In a world full of cheese makers, why is Denver's selection so limited?

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Lori Midson
Rob Lawler at the Truffle, displaying a slice of the world of cheese makers.
We say Peter, not Pierre; we shake hands instead of kissing on the cheeks; and we drive instead of hopping on the metro. And yet, says Karin Lawler, co-owner of the Truffle, "When you ask someone to name a cheese, they're going to say Brie." This Gallic bias often translates to party trays and after-dinner courses filled with Brie and bleu d'Auvergne, with maybe an Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano, English Cheddar or local Haystack Mountain goat cheese thrown in for good measure.

Why, in a world full of cheese makers, is the selection so limited?

See also:
- Chef and Tell: The Truffle's Rob Lawler on Spam musabi, brains, glutards and his favorite cheese
- Pete Marczyk, chef-owner of Marczyk Fine Foods, sounds off on why food regulation makes him want to throw his baguette
- Best Cheese Shop 2012: The Truffle

I've been pondering this question since I first tasted ekte gjetost at Trillium, the Scandinavian-American restaurant I review this week. Made from caramelized goat's-milk whey, ekte gjetost is so far from Brie, blue and other common cheeses, it seems to constitute an entirely different food group. For starters, the color is dark tan, not the usual white, off-white, cream or orange. Sticky and soft in texture, like fudge or natural peanut butter when it's cold, it boasts a flavor reminiscent of caramel. At the restaurant, chef-owner Ryan Leinonen plays up the sweetness with accents of toffee almonds, figs and slices of apple and pear.

Hoping to find ekte gjetost before my family gathers for the holidays, I called several cheese shops around town. The Truffle doesn't carry it, but it does sell Havarti, a popular semi-soft cow's-milk cheese imported from Denmark. Marczyk Fine Foods sells Danish Havarti, too, both plain and dill, but not the caramelized gjetost. Continental Deli offers a broader selection of Scandinavian cheeses, including Norwegian Jarlsberg, Danish Esrom and five kinds of Havarti -- but, alas, no gjetost. After a few more calls, I finally tracked down this unusual cheese at the King Soopers at Ninth and Downing, along with a fine Danish blue that would be just right for the Scandinavian-themed cheese plate I'm planning to serve next week while the turkey browns.

In the meantime, check back tomorrow when my review is posted here to see what other surprises Trillium has in store.

Location Info

Hong Kong Cafe - CLOSED

2401 S. University Blvd., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


2134 Larimer St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

Continental Deli

250 Steele St., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant

King Soopers

1155 E. 9th Ave., Denver, CO

Category: General

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The Truffle used to carry gjestost. I once bought a 1/2 pound of this cheese. It last a remarkably long time


The sweet goo that is gjetost is not really something I would expect to find at The Truffle.  It's a fine thing to put out for your holiday guests (like the port cheese ball mentioned earlier), but it is so cooked and processed that it loses all its cheese notes for me.  It is indeed more like fudge than cheese.  That's why Norwegians feed it to their children.


You'll find in the deli's "gourmet" cheese section in any good size grocery store all over the metro area.  The most common one is sold under the Ski Queen label in little brown cubes.  That one is a blend of cow milk and goat milk, and isn't quite as sharp as ekte gjetost, which is all goat. 


The most common ekte gjetost and Ski Queen gjetost are both made by Tine, the giant Norwegian dairy that produces Jarlsburg.  They're both varieties of Brunost (brown cheese), and you'll find similar variants under different names all throughout Scandinavia.  I wouldn't be surprised if you found the Swedish variety, mesost, at IKEA.


I always thought gjetost was a Scandinavian equivalent of those tacky port wine cheese balls. Yeah, I fully admit I totally chow down on that shit during the holidays, but it isn't what connoisseurs would consider to really even be true cheese.


Sorry, Gretchen, but you have little idea what you are talking about.  Gjetost is available all over town.  The Truffle (or any other specialty shop) isn't really trying to duplicate the efforts of King Soopers.


What you could do that would be a service to your readers, is to explain that the single-herd, farmstead havarti at The Truffle is not the same as industrial havarti at the grocery. It's an entirely different experience.  Perhaps you could use your pulpit to help readers understand the difference between a great iconic cheese and it's industrial knockoffs.


Using your poor search for a single cheese does not mean the Denver cheese selection is limited.  Try some Challerhocker or Chiriboga Blue at St. Kilians, some Ewephoria at Eat + Drink, some Juni or Garrotxa at the Truffle. Or stay domestic, and have some Rupert or Dunbarton at Cured.  There's an amazing selection and diversity in the Denver area.  Your inability to find industrial Gjetost at your local supermarket is in no way indicative of the very interesting cheeses available in town.


Cheese Importer's Warehouse in Longmont carries it, if I recall correctly.

Mantonat topcommenter

I've been buying Gjetost from the grocery store for as long as I can remember. (My dad brought some home when I was a teenager and I've loved it ever since.) Maybe the specialty cheese shops just think it's too widely available to bother with.


The specialty cheese shops in town are more like boutique wine shops - they can't carry everything because of limited space, so they carry cheeses that the shop owners know and like, or that they know will sell. I remember talking to a shop owner a few years ago about Humboldt Fog - she said she didn't carry it because it didn't sell well and she ended up having to throw out a lot of it. Now that Cypress Grove has a national reputation, pretty much everyone carries it.


I still manage to find lots of interesting and rare cheeses between St. Killian's, the Truffle, and Whole Foods. 


It is a bummer. Even Marczyk's selection is kind of lame anymore. I end up shopping for cheese at the Truffle and the King Soopers in Glendale. What stores am i missing around here?

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