a bit rough, but like a book, never judge a cheese by its cover. Back in a corner, Tyler had three wheels of Stichelton sitting patiently, waiting to be aged to perfection! Mr. Tripp generously gifted me with a slice, and naturally, I knew just who I’d be sharing it with upon my return to NYC.
“Hello, Emily, I’ve got a special slice of Stichelton to try with you; want to meet up?” She was at my door before I could push the “End Call” button on my phone. We painstakingly let the cheese come to room temperature (Are we there yet?!), and at last we had a taste. Wow, was it fantastic. Not overpowering, but still defiantly blue, rich and peppery with earthy, mushroomy nuances. Then I broke out some Effie’s Homemade Malted Cocoa Cakes and it was a match made in heaven. Emily and I didn’t say a word; we just sat there and smiled.
Additional reporting by Madeleine James.