Call us cheesy, but momondo has gone crazy for coagulated milk. We've given our writers the mission of uncovering 'le meilleur fromage' in Paris, 'il migliore formaggio' in Rome, the stinkiest cheeses in New York and the hands-down best cheeses in London, Brussels and Madrid. So grab yourself some bread and wine and join us on this tour of the best cheese shops in Europe.
Some women are shopaholics, others just alcoholics. Karin in London calls herself a hotelaholic, because she has an exaggerated penchant for luxury accommodation. I’m a cheesaholic. One of those people who always has at least three and not seldom six different cheeses in my cheese safe among which you will always find minimum one goat and one sheep.
I like all kind of cheese except from at certain Danish one called Old Ole’s old father, a perversion, which has matured for several years before it’s served with jelly, lard and rum!
But apart from this one, I am ready to travel quite far to get a good cheese, so in Madrid, of course, I took a taxi to get west of the centre, searching for ‘Cuenllas’, a delicatessen in Calle de Ferraz, famous for its cheeses.
The taxi driver thought I was nuts, as the trip was more expensive than the cheese I was going to buy. An even more nuts, when we found the shop closed and he had to bring me all the way back again. Without Le Queso Manchego I was so much longing for.
Living in France I am spoiled with cheeses and used to boutiques so specialised that people in there would kill you, if you asked for anything else but products related to milk.
In Spain, however, cheese is often sold in the same shop as ham and meat. So I found my black skinned Manchego in Museo del Jamon, side by side with Mortadella, Chorizo and olive sausages.
Museo del Jamon is not a ham museum, but a blend of delicatessen and café. Big dried hams are suspended on hooks from the ceiling, and Spanish housewives negotiate about the best Ibérico, while workmen in overalls and oily fingers are snacking at the zinc desk.
I had an assortment of olives, anchovies and cuttlefish while waiting for the shop assistant to finish with a black dressed Spanish widow who apparently wanted to be sure she had the best quality of Bellota (Ham from a pig eating only acorn).
The guy next to me tried to entertain me about the greatness of Real Madrid. Unfortunately my Spanish was not good enough to understand the details, but at least for the cheese I understood I had to try the Queso Picos de Europa. It’s a blue cheese, which has been wrapped in chestnut leaves and matured in caves in Picos de Europa. It was good, I admit, but almost too blue. Then I liked the Pedroches much better, a sheep cheese from near Cordoba. Not to talk about the Idiazabel, also a sheep cheese, but from the Basque country, with a smoky taste and perfumed aroma.
I liked it – not only the cheese, but the whole atmosphere – so much that I tried several of the Museo’s branches in the city. Coming from Paris where cheese-buying is a serious affair; it was so much funnier here. When the old lady, without a tooth in her mouth, stuffed herself with soft, fresh goat cheese while filling in her lotto coupons. And the local plumber took a pause from his work, drinking draught beer and eating salami at the bar, discussing soccer with the waiter.
Try the shop in Carrera de San Jeronimo 6, just next to the famous restaurant Lhardy. And don’t forget to taste the Gran Casar. It looks like callous skin at the outside, but it’s soft and delicate inside; slightly salt and a little bitter. 25 euros the kilo.