We’ve been in Lisbon for two weeks now, and have noticed the cheese and meat shops we expected to be so plentiful, well, aren’t. So, we have been searching around to find some good cheeses, and managed to pick up two at a small grocery store close to home on Lisbon’s far north side. They have a small, but well-stocked, meat and cheese counter, along with some bubbly-personality butchers and cheesemongers, which always make a purchase better.
Our first splurge was Castelo Branco, a semi-hard goat milk’s cheese named for the town where it originated in west-central Portugal. Castelo Branco packs a strong, pungent punch dispersed in a crumbly texture. It’s far too strong to eat on its own, but does make a great complementary flavor with something softer, like a simple salad or a pasta. We found it worked particularly well with a simple pesto pasta, which we have made a few times since we’ve been here. (M also decided to throw in some chouriço, but that is a different story).
Opening the refrigerator door every day and catching the wafting smells of the castelo branco made us opt for a slightly more mild second cheese. We opted for Flamengo, a semisoft cow’s milk cheese that is a staple on Portuguese sandwiches. It’s inoffensive, nutty, tasty, and melts very well – especially on grilled cheese sandwiches, we discovered. Flamengo usually comes in a red wax package, wrapped in red plastic or foil. Our brand was Terra Nostra (pictured right).
Over at CataVino, Andrea Smith has a great user’s guide to Portuguese cheeses that did a great job enlightening us to some of the finer points. Most interesting for us, Flamengo – Portuguese for “Flemish” – is actually a copy of Dutch edam (we knew it tasted familiar!).
And for those of you link-obsessed readers who clicked on all the links from this post, you will have noticed that our brand of flamengo is noted as “Natural dos Açores.” Does this mean we have officially eaten Azorean food? We think so. So with apologies to the hard work of Anthony Bourdain and his crew, up goes the flag!