Taste Testing Castello Cheese – with Mac N Cheese!

Disclosure notice: I was provided with free product by Castello cheese for the purpose of writing this post.  All opinions stated within are my own.

On the heels of reviewing Castello Cheese’s Blue Cheese a few weeks ago, I was asked to check out their new Alps Selection Cheeses and see what I thought.  Cheese.  Yes.  Of course I will.

The Alps Collection consists of a Chiantino™ Cheese, a Weissbeir Cheese, a Classic Cheese and a Hirten Cheese – all of which were totally new to me.

My first challenge?  Tracking them down!  The only chain on my list of western Canada grocery stores carrying the cheeses that was near me was Overwaitea, but when I checked my two local Save-On Foods (part of the Overwaitea family) neither had any of the cheeses in stock.  I wasn’t too sure what to do and didn’t feel like trekking it all the way out to the Fraser Valley to find a Co-Op or downtown to a Choices.  And then I googled HY Louie only to find out that they’re IGA… which I always thought was Sobeys! Go figure.

Castello Cheese

Even so, I was only able to find three of the collection in IGA – the Chiantino, Weissbeir and Classic.

My next challenge?  Not having ever tasted any of them, I had no idea how I wanted to use them in a recipe.  Quite the dilemma.

Fortunately, in serious crisis moments like this, I have some friends I can count on: Blondie and Donnie Vegas.  Yes, these two are the type you can go to in any emergency and know they will come through.  When I called Blondie early on a Saturday morning before we had scheduled a mammoth Rock Band session (please don’t judge… just… don’t…  we totally rock it out… and no, you don’t need to know how old we are…!) and asked if they would help me with a cheese taste testing that night, she grudgingly said “weelllll… I guess so – if we must“.

See?  Dedicated friendship.

(If you haven’t figured it out, she was joking.  Seriously.  We could eat an entire wheel of cheese between the three of us.  We have no cheese self-restraint).

Slicing up cheese for samples

So that evening, Blondie sliced up all the cheeses for us and we dutifully sampled one piece of each.  We nibbled and made thoughtful faces and then somebody… I’m not sure who – said “we need wine to cleanse our palates”.  Whoever it was, was brilliant.  Blondie pulled out a bottle of red and poured three glasses and we soldiered on…

Pouring three glasses of red wine

Pouring out some “palate cleansing” wine – see our three labels dutifully lined up so we could keep track!

Two glasses of red wine with cheese

However, here you only see two glasses of wine. Somebody, who shall remain nameless, couldn’t wait for his wine while I took a photo…

 

Here’s how they stacked up:

The Weissbeir

This was the strongest of the three – it’s described as buttery with a faint bitterness from the beer and we all agreed that it was indeed buttery and a tiny bit bitter but this was hands down, the favourite of the cheese trio by everyone who sampled it.  I found it to be quite sharp and thought it would be great for adding a little bit of bite to a Mac n Cheese

The Chiantino

This one puzzled all of us.  The label describes it as “Mild & slightly sweet with hints of dark chocolate, fruitiness and dryness of Chianti”.  At first, none of us could taste the chocolate or the wine.  We actually found it to be a rather nondescript cheese – especially after the sharpness of the Weissbeir.  But, as Blondie said, she’d still eat a lot of it and it might be really good in a sandwich.

Later on, as we continued nibbling, I got a piece with a bit of rind on it and then I could taste the wine.  It added a whole different dimension to the cheese and it was really tasty.  But we never did find any of the chocolate notes in it.  I actually did wind up using some of the leftovers for a grilled cheese and apple sandwich and it worked really well.

Trio of cheese wedges

The Classic

The Classic is described as “Slightly smoky aroma, like fine smoked ham, a spicy hint of mountain herbs” and we all agreed that it was exactly as described.  This was a close second to the Weissbeir in terms of a favourite.  I loved it as snacking cheese – not too strong but still with really great flavour.  I kept going back to it all evening for a little nibble and I think, that out of the three, this is the one I would see myself buying over and over as a cheese to have in the house for any occasion.

I’m embarrassed to say how much cheese the three of us ate that night but it really was a lot of fun and kept us well fueled for several hours of RockBand.

Rockband Screen Shot

Qualiagg – she’s my Rock Band alter ego – her guitar stays in place without a strap just by the force of her pure awesomeness. I totally look like her in real life. Totally. (but not really)

So what did I wind up making with all that cheese?  Well, as I mentioned, some went into grilled cheese sandwiches but, I decided to take my classic Mac n Cheese recipe and mix it up a bit.  And I have to say, this might have been my best Mac n Cheese ever – the cheese sauce was a perfect blend of smokiness, bacon-y tang and sharpness from the cheese.  Next time, I think I’d actually make it with just the Weissbeir and cheddar and skip the Classic for a little more kick:

Mac n Cheese with Bacon
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 3 cups uncooked macaroni
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 strips uncooked bacon, diced
  • ½ cup (or one stick) of butter or margarine
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup cubed Castello Weissbeir cheese
  • 1 cup cubed Castello Classic cheese
  • ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F and find a large oven proof casserole dish
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions
  3. While macaroni is cooking, heat olive oil in a dutch oven or the largest saucepan you have
  4. When oil is hot, add diced bacon and stir quickly for 3-4 minutes or until bacon is just starting to crisp
  5. Remove bacon but leave some of the drippings in the pan
  6. Lower your heat and melt the butter in the same pan as you cooked the bacon and combine it with the drippings
  7. Add flour, salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire to the melted butter and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly - don't let it burn!
  8. Add the bacon back in and stir till coated with flour/butter mixture
  9. Slowly add the milk in one cup increments, stirring constantly until fully combined with the flour/butter mixture.
  10. Bring the whole mixture to a boil, stirring constantly so the milk doesn't scald
  11. Allow to boil for one minute until the sauce starts to thicken
  12. Lower heat and stir in cubed cheese slowly and let it melt into the sauce, while stirring
  13. Drain the macaroni and gently stir it into the cheese sauce.
  14. Once combined, pour the entire mixture into the casserole dish and sprinkle with grated cheddar and Parmesan
  15. Bake 20-25 minutes or until cheese topping is bubbly and staring to brown
  16. Eat

 

Castello Alps Selections

Another great mac and cheese.  I really hope that Castello’s new Alps Collection becomes a little easier to find in the grocery stores because they’re worth it.  Especially with the holiday season coming – they’d make a great cheese platter (or a Rock Band snack… depending on how sophisticated you want to get!)

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7 Responses to Taste Testing Castello Cheese – with Mac N Cheese!

  1. Michelle November 12, 2012 at 9:54 PM #

    Ha!!!! You are drinking Apothic. I knew there was a reason I loved you :)

    PS – Fantastic pictures. Are the later ones under artificial light? How did you get some so gorgeous? Everytime I try to take pics in kitchen lights they turn out weird. And now that I am totally running out of natural light, I am really struggling.

    Oh, and I just made some mac n cheese last week… comfort food, absolutely!

    • Melissa November 12, 2012 at 11:05 PM #

      haha… the wine was not my choice. I rarely have red in the house because it’s a migraine trigger for me. Sad because I do love it so much more than white! I just have the odd glass from time to time when I feel like taking a gamble – lol.

      The top two pictures and the bottom two pictures (not counting the rockband screenshot) were taken with natural light on a rainy mid-afternoon. No reflectors or diffusors. Put the cheese right up next to the window on a chair. Shot some with the light to the side and some backlit. I wanted moody and dark so the lousy weather actually helped!

      The middle three were taken at about 8pm in my friends’ kitchen. So that was all artificial light!

  2. Michelle November 12, 2012 at 9:56 PM #

    Oh, I also meant to add, as husband/ child are vegetarian, I actually add a tiny splash of white truffle oil to my mac n cheese. It totally oomphs the flavour, and I don’t miss the bacon/ ham (well, I do, really, but one has to make do these days :))

  3. Dara November 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM #

    Yum. Adding bacon is genius. I am so jealous of your cheese tasting.

  4. Renee November 13, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

    Yum and more yum. I could/do eat cheese like a mad woman. Hope I can find these in Saskatoon!

  5. Paula November 13, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

    Love your Rock Star alter ego!!

    Enjoyed reading your review of these *new to me too* cheeses. Haven’t seen them around but then again, until this post I wasn’t really looking. Think that is about to change, especially for The Classic. Doubt much I’d enjoy the Chiantino (my son might though) and the Weissbeir sounds too strong for my tastes.

  6. Stephanie November 15, 2012 at 2:45 PM #

    HA! I love cheese and wine so so hard. I was dying of jealously through this whole post. Staring at my phone wondering why noone is calling ME to come and help them eat cheese and try wine.

    Great post :)

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