Blue cheese must be my favorite food group about which to proselytize. And I mean food group in full seriousness. Anyone who either loves or hates the stuff would consider it a class unto itself, with such particular ability to polarize cheese eaters.
To me, it's the most satisfying thing to convert a non-believer. I've made suggestions before about blues to try if it's just not your thing, but never before have I felt as confident in a gateway blue as this one.
Montbriac is the best way to make anyone a believer in blue. Sure, there's Dunbarton Blue, Gorgonzola Cremificato, or Fourme D'Ambert, which are also great bunny slope blues. But Cambozola has a particular mildness that's more akin to a buttery triple creme or a brie than anything else. Even I, who loves a blue that bites you back, adore this cheese.
Cambozola is a combination of a camembert-style cheese and gorgonzola. It's like the pluot of the cheese world: a half-this and a half-that. So you'll get that great mushroomy brie quality — and it's indeed a triple creme, as well, with added cream to the vat during cheesemaking —plus small pockets of blue. Because the blue stays entirely contained in small specks, you can regulate your blue intake to the morsel. Perfect for intro-ing someone who may be closed off to the blue family.
There's something great about how those little pockets of blue mold, too. Texturally, it's a totally unique experience. When a pocket of blue hits your tongue, it feels nearly like a soft, velvety piece of gravel, entirely distinct from the rest of the buttery interior.
Cambozola has been around since 1900, and is actually a Bavarian cheese. I'd have thought it either French or Italian, considering its similarity to French-style bloomies and the Italian great, Gorgonzola. But it's been marketed since the 1970's by Champignon, a German company that operates out of the municipality of Lauben in Bavaria.
Sure, it's a bit of a commodity cheese, but it's a great go-to if your only option is Trader Joe's or a chain grocery store. The riper the wheel, the more oozy it becomes, like soft buttercream. Interestingly, it's considered a soft-ripened cheese, which is the family of cheeses to which all bloomy-rinded or washed rind cheeses belong. Blues, however, aren't considered soft-ripened (which just means that the cheese becomes softer as it ages); the bottom line here is that Cambozola is more brie-like than blue.
While great for the eating, Cambozola is also excellent for cooking. Because it's a factory-made cheese, it doesn't don the hefty price point of a small-production handmade cheese. You can bake it whole as you would a wheel of brie for a party (even try it en croute), serve with the last of the season's peaches and nectarines and figs, or bake into a tart shell with a custard base for a different take on a cheesy quiche. It'd be delicious in savory crepes with ham and herbs, or with apples and red pepper jelly in a panini.
It's a superb dessert cheese, too, and could easily be coupled with some sweet accoutrements to round out a dessert spread. Cheese for dessert? If that doesn't get you to stop saying eww to blue, this quest may be futile.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and private chef in New York City.
Related: Why is Blue Cheese Blue? The Cheesemonger
(Images: Nora Singley)