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It is hard to find people who do not enjoy cheese. It is one of those few ingredients that seem to be universally loved. While most people enjoy the taste, they seem to have difficulty telling one type of cheese from another. Restaurant menus have fancy names and, quite frankly, it can get intimidating for someone who just wants to enjoy their food and does not have much knowledge about the various cheeses from all over the world. This is our attempt at making it slightly easier for you the next time you order a meal. While we cannot cover every single cheese that is around, these are a few of the most frequent on restaurant menus, along with a little background on each one.
Let us start with one of the most common cheeses – mozzarella. This is an Italian cheese traditionally made with buffalo milk; however, you also get American mozzarella made with pasteurised cow milk as well. The reason why this is the most commonly known cheese is because it is usually the staple cheese in any pizza. It is used a lot in traditional Italian pastas as well but, for the most part, you find it in the base for any pizza. Even if the pizza has other types of cheese in it, you will find some amount of mozzarella as well.
A more salty, almost dry, cheese that you often find in salads is feta cheese. This is a typically Greek cheese made from sheep milk or even a mixture of sheep and goat milk. The easiest way to identify feta is that you find it in a Greek salad and it tends to taste quite salty. You might even find it in appetizers such as stuffed mushrooms or in other salads as well.
Mascarpone is an Italian cream cheese that is milky white in colour and easy to spread. It is used mainly in desserts, most commonly in tiramisu. You will also find it being served along with a cake as a replacement for cream or as a garnish to other desserts.
Traditionally, Parmigiano Reggiano is an Italian cheese that is only made in the Reggiano, Emilia Romagna, Parma and Bologna regions of Italy. If it is not made there but the cheese is similar, then it is often just called parmesan, as it cannot be given the full name. It is often called the king of cheeses because it is so popular and widely used. This hard granular cheese is grated and added to most dishes, especially pasta and even pizza. It works wonderfully in baked dishes as well. At many Italian restaurants, the waiter will often ask if you would like some grated parmesan cheese along with your meal.
Gouda is a Dutch yellow cheese made in Gouda in the Netherlands, and is an extremely popular cheese. While often used in dishes, you will mostly find this in a cheese platter to be eaten and enjoyed on its own, rather than adding it to a cooked meal.
For those of you with a slightly stronger palate, you might enjoy gorgonzola. Produced in Gorgonzola, Milan, this Italian cheese is much sharper than the others and is often called a blue cheese for its strong, sharp taste. The cheese is firm but crumbles easily, is salty and has a very strong taste. For most people, it is an acquired taste. It works well in many dishes and, interestingly, even on a pizza if you get used to the taste. Do not be put off by the slight smell and sharpness – if used well with certain foods, it can elevate a dish.
Brie is a popular French cheese made out of cow's milk which is extremely soft and very popular. You might find baked brie on different menus, or see brie added to a fondue, but the proper way is to eat it by itself with crackers or nuts.
Follow Roxanne @The Tiny Taster
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.