Cheese at Marion Street Cheese Market is not what you'd call cheap. It usually is, however, high value because you get what you pay for and I'm fine paying a few extra dollars for a much better cheese.
With value on the brain, I asked Lydia Burns, cheese monger at Marion Street Cheese Market, to pick out a cheese that offered an exceptionally good return on investment.
"I'm not a big fan of blue cheese," Burns told me, as she presented me with a Tilston Point from Hook's Cheese, which she said "is made like a normal blue but it's washed with brine."
"I am a big fan of blue cheese, " I said as I bit into a small piece. I thought it was fantastic.
Tilston Point is aged for one year, and it bears some similarity to Stilton (which is probably why the folks at Hook's Cheese called it Tilston, an anagram for Stilton – almost too cute, but forgivable). The rind washing makes for a very pleasant pungency.
Burns described the cheese as "fudgy and dense," which is true, but what I liked most about it was the grainy little pockets of crunchiness that seemed to collect along the blue-black ridges in the cheese formed by "nails" that are driven into the wheel and that carry flavor-producing bacteria.
One problem I have with blue cheese – particularly the somewhat inexpensive Danish varieties – is that they're very chalky and salty with a sometimes unpleasant sharpness. The lack of "aggressive ketone flavors" or "the piquancy of some blues," Burns suggested, "is probably the result of the brine washing interacting with the mold."
Blue cheese frequently has a place on the holiday plate, and you might consider serving it with honey, which makes for a fabulously delicious combination. Burns and I enjoyed this cheese with a Gonzo Imperial Porter from Flying Dog, and the slightly sweet chocolate flavors of the brew meshed well with the earthiness of the cheese.
Tilston Point is around $15/lb, which is not inexpensive by grocery store standards but it's still a very good value for an exceptionally tasty cheese.