Imagine a serious sushi bar, but instead of rare raw fish they serve the world's greatest cheeses. They have paper menus and pencils to check off the cheeses you want to try, and there's even an omakase option. If that sounds fantastic (and it does to us), you should plan on visiting Portland, OR, in February. That's when resident cheese guru and Cheese Bar proprietor Steve Jones will open Chizu, his intriguing new restaurant dedicated to a carefully curated selection of his absolute favorite cheeses. The idea, Jones says, is to expose cheese lovers to the best of the best. “It’s a way to sample cheeses that might otherwise be unattainable," he says. "You might not be able to afford a whole wedge, but you can handle a 1-ounce portion for six or seven bucks."
Of course, dropping into Chizu won't be an option for every budget-minded cheese fanatic in the country. So we asked Jones to share his favorite pricey, much-lauded cheeses and their cheaper, more accessible counterparts. Here, four brilliant European cheeses and their less expensive American doppelgängers.
Splurge: Vacherin Mont d’Or
“It’s the Mount Everest of cheese that everyone always asks for,” Jones says. “It has a lot of smoky, bacon-fatty notes. There’s a really creamy funk to it.” A raw cow’s milk washed rind cheese, made in Switzerland and France, the Mont d’Or is highly seasonal and sold in round boxes made of spruce bark.
Save: Jasper Hill Winnimere
“This is a great American knockoff,” Jones says. “You still get a lot of the smoky, bacon fat notes, but with the Winnimere you get more of the spruce bark flavor. And there’s a real bright fruity flavor—almost like mulberries.”