Pass the crackers, please!

By Kelsey Ogletree
July 29, 2019
Kelsey Ogletree

How do we love Trader Joe’s? Let us count the ways. From low-carb snacks to donut peaches to wine, TJ’s is adored by grocery shoppers around the country for all of its affordable, delicious and one-of-a-kind finds. Of course, you’d be remiss to shop here without swinging your cart around the cheese cooler.

Trader Joe’s is a seriously amazing place to pick up fromage, from plain-Jane varieties like mild Wisconsin cheddar and creamy mozzarella to out-there flavors like caramelized onion and even chocolate cheddar. There’s no better place to stock up on cheese—especially if you’re prepping one of our epic snack dinners. Here, two cheesemongers share their top picks.

Chèvre with Honey Goat’s Milk Cheese

Trader Joe’s has stocked this sweet little cheese log for over a decade now, and for good reason. Even if you think goat cheese is too tangy, this might woo you over. “Lemon and white pepper tanginess in fresh goat cheese is balanced with the sweetness of honey,” says Jeffery Mitchell, founder and owner of Culpeper Cheese Company outside Washington, D.C. He recommends crumbling it into a summer salad with berries and walnuts.

Fromage Pavé

Formed into a perfect square that’s ideal for cheese plates, this buttery French cheese (available only during the holidays) is best left out on the counter so it’s always ready to spread on crackers—and do eat the bloomy rind, as it’s an essential part of the flavor, says Mitchell. He recommends adding some to buttered toast and sticking under a broiler for a few minutes, then topping with tomatoes, sea salt and cracked pepper. Ooh, la la!

Goat Milk Brie

Rich, creamy Brie is traditionally made from cow’s milk, but Tracey Shepos Cenami, chef and cheese specialist at La Crema, says she’s pleasantly surprised by the decadence of this one. She suggests riffing on the classic cream-cheese-and-pepper-jelly combo by topping a round of this Brie with a few spoonfuls of Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Pepper Jelly.

Burrata

This creamy, indulgent ball of cheese is everywhere on restaurant menus right now—but you can easily enjoy it at home, too. “Like the contrasting elements of a soft-boiled egg, this cheese has a silky mozzarella exterior and sweet, creamy center,” says Mitchell. It plays well with fruits: Try serving one ball per person alongside arugula, cantaloupe and prosciutto dressed with a little olive oil.

Cotswold Double Gloucester Cheese with Onions & Chives

As with most cheeses, this English cheddar is best enjoyed at room temperature, which really brings out the bright flavors of the Cotswold, says Shepos Cenami. “The chewy texture makes this a great cheese to enjoy on its own or melt in a grilled cheese sandwich with fresh tomatoes,” she adds.

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Toscano with Black Pepper

This go-with-anything hard white cheese is peppery and flavorful, and works especially well grated over pasta with grilled zucchini, squash, and caramelized red onions, says Mitchell. “Add some garden tomatoes and fresh basil, and even the carnivores in your family will be happy,” he adds. (Or, you can always just slice some up and eat it on crackers for a satisfying snack.)

Chimay Autumn Cheese

“When you need to clear a room, this is the cheese for you,” says Mitchell. We weren’t sure what to make of that at first, but if you love a good strong cheese, this one fits the bill. With a beer-washed rind, bold savory notes, and a slight nuttiness, it’s an excellent choice for grilled cheese. Be on the lookout for it in stores this fall, as it’s only available seasonally.

Goat’s Milk Cheese Marinated in Herbs

This cheese is a great pick for two reasons, according to Shepos Cenami: “The first is the cheese, with its creamy texture and delicious tangy flavor; and the second is the oil,” which isn’t the least bit greasy. Once you finish the cheese, use the herb-infused oil to make a salad dressing or for dipping bread.

Beemster Royaal Grand Cru Gouda

Ooh, gouda—you’re good-a. Nutty, firm, and with a subtle caramel-like sweetness, this cheese is easy to enjoy on its own. It’s especially great cut into melt-on-your-tongue squares paired with thinly sliced apples, but you can also grate it over pasta for a special treat, says Mitchell.

La Delice de Bourgogne

“Equal parts decadent and luscious, this triple-cream, soft-ripened cheese is cheese to serve when you want to make someone feel special,” says Shepos Cenami. Add a bit of sweetness and a touch of heat by pairing with Trader Joe’s oh-so-addicting Sweet & Spicy Roasted Pecans.

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