Roomano and Caramel

When I first heard about Roomano, it was 2009 and Madame Fromage was still practically in utero. When I came across the name “Roomano” on the blog of a Midwestern-based dairy duo, Cheese and Champagne, I scractched my head. My first thought: could this cheese be made of Kangaroo milk?

Two years later, I came across Roomano again, this time on the the West Coast cheese blog of It’s Not You It’s Brie. She compared its flavor to seared beef fat on the edge of a good steak. I have never forgotten the description. I don’t sit around dreaming of beef fat, but I do love the smell — and “grilled meat” is a descriptor that cheese fiends sometimes use when a savory cheese has a bit of sweet char. Think burnt caramel.

Last week, Roomano appeared on a plate before me. It was just after Hurricane Sandy, and I popped into my favorite Philadelphia lunch spot, Wedge and Fig. The owner slid a few slivers onto our table and asked, “Have you ever tried Roomano?” I gasped. Could it be?

A few minutes later, he passed by to drop off a dish of caramel, then some sea salt crackers. I love when a pairing unfolds in stages, like a dancer with veils.

If you need to soothe a sweet tooth as the months grow colder, skip the toffee pudding. Pick up a wedge of Roomano, some soft caramel (I like Fat Toad’s), and some pretzels or salted crackers. Eat the three together, eyes closed, and you might think that you’re eating toffee, all crunch and sparkle. Splendid.

Roomano comes from Holland, the seat of Gouda. Why is it called Roomano? No marsupials are involved. The cheesemakers are simply attempting to recreate an Italian Romano cheese, so you get a supremely sweet-salty see-saw. The same maker also produces Prima Donna, a hometown fave.

For the price (around $16 per pound), Roomano is an excellent party cheese. If you fall hard, move onto some stellar small-batch Goudas that contain even more nuance and depth, like the raw milk Wilde Weide and the much praised Olde Remeker — which is rubbed down with clarified butter as it ages.

Once you begin exploring the world of crystalized Goudas, you will never turn back. The galaxy only becomes brighter.

On the Plate: Pair with green apples, pecans, toasted almonds, caramel

In Your Glass: Go for coffee stout or, for the hedonist, hot buttered rum


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