13 January 2007

The return of a 'blue': Lombardy's Gorgonzola

Ricky and M.Boster discover a 'fromage gem' in the Del Ray neighborhood of Arlington, VA. Cheesetique offered two creamy Gorgonzola cheeses, both of the lesser-aged 'dolce' type. (comments on these 2 within).

Stay tuned here for some basic gorgonzola facts.....see Comments for our tasters' thoughts....


  1. In tasting Gorgonzola, we are now two thirds of the way through tasting the holy trinity of European blues. Along with France's Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton are amongst the world's finest blues, and amongst the finest cheeses anywhere.

    Both Stilton and Gorgonzola are cow's milk blue cheeses, with similar production methods. The comparative tasting between the two, then, is an interesting case study of subtle differences of technique and production. Gorgonzola was once made with natural occurring Penicillin Glaucum, but has in the twentieth century begun to use the more stable and commercially available Penicillin Roqueforti, which is identical to the mold used in Stilton. While raw milk Gorgonzola is available in Italy, the ridiculous FDA cheese importing laws mean that US consumers can only readily purchase the more common pasteurized version, which is what we tasted.

    Despite being made from the same type of milk and the same type of mold, Ricky Ricotta and I found the Gorgonzola to have a much different character than the Stiltons that we tasted last week. While the Stiltons had a distinct cheddar character and sharpness to them, the Gorgonzola's flavor was both saltier and creamier. Perhaps this has to do with the brine washing of the rind during the aging process. In general, the Gorgonzola was an extremely creamy cheese - the texture was that of an extremely soft semi-soft cheese (as opposed to a soft triple cream such as a brie,) with the structure and firmness lending a very smooth texture and accentuating the creaminess.

    While Stiltons are allowed to age for about two months before being pierced to allow air to enter and activate the blueing bacteria, the Gorgonzola is pierced after only three to five weeks, meaning that the cheese has less time to ripen on its own without the bacteria. It is this same shorter aging process, however, that allows the cheese to retain its cream content, however.

    Gorgonzola vs. Stilton seems to come down to creaminess vs. flavor. Stilton is, undoubtedly the more complex and interesting cheese. However, even the sublime Colston Bassett example that we tasted yields significantly to the Gorgonzola in mouth feel and creaminess. I can also imagine a number of cooking applications (or even cheese plate compositions) where the more subtle flavors of the Gorgonzola would be preferable to the overwhelming presence that is Stilton. In any event, it is certainly one of the finest blues there is, and offers a slightly different take than many similar cheeses.

    As a side note, we also tasted a cheese that was marked Gorgonzola Dolce (as compared to just Gorgonzola for the piece discussed above.) It tasted like a sick joke played by the cheese monger, as though she had taken the regular product and put in the food processor with raw sugar. The sweetness was overlaid, not at all integral to the cheese's actual flavor, and most importantly, absolutely horrible. From research, I believe that the piece reviewed above is a true Gorgonzola Dolce, and whatever we were sold was some adulterated product.

    We are looking forward to closing out the European triumvirate of classic blues with France's famous Roquefort, which has the interesting complicating factor of being a sheep's milk cheese. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up.

  2. I'm glad that others ended up tasting the (true) 'dolce' variety, as that is what I was able to find in my local Italian deli.
    Like Micah, I found the texture of the G.D. unbeatable. It has excellent mouth feel. Unfortunately, I also found that the flavour did not do the texture justice. Compared to Stilton (especially the Colsten Basset), I found that the G.D.'s flavour wasn't complex enough- the moldy flavour didn't round out the mouth, and in fact left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. I must point out at this point that this was tasted on its own, with fresh crusty bread.
    However, I was fortunate enough to be able to stage a re-match of sorts. I made a salad with the Gorgonzola, containing apples, walnuts, fennel, and lettuce, and the cheese really came into its own when matched with these other ingredients. It had just the right amount of tang to complement the sweet apple and fennel, and yet it didn't overwhelm their delicate flavours.
    I also had the opportunity to try Colsten Bassett in a similar salad, only with pears and French beans instead of apples and fennel. In this particular trial, the Stilton failed. While my preferred blue on its own, the Stilton overpowered the rest of the dish and even made it taste a bit fishy.
    My conclusion- Stilton, having a more developed and complex flavour, is the winner on a cheese board, but Gorgonzola might have the upper hand in the kitchen.