When summer hits full stride in New England, I relish a break from long months of indoor hibernation; I eat as many meals outdoors as possible. Although I’m as comfortable around the grill as the next guy, if I do not have to cook, so much the better. If I am luckier yet, I might find myself in a canoe with friends, paddling up the Concord River in search of a shady glade where we can pull ashore and devour the local cheese we picked up at Wasik’s that morning.
My beat-the-heat selection featured here can easily be dressed up into a full meal with a light salad and perhaps a bit of charcuterie or salumi. (The cheese-centric, no-cook meals my dad prepared every Saturday come to mind: coppa, salami, thin-sliced fresh green peppers in olive oil, crusty bread, and a spicy provolone.) But for me this riverside cheese supper is also just right straight out of the wrapper, with fresh, ripe cherries and peaches, and, oh yes, a cold and crisp rosé.
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Tarentaise, made at both Thistle Hill and Spring Brook farms, could be an exercise in terroir. Try both to see what a difference 20 miles can make in the texture and flavor of identically-made cheeses. Both are dense and oh-sosmooth, with a beautiful Jersey cow glow, a nutty start, and a peppery finish that might leave your lips tingling. It’s all a matter of degree. Either would be a perfect endnote to an easy summer meal.
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Vermont Creamery – Websterville, Vermont
Pasteurized goat and cow’s milk, cow’s cream; Microbial rennet
I have been a fan of Vermont Creamery for more than 20 years. I recall how excited I was when its cofounder, Allison Hooper, offered to bring a new cheese she was developing to a L’Espalier Cheese Tuesday for a trial run. Batch 19—as she called this small, wrinkly, meltingly lush disk—was an instant crowd pleaser. Emerging on the market a few months later dubbed Cremont, this mixed-milk cheese uses a bit of cream to amp up its sweet and tangy richness.
3. Salva Cremasco DOP
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Raw cow’s milk; Traditional rennet
As stolid in appearance as the building blocks of a sun-drenched Italian hilltown, Salva Cremasco is a double-decker cousin of taleggio and was recently awarded DOP (nameprotected) status. Its dense paste is a bit crumbly in its deep interior but smooth and slightly elastic toward its tawny rind. The flavors are concentrates of unaggressive earth and a lingering tartness.
4. Summer Snow
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Woodcock Farm – Weston, Vermont
Pasteurized sheep’s milk; Microbial rennet
I know that summer is just around the corner when the first wheels of Summer Snow arrive. This soft-ripened cheese, which will be available until early autumn, has the unctuous sweet-and-sour sheepy flavors and opulent texture that screams, “Baa, Baa, Baa.”
5. Grazalema Payoyo
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Queso Payoyo; Andalusia, Spain
Raw goat’s and sheep’s milk; Traditional rennet
Produced in the Grazalema nature preserve in southern Spain and made from the blending of Payoyo goat’s and Pyrenees sheep’s milk, this five-pound basketweave- rinded wheel offers the best that both animal milks have to offer. Densely textured but slightly moist, with a gamy perfumed aroma, the flavors combine tart citrus with buttery sweetness in a boisterous balance.
Miele di Fiori di Castagno
A dab of honey can do a lot to tame a wild cheese, but it can also be cloying or overwhelming. This chestnut honey from Franca Franzoni, however, has subdued sweetness, with a caramel and nut flavor reminiscent of the toasty crust of a crème brûlée, and a slight bitterness. amazon.com
Cured beef and pork “hunter’s sausage,” each link of Landjaeger is about four inches long and would traditionally be stuffed into a pant pocket for long treks, sliced or bitten off as needed. The version produced by the New York sausage maker Schaller & Weber has a rich salami flavor. schallerweber.com
Tortas de Aceite de Ines Rosales
Thin, crisp, and flaky, these olive oil “cakes” are mildly sweet, with a hint of anise flavor. I especially like these tortas with Cremont, but mostly I just like them. inesrosalesusa.com