On a recent trip to northern France, we ate a lot of cheese. And that's probably an understatement. From mild to sharp, hard to soft, blue to aged, there were milk cheeses, goat cheeses and varieties infused with everything from herbs to dried fruit. Cheese was served as a snack, an appetizer and for dessert at meals in Paris and in the countryside. What I found most impressive, though, were the lunches served at the public schools attended by the children of our host families. There were no chicken nuggets. Instead, they are served baguettes and select cheeses, including blue cheese, Brie and a local favorite, Camembert, before they dine on baked chicken breasts, boiled potatoes and salade verte, a mixture of local greens. When we returned to Florida, I went shopping in search of a few "fancy" cheeses I could send to school with my daughter, along with some fresh bread or crackers. We wanted to go beyond string cheese or the cheese "product" served prepackaged with crackers or pretzels. All seven cheeses we sampled came in convenient sizes that would travel well. Our Taster's panel picked three favorites, all of which can be served at room temperature.
Kathy Saunders, Times correspondent
|Product||Ile de France Brie Bites ||Old Croc Australian Cheese ||Alouette Parmesan & Basil Le Petite Fromage |
|"These are the perfect portion," said one judge who raved about these cheese bites. "I would eat this alone, on bread or crackers or wrapped in puffed pastry and baked for a bite-sized appetizer." Another called these Brie bites classic, describing the cheese as silky and smooth in texture and taste. "It's refreshing and light," said the panelist. Judges said the cheeses were the ideal size for packing. "They would hold up well in a lunch box," said one.||These rectangular pieces tasted sharp like a bold cheddar and would be easily transported from the refrigerator to a lunch box or bag, judges said. "It is best served at room temperature," said one panelist. "It's delightfully creamy with a seriously strong white cheddar taste," said another judge. "I would absolutely buy this," said a teacher on our panel. "It's got a powerful cheddar taste that brings abundant satisfaction in a nice, small slice," said the taster.||This super spreadable square of cheese had a solid cheese flavor with flecks of green herbs. "The little container is so cute, and I love the herby flavor," said one judge. "I would send two of these to school with my child, along with some crackers and a decorative spreader." Another said, "What's not to love? It would be great on a cracker." But, she said, "My favorite idea would be to add it to grits. It's the perfect, individual portion for cheese grits."|
|All four judges said yes.||All four judges said yes.||Three of the four judges said yes.|
|Shopping information||$5.50 for a bag of five Brie rounds from Publix. ||$6 for a 6-ounce bag of eight pieces from Winn-Dixie.||$3.49 for a 4.7-ounce box of eight pieces from Winn-Dixie.|
Mini Babybel Original Semisoft Cheese ($4.99 for a bag of six 0.7-ounce rounds from the Fresh Market); BelGioioso Fontina Snacking Cheese ($4.99 for a 6-ounce bag of eight pieces from Winn-Dixie); Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery Cheddar Cheese Curds ($8.99 for a 16-ounce bag from Target); and Montchevré Fresh Goat Cheese ($5.99 for a 5-ounce package of five pieces from Target).
Panelists: Steve Sims, theology teacher at Tampa Catholic High School; Kay Hodnett, personal chef; Sophie Wiltshire, high school senior; and Janet Keeler, assistant professor of journalism at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
Send suggestions for product testing to: Taste section, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put TEST SUGGESTION in the subject line. To read past Taster's Choice columns, go to
|Serving size||1 piece||1 piece||1 piece|
|Fat/Fiber||6g / 0g||8g / 0g||3g / 0g|
|Sugars/Sodium||1g / 160mg||0g / 135mg||0g / 75mg|
|Carbs/Protein||1g / 4g||0g / 5g||1g / 2g|