Although a cheese purist at heart, there is just something about the flavor combinations Sartori Cheese infuses into their already-incredible BellaVitano that makes my taste buds happy. I always have a wedge of Espresso BellaVitano on hand for snacking as it is readily available at most stores in the area, however it isn’t as easy to find some other, Limited Edition varieties. Fortunately, Sartori graciously sent me a sample of their Peppermint BellaVitano which they made in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness. I also happened upon a small wedge of Rum Runner BellaVitano, a rare Whole Foods exclusive and a wedge of Limited Edition Cognac BellaVitano. Taking advantage of my good fortune and the opportunity to break in my new cheese board I received over the holidays from the my brother & sister-in-law, I set up a small afternoon snack.
For me, Espresso BellaVitano is just perfection and I could eat a wedge of it in one sitting. Roasted espresso ground semi-fine and then hand-rubbed into the crystally, sugary, sweet wheels of pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is a luscious mouthful of happiness. The flavor balance of salty, nutty, dessert-like cheese easily pairs with a cup of the finest coffee or espresso (of course), a glass of Cabernet, or a pint of chocolate stout. My sister-in-law and I really enjoy Espresso BellaVitano, however our guys, who are not big coffee drinkers, say they prefer to cut the rind off and just enjoy the cheese sans espresso. I don’t understand them or their twisted palates.
I hadn’t heard much about Rum Runner and neither had the mongers at the Whole Foods where I found it so I was not sure what to expect. There wasn’t anything on the Sartori website about it either so I went into this tasting blind. Made from the same base cow’s milk cheese as the Espresso, the Rum Runner is soaked in Heath Rum from North Woods Distillery in Coleman, Wisconsin. The rum gives the cheese a slightly sweet, toffee flavor, like a Heath Bar. Get it? I was worried the flavor would be syrupy or too intense, but it was surprisingly mild and well balanced. The natural flavors from the cheese still come through even after the 45 proof rum-soaking while the alcohol leaves just a trace of flavor. Pair this with a snifter of brandy or a hard cider by the fire on a cold winter night if you can find it.
Cognac BellaVitano has been my Sartori White Whale. I looked high and low for a wedge since November and only just found a very small wedge last week. When they say Limited Edition, they aren’t kidding around. Steeped for 7-10 days in Rémy Martin Cognac, the aroma of this cheese is intense and a bit intimidating. The flavors of oak, vanilla, and I detected a hint of orange are the first to grab the tongue followed by a silky smooth burnt caramel at the back of the throat. It’s very much like drinking a glass of really great cognac. I will say that a little of this goes a long way, so I’m fine with my tiny sample. I had a hard time pairing this one as it is almost a cheese and a beverage in one. I’m actually still at a loss and would welcome some suggestions.
Finally, the Peppermint BellaVitano. I was skeptical about this cheese when I first saw it and it actually frightened me a bit. Mint and cheese just did not compute in my brain, yet here it is on my board with its pink rind and the Sartori name…I had to try it. Someone in the Sartori Cheese R&D department must have been blessed with the Willy Wonka gene because Peppermint BellaVitano is amazingly delectable. It shouldn’t work, but the subtle hint of mint mixed with the sweet cream and salt of the milk fat just works in a fine flavor dance. Use it in a cheesecake or melted into a Monte Cristo sandwich as an extra kick. Pair it with a rosé or Beaujolais Gamay wine or even a Saison beer. Anything light and fruity would work.
I’ll still keep trying all of Sartori Cheese Limited Edition variations as they are introduced, including the newest one announced this past week, Citrus Ginger BellaVitano…if I can find it. I do like them all, but my favorite is still the Espresso BellaVitano. Probably a good thing since I can find it most anywhere I shop. Happy hunting and Stay Cheesy!