When Alex, the cheesemeister at my local Whole Foods recommends a cheese, I tend to listen, and this week he told me about a sheep cheese called Brigante, from Sardinia. Then he cut a slice for me to taste.
I found it an extremely pleasing cheese, very mild and so creamy as to be almost buttery in texture. Subsequent tastes confirmed that Brigante tasted a lot like a cow cheese, with the sheep taste coming on late, almost as an afterthought. As such, the subtle sheep flavor lends a pleasant tang to the buttery goodness. I tasted hints of something caramel-y and toasty, along with the buttery, milky taste, but those were very subtle. This is a mild cheese — It’s clean, supple, sweet, easy to like and, oh, easy to just go back for one more slice.
I haven’t even mentioned another of its great gifts. This Italian sheep cheese is a bargain, especially given its taste and pedigree. It’s from the huge Pinna dairy, in Thiesi, in the northern part of Italy’s Sardinia island. It is a Pecorino cheese, though it doesn’t have any of the Pecorino’s hard, crunchy texture or sharp taste. Brigante is a young cheese, matured only a few weeks, and it has a papery coating instead of a rind. The cheese’s attractive pale yellow color compliments its smooth texture and taste. You could easily offer it on a cheese board at a gathering, or have it on a picnic, with grapes and a light, fruity wine.
If Brigante were a dinner guest, it would be the one rounding out the party, not calling a lot of attention to itself, but being a good listener and guest — blending in, universally liked, the one everyone talks about the next day and invites back: What a nice cheese!
Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman