I don't need much convincing to try a new cheese. When someone suggests something I've never heard of I generally add it to my "to try" list. But more often than not, I'm plagued by the same kind of forgetfulness that accompanies trips to the video store, when you can't seem to remember the dozens of must-see titles that you swore you wouldn't forget.
So I'm grateful for the following cheese coincidence, wherein my coworker told me about an interesting-looking cheese she saw at Trader Joe's. Just two days later, from across the country, my mother called, talking about the same cheese. And when I went on the hunt for it that very evening, I think it was the cheese's peculiar spice rub of cinnamon that made me have no trouble remembering what it was I was looking for.
At $7.99/lb, there really wasn't much on the line. My sizable wedge cost just $3.40.
The thought of a cinnamon-spiked cheese really doesn't appeal to me. I think flavored cheeses exist in order to hide flaws in cheese, and to act as the vehicle for another flavor component. Never have I found a flavored cheese good because the cheese itself is delicious. Nevertheless, I purchased it, if only to sway people away from purchasing it.
So when I say that this is a truly tasty cheese, I'm not bluffing. If I had found it offensive I would say so. Texturally speaking, it's actually satisfying: dense, creamy, and slightly crumbly, and surprisingly, with that great crunch that you find in goudas and mountain cheeses. And the crunch is prevalent in each bite, which is even better.
Trader Joe's calls the cheese "nutty" and "creamy." Indeed. It's most similar to a one- to two-year aged gouda, because it's sweet. Not in an artificially sweet kind of way, which is what I would have expected with the presence of cinnamon, but sweet in the way that gouda is: like caramel.
Surprisingly, the cinnamon is subtle, if you stay away from the rind. An apple seemed fitting to eat alongside, and I happened to have a really spectacular Jonagold at home. I figured it would at least enhance the experience of the cheese since I didn't have great expectations. But only with the apple did I really taste overt cinnamon flavor, which actually didn't really enhance the cheese, ironically enough, and so I opted to eat the cheese separately from the fruit. Satisfying, the cheese really was. And way more complex than I'd have imagined. It looks kind of fancy, too, and I'd consider serving it to company. Maybe as a dessert course. With grapes.
Find it: You can find Creamy Toscano Cheese dusted with Cinnamon at Trader Joe's for $7.99/lb.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
(Image: Nora Singley)