I spend much of my cheese-time on the soft, drippy, pungent French cheeses, but there is something wonderful about a truly good semisoft. The sometimes neglected semisofts can really pack in the flavor without over-doing it. It's especially surprising to bite into something that looks like your average Monterey Jack and find an explosion of pungency. Here are a few I've been enjoying lately.
Herve Mons Gabietou, French, Cow/Sheep Blend
This lovely cheese from the French Pyrenees is buttery, salty and ever so slightly-sheepy, the sheepyness tempered by the seemless blending with cow. This is one of my new favorites. Find it and eat it!
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Cow
Uplands Cheese Co.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a two time winner of the American Cheese Society Best of Show award (Did you know there was an American Cheese Society?), was one of the cheeses that taught me how good a semisoft could be. I still remember my first taste. It was full of wine flavors and had a good zing to it. The flavors washed over me and I was sold on semisoft.
Lately, however, I've been disappointed with it. The flavors seem dimmer and less pronounced. Like wine, good cheese is very sensitive to its environment. Flavors can change based on what the cows are eating, what season they are milked and the profile of the herd. It could be that this is just part of that variance, but I must admit, I've been passing up PRR for other things.
Midnight Moon, Goat Gouda
Cypress Grove Dairy
Another legendary American artisanal cheesemaker is Cypress Grove, Northern California makers of goat cheese. Their lovely Humboldt Fog goat cheese was one of the early small-producer cheeses to gain popularity. Midnight Mood is a goat Gouda, which has been around for a few years now, and is actually made in Holland.
While Gouda is usually considered a hard cheese, unless it is super-aged, it is much more similar to a semisoft. The Midnight Moon has a subtle Gouda flavor with a bit of fruit. It is milder than the other semis listed here, but still full of flavor, and more interesting than most Dutch Goudas I've had. This is a very easy to eat cheese and one that I often use for cheese plates because of its mass appeal.
Most of these cheeses will be available at a good cheese store, though Herve Mons Gabietou is a bit harder to find.