Friday, February 19, 2010

Geitost: cheese?

On Congress street between Longfellow Square and the Old Port area in Portland, Maine, there is a fabulous collection of miniature markets under one roof.  My friend Annie and I stumbled upon it while walking around the area.  In truth we were drawn into the market by a selection of cheese that was visible from the front.  We are both mega curd nerds, and so we couldn't help ourselves from stopping in to check it out.

At the cheese kiosk inside, we took some time looking over their very impressive selection.  The two twenty-somethings behind the counter really knew their stuff from talking with them a little bit.  Most everything on display was at least familiar to me by name, though there were certainly plenty that I hadn't tried before.  One cheese in particular caught my eye because of its odd brown color.  Turns out it was the famous Scandinavian cheese called Geitost (pronounced YAY-toast).

Geitost is made by combining whey from cow's and/or goat's milk and boiling it down with some cream until it caramelizes.  Its texture is semi-firm and it has a really sweet flavor balanced by salt and tang.  It's traditionally served to children for breakfast shaved onto warm flatbread.  I enjoyed the little remnant I bought with an apple for breakfast this morning and it was delicious.  I'll keep an eye for it, but I'm not sure I've ever seen it in any my local markets or specialty shops.  Leave it to Portland's food-obsessed residents to introduce me to something new and interesting.

If you see it around, pick up a little chunk to try.  I can attest to the fact that it makes a delicious breakfast eaten alone, but it is also commonly melted into sauces to flavor game dishes.  Geitost fondue anyone?  I think you'll be intrigued and beguiled by its simple but unique charms.

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