Tag Archives: Sheep Cheese

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Cheese of the Week: Brigante


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

Cheese of the Week: Istara P’tit Basque Sheep Cheese


You’ve got to love that hubby of mine. He keeps bringing home fun cheeses to try. This week he brought home a bit of Istara P’Tit Basque, and we had this yummy sheep cheese with port (me) and tequila (him).

What struck me immediately (well, right after the cute size — even a whole wheel is about as big as a large beefsteak tomato) is that it had a clean smell that had a little bite to it, almost like fresh air. I thought: That’s it, The air of the Pyrenees has come in on this cheese, and I was transported and hooked.

The P’Tit Basque was instantly pleasing to bite into, its texture somewhere in that perfect mid-range between soft and hard. If I could smell the air, I could certainly taste the sheep. This was nuttier than a typical cow’s milk cheese. While somewhat creamy, it had a dry, salty finish and a slightly gamey undertone. In short, there was a lot going on. It also retained its interest long after the cheese was gone — indeed, it lingered on the palate an unusually long time. And yet, as wonderful as that quality was, we didn’t content ourselves with the lingering, but kept going back for more until our petite P’Tit was but a memory.

The earthy taste of P’Tit Basque makes it a natural for pairing with strong foods such as a truffle salami (should you be lucky enough to have one of those), or anything else in the mushroom or cured-meat families. Hearty red wine (or port – I had a 20 year Warre’s Otima tawny) will complement this pastoral cheese, as will a great crusty wheat bread (I like La Brea Bakery’s Whole Grain Loaf, which is widely available) or, of course, a bunch of grapes.

So now we can thank the Basques, a hearty ancient people who have endured a tumultuous history in their small, mountainous region between the often-dueling Spain and France, for one more thing: It’s the Cheese.

The wonderful, near-herringbone rind of the P’Tit Basque:


Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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