But then I noticed a bizarre, incredibly clear image within the swirls of cheese and honey and I couldn't resist sharing. See it? Maybe it's just the Leo in me, but I couldn't ignore the image of a lion in my toast, complete with an exuberant mane, a crooked grin, and two beady eyes. Have I officially lost it?! Luckily, my vision was confirmed by some friends, so hopefully not.
Now, onto the cheese. This post was to be named Opposites Attract, and for good reason — taleggio is intense, stinky, and funky, which wouldn't seem the obvious fit for the sweet mellow voice of honey. But the combination works. Terribly well.
My good friend, Mark Bello, founder of New York's Pizza a Casa, may have initially turned me onto the duo. He's a pizza master, and tops his delectable crust with taleggio, honey, and white truffle oil, which even further intensifies the assertive aroma of the cheese. But it's all mellowed by that honey, so warm, fragrant, and unctuous.
I've talked before of the merits of honey with cheese — my current other favorites to serve with it are Cabot Clothbound cheddar, Vermont Butter and Cheese Company's Coupole, and Sartori Sarvecchio from Wisconsin. There's something just plain lovely about the contrast between the salty, fatty heft of the cheese and the luxurious sweetness of the honey.
Taleggio and honey take that "opposites attract" concept and run with it. How something as charming as honey matches taleggio's assertive stink with such success echoes how other washed rind cheeses often match so well with sweeter wines. Or how salt on caramel is so transcendent. Since taleggio is so incredibly pungent (especially when melted), the honey has quite the tempering effect.
Taleggio remains one of the best washed rinds to fall back on. I always appreciate that familiar 3-pound square, its thick, sandy (and not so tasty) rind, and the rich, super-gooey middle with a pleasantly briny kick. At best, Taleggio is milky, with a delightfully smooth texture and an aroma of cured meat.
And with honey, it's something most definitely different and special. And hey, if you melt the two together on toast, you never know what you may find.
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)