I once read an article that cheese is as addictive as crack cocaine. As a self-acclaimed cheese connoisseur myself, this does not surprise me. One minute you are nibbling on a teeny cube of mature cheddar, and the next minute you are lying on the couch, covered in cheese rind, having blacked out half a kilo of brie later (the cheese sweats are a real thing, I can tell you).
The wonderful thing about cheese (see, I said this was an ode) is its variety. Not a fan of blue cheese, I hear you cry? Well, fear no more, you can sample a hard Västerbotten slathered in tomato chutney and you will be a million miles away from the “moldy” taste of a stinking bishop.
However, this ode is insignificant if you sample the supermarket cheese in Buenos Aires. It is a well-known fact that the cheese available at the supermarkets in town are simply not good; plus, they have an extremely mismatched price tag. Three days ago, for example, I purchased an AR $45 block of gouda, in the desperate, naive hope that it might not taste like plastic mush.
Unfortunately, plastic mush would be a compliment for what I consumed. The supermarket cheese has not once failed to disappoint me. So, it is becoming clear that if us quesohólicos want to munch on a slab of gruyere, we have to stray away from the black hole that is Carrefour and spend a few more pesos on artisanal, fresh cheeses made and produced here in Buenos Aires.
Santi Cheese Market
Our tour starts with the spanking brand new Santi Cheese Market where you can order some of their vast collection of cheese straight to your door. The market boasts around 70 different cheeses, with the majority produced in Argentina and a few of them imported. The founder, Santi Valenti, tells us that the real soul of his business is the fine-tuning of cheeses. “We have three different ripening chambers adjusted to different temperatures and humidity to control the maturity of the cheeses,” he explains. In short, this is not a basic factory: Santi has pulled out all the stops to make that perfect, oozing brie.
Santi Cheese Market produces classic French cheeses such as a reblochon (AR $209 for 275g), an artisanal brie (AR $125 for 200g), and Chamonix cheese (AR $189 for 250g) which are all extremely tempting and very well-made. However, what makes this spot standout is that they produce some amazing Argentine cheese from Suipacha and Tandil, such as a Suipacha Raclette (AR $219 for 300g) and, the biggest deal of all, a Fontina from Tandil (only AR $159 for 350g). The pièce de résistance is their Parmesan Santi, which is based on the original recipe from Remo, Santiago’s grandfather.
The website is literal cheese porn and is set out in a really beautiful way with well-taken photos. You will most probably find yourself ordering 500g of three different kinds of cheese in a matter of seconds.
Santi Cheese Market | Loyola 1654 – Villa Crespo | Website
Quesos la Suerte
Quesos La Suerte is on a smaller scale and is farm headed by the Lacau family, active agricultural producers based in the west of the Province of Buenos Aires, in Arenaza. The company has a very family feel, and you really sense that each chunk of cheese you buy has been carefully made by them and the close friends they have employed. The factory started off being a much smaller space that only processed 300 liters of cow milk per day, whereas now it produces over 5,000 liters a day. They have four herds of cows and one is specifically for cheese, producing nine different kinds of cheeses.
The cheese that the family seems most passionate about is their Lincoln, an artisanal cheese to which they have added their unique touch. They produce this Lincoln in 15-kilo wheels (challenge accepted!) and then mature it for six months to produce a pretty intense flavor. Their cheddar wheels are similarly spectacular available in 20 kilos and matured the most for an entire year.
Unlike some of the orange, plastic kinds of cheddars you find in the supermarket, I can vouch that this was definitely the best cheddar I have eaten in South America, as La Suerte’s actual tastes very much like the original English cheese produced in Cheddar Gorge. The cheddar is matured for a year in the farm and has the similarly accented, tangy taste a good cheddar should have.
Their brie is similarly impressive. Its “unique and smooth flavor” is aided by direct experience with cheese masters from Lille de France. Nobody can turn down a good brie; it’s perfect served cold in a sandwich with cranberry jam or baked hot dipped in with toasted baguette.
I spoke to Emmanuel Davin, a close friend of the family and long-time cheese connoisseur about the longtime problem of crappy supermarket cheese. Davin owes this to the fact that La Suerte uses “leche cruda” (fresh, unpasteurized milk), unlike the pasteurized cheese you find everywhere else. This process of pasteurization in industrialized cheese takes away the majority of the taste and tanginess.
You can buy their products at Jumbo supermarkets (yes!). So watch out for the La Suerte packaging the next time you’re browsing. Otherwise, they have many stalls at the food festivals in Buenos Aires, such as the recent Masticar Fair.
Piedras Blancas specializes in goat’s cheese, which is great for the environmental activist within you. It is no secret that cow’s milk is not the best thing for planet earth due to the methane emissions and the wasted energy passed down through cows. Goat’s milk cheese is proven to be significantly better and is also (helpfully) freaking delicious. Piedras Blancas package their cheeses in eco-friendly paper wrapping and are one of the more responsible cheese producers in Buenos Aires.
The company was founded in 1992 and they produce their cheese in the town of Suipacha. The factory has grown so much in recent years that there are now a number of shops nationwide, with the most popular one in Palermo.
Their goat’s cheese is a real winner: from a Chevrotin to a Feta, you will not be disappointed. They also produce goat’s milk dulce de leche if you fancy trying something a little different. I recommend trying the Blackambert, a twist on the classic Camembert, but tinted with squid ink. The flavor is soft, although the ink itself has no taste, it’s more of a novelty and is ideal for freaking out any guest when placed on the forefront position of your cheese board.
Although they specialize in goat’s cheese, Piedras Blancas now also produces ewe and cow’s milk cheese based on the French “fermier” model of production. They are one of the most specialized gourmet Argentine cheeses and they pride themselves on creating extremely high-quality cheese, from all three milk types.
Piedras Blancas | J. Luis Borges 1772, Palermo | Tuesday-Saturday, 12-8 PM | More info on the other shops here
Lácteos La Delfina
Lácteos La Delfina is another specialized cheese company, as they produce 100 different kinds of buffalo milk products. In fact, similarly to Piedras Blancas, the variations to the usual process of creating cow’s milk, means that they have a minimal impact on the environment. They are the only company in Argentina who are dedicated to the production of dairy products made with 100 percent buffalo milk. There are no preservatives or dyes added and everything is completely natural, eliminating the process of pasteurization.
The cheeses (and other dairy delicacies) are produced in Flores, and one of their most popular cheeses is Queso Florense de Búfala which is a semi-hard delicate, smooth, mild cheese that only matures for 120 days. Other products include their Ricotta and Provoleta, equally as soft and mild.
You can buy their cheese in various spots. They too have many stalls in fairs in the city and their headquarters in Las Flores is a literal cheese heaven, stocked full of creamy goodness. You can also buy their products at The Food Market and many other locations around Buenos Aires.
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Encontra nuestro Queso Florense en en el stand de Masticar La Delfina. @feriamasticar Es un queso de pasta semi-dura. Su sabor es delicado y suave al paladar. Ideal como queso de mesa solo o acompañado con frutas como peras, manzanas o nueces. para comer sobre rodajas de pan, tostadas o galletitas. También se puede usar para rallar.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #lacteosdebufala #lechedebufala #quesodebufala #comidasaludable #productosnaturales #alimentosnaturales #quesoflorense #yogurnatural #ricotadebufala #provoleta #provoletacheese #foodlover #comidagourmet #natural #cocina #cocinagourmet #quesorallado
Quesos Juan Grande
Quesos Juan Grande is a wonderful family-business which has a long history of making cheese. In the mid-1800’s Juan Estrugamou, Juan Grande, migrated from Navarra, Spain, and settled in the San Justo area, near Buenos Aires. He became one of the largest milk suppliers in the city; and in 1969 his great-grandson (and later great-great-grandson) Alberto and Ignacio Hardoy, settled at the La Eloisa ranch and began to produce exclusive natural cheeses. They produce some beautiful artisanal products which are available all over town.
Probably the most exciting news that I have ever read (ever) is that Juan Grande produces amazing Halloumi, which for me has been harder to find than marmite or baked beans (e.g. impossible). Maybe I am shopping in the wrong stores, but I have not found a single slab of halloumi, let alone one at an affordable price.
In Palermo alone, Quesos Juan Grande are available in La Gran Tienda Mercado (Guatemala 5800), Flora (Av. Dorrego 2082) Savarin Tienda Gourmet (Francisco Acuña de Figueroa 1597), Biffe Carnes Premium (Guido 1629).
Almacen 1249 is one of the hottest delis in the city, packed with everything from artisanal jams, to jamón serrano to lots (and lots) of cheese. Unlike the other cheese places I have gotten to know while living here, Almacén 1249 imports their cheese globally, from the European big cheeses (pardon the pun) Italy, Spain, France, and England. They also buy traditional Argentine cheese from various estancias around the country, such as the hard cheeses of Santa Fe and the camembert and brie from Córdoba.
I spoke with Martín Salazar, one of the two owners of the deli. He explained that they import a vast array of cheeses, anywhere from a Spanish manchego to an Italian parmesan reggiano. Although asking a cheese connoisseur what his favorite cheese is a little like Sophie’s choice, he says: “My favorite cheese would have to be a creamy English Cheddar, it’s a classic staple.” He then continued to list another four; I don’t blame him, picking a favorite cheese is near impossible.
The deli also has a large line of ewe and goat’s milk cheeses, however, like many cheese importers in the country, he explained how difficult it is to access excellent, high-quality ewe or goat cheese due to the pasteurization law in the country, which prohibits the importation of leche cruda (dammit, with that rule again!).
Despite the restrictions, Martin (and his business partner Eddy Stabholz) import and produce delicious, gourmet products which will never disappoint. A trip to their gorgeous boutique shop is highly recommended simply for the experience, and a chance to stare at the vast collection of delicacies (and the free tasters!).
Luckily, artisanal cheese is up and coming, and more smaller businesses are starting to produce a very high-quality product. So, skip the supermarket, and visit a food fair or deli for the best cheese in Buenos Aires. Stock up on crackers and chutney, ’cause things are about to get cheesy!