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This year, we have an extra day given to us because it’s a Leap Year. Try these amazing Leap Year cheeses. All rare finds. And all delicious.

Secret Gouda - Tastings Gourmet MarketSecret Gouda

Part of the Point Reyes Farmstead library collection, this cheese is handcrafted using traditional methods and is probably one of the most special cheeses Pt. Reyes produces.

Named “Best Cheese of the Year” at the 2019 California state fair, Secret Gouda is creamy yet highly crystalized. Cheese connoisseurs prize the many protein crystals and the “Gouda tears” that weep moisture from the holes created by the crystals. It has the full flavor of a Toma, but with the aged crystals, it will remind you of Prima Donna.

It’s called “Secret” because it is so rare. It takes a lot of cave space to age 20 lb. wheels of Gouda for 2 years, especially when you consider that most cheeses go to market within 90 days. That’s why this cheese was made only sporadically, sold only in California, and given the street name “Secret Gouda.” Over the past few years, Pt. Reyes has greatly expanded its facility and now, for the first time, “Secret Gouda” is available in Annapolis.

Shave a bit onto roasted vegetables, add to mac and cheese, or add to an arugula salad to take them to the next level. Ina Garten’s arugula salad would be fantastic with Secret Gouda.

Origin: Point Reyes Station, California
Producer: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese
Milk: Pasteurized cow
Rennet type: Vegetarian
Rind: Natural, wax-covered
Age: 16 months
Look: Pale gold, speckled with protein crystals
Feel: Hard
Smell: Creamy, sweet
Taste: Deep, complex flavor including notes of toasted hazelnut, caramel, butterscotch, and cooked cream
Tastes good with: Honey, roasted hazelnuts, Marcona almonds, dried figs, tart green apples
Drink with: Riesling, Semi-Brut sparkling, Tawny Port, and IPA, Scotch, Bourbon

Ardi Gasna - Tastings Gourmet MarketArdi Gasna

Ardi Gasna, which means “sheep’s cheese” in the Basque language, is rich, milky, slightly tangy, buttery, and with light earthy undertones. Sounds great, right? It is. And as it ages, it just gets better! You’ll love the perfect balance between sharpness and mildness.

It is uncooked, pressed, and then aged for 4-6 months. This traditional “fermier” (farmstead) cheese is made from whole ewe’s milk from the Pyrenees in southwest France. Each spring, shepherds and their herds make the trek up the mountains to provide the sheep with lush grasses and wildflowers. Shepherds descend with 10-lb. wheels of cheese that they store and age until ready for market. You can taste the wild herbs and grasses in the cheese. Sheep cheese lovers, rejoice!

Origin: France (Midi-Pyrénées region)
Milk: Raw sheep
Rennet type: Traditional
Rind: Washed
Age: 4-6 months
Look: Pale yellow paste, crusty rind with grayish molds
Feel: Firm, supple
Smell: Fresh
Taste: Mild, nutty, sharp, rich
Tastes good with: Cherry griotte jam, on salads
Drink with: Bordeaux, Merlot, Cabernet-Franc, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Malbec, or a creamy Chardonnay

Dutch Mimolette - Tastings Gourmet MarketDutch Mimolette

This nutty, salty cheese is the very definition of “snack worthy.” Set it on a cheeseboard and watch it disappear. Its popularity comes from its super crystals, and when you crunch down on them, you’ll think you’re tasting a 3-4 year aged Gouda.

Made in Holland, Dutch Mimolette is an aged Edam that has been colored with orange annatto, a natural food coloring. It closely resembles French Mimolette, but it is covered in wax. As it ages, the interior darkens to a deep orange and the texture becomes hard and brittle. For best effect, slice it into thin shards.

The Dutch cheesemakers use only high quality milk in their Mimolette and that translates into a quality, flavorful cheese. This aged Mimolette is perfect for the cheese novice and the picky connoisseur alike.

Origin: Holland (Nord region)
Milk: Pasteurized cow
Rennet type: Traditional
Rind: Natural, covered in wax
Age: 6-12 months
Look: Deep orange
Feel: Hard, brittle, creamy
Smell: Fruity
Taste: Fruity, nutty, salty
Tastes good with: Charcuterie (especially saucisson sec or country pâté), cherry preserves, toasted nuts, apple slices. Grates well as an addition to soups, salads, and pasta.
Drink with: Bourbon, Merlot, strong beers, dessert wines. Pinot Noir or Zinfandel make good wine pairings.

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