Spanish Cheese Tour 2021 – Week #1

Day 1 – Tuesday

To celebrate the first day of my Spanish cheese tour. I chose this “Especial de Catalunya” at El Born market today. It is called: Gris de Muntanya, which is Catalan for Grey Mountain. The texture is semi soft and the flavour is moderately sharp.

My preference for this cheese is only so so, which leaves lots of room for better and worse quesos going forward. So, let the fromage fun continue in earnest tomorrow. My wife Diana tells me that if I do a good job with this blog series, I might have readers hanging on my every “curd.” Uggh …! With that bad pun out of the whey, I promise to present you cheeses that somehow speak to the day I am experiencing in my newly adopted country of Spain, and my new home city of Barcelona. Salud.

Day 2 – Wednesday

Today’s cheese adventure is brought to you by El Cot. This gourmet delicatessen was conveniently located on the road back home from my misadventure trying to surf some big “olas” at the beach in Barcelona. Like each wave that tossed me hither and thither, this cheese is streaked with blues and greens. And it had much the same bold impact on my mouth.

It’s called Savel and is from a little town in the extreme Northwest of Spain. Look for Lugo on your maps. Ironically, that Atlantic coast is also home to some of the world’s biggest waves. Ideally, nibbling this cheese is done with a dry rose to balance out it’s mix of bitterness and flattering flavour. It was named the “Best Blue Cheese in Spain 2019,” but is not yet a sponsor of the World Surf Tour.

Day 3 – Thursday

For reasons not worth getting into, I arrived in Spain without a map of Europe loaded onto my Garmin cycling device. The technology solution existed at a store a long way from our flat in an area that was unfamiliar to me. Thus, began my morning of navigating a large swath of Barcelona just following my nose.

This theme of boldly “just going” seems a good segue into a discussion of today’s cheese. It’s from a typical neighbourhood farmer’s market outside of my usual radius. Urgèlia is produced in the cheese district (D.O.) of Urgell-Cerdanya, which sits amid the foothills of the Pyrenees in Northern Catalunya. It is considered a savoury, semi-cured pasta cheese with a creamy(ish) texture and a fruity smell. It goes especially well with a morning of riding around in circles.

Day 4 – Friday

Today was a tough day, so I went to my new heath club for some chill time. The facility features a pool and a large jacuzzi that I much appreciated after my swim. It has rollers that extend above the jets that allow you to lay out while the water pulsates beneath your entire length. The whiteness of the bubbles surrounding my body was very soothing – exactly what el médico ordered. That got me thinking, why not a white cheese to complement the therapy?

Lazo Blanco was my choice from my most local of cheese merchants. This gluten-free cheese from the Castellón region (south of Barcelona just above Valencia) was not the bland goat product I’m used to finding in my Toronto Greek Town. It was amazing. The texture was the first to surprise being a semi-soft paste. I’ve never had such a mouth feel from any other edible. The aroma was slightly mossy stemming from the moldy rind, while the somewhat salty taste was pure creamy deliciousness. No wonder this product earned a World Cheese Award in 2012 and was named the “second best” cheese in Spain. Lazo means “ribbon” in Spanish, although it’s initial appeal through the glass was definitely a harkening back to the laziness of my earlier watery wind down.

Day 5 – Saturday

I almost missed doing this post today as I went for a very long ride with the Barcelona Road Cycling Group, napped and sipped a café all before heading out at 5:20pm in a slight drizzle to finally buy some cheese. After seeing lots of closed shops, and almost giving up, I eventually found un “abierto” sign in front of El Cot.

The owner’s son is always so excited to share his knowledge of all their gourmet delicacies. In honour of my 100km foray into the “big climb” area north and west of Barcelona, I asked him for a cheese that is produced in the mountains of Cataluña. The recommended choice was Romero. This artisanal product is made from sheep’s milk in the same style as Manchego – firm and moist.

Romero means “Rosemary” in Spanish and there is pungent aroma of the thick herb that coats it (and a hint of the Iberian pig lard that keeps it in place). I already know that I will love it just by its look and smell. I almost don’t want to cut into as it looks so pretty. Apparently, it tastes even better with a wine pairing, and I’m prepared with a bottle of sparkling rosé. Now the moment of truth … muy Bueno! I don’t always want a cheese that packs a punch, nor do I always want an uphill on my bike that does the same. Today the cheese and the ride were in perfect balance.

Day 6 – Sunday

This is what a gourmet cheese shop looks like on a Sunday in Barcelona. Esta cerrado. Come back again tomorrow for more cheese adventuring in España. Thank you for your continued patronage.