Brooklyn is one of New York City’s many melting pot boroughs, so it only makes sense that its varied cheese selections would reflect the populace.
Walking through Flatbush and Midwood, I happened upon a bustling Russian-style supermarket called Domino.
I had just left a neighborhood of Chasidic Jewish men speaking Russian and Yiddish, and entered into the chaos of this cozy market full of Russian Christmas cakes, cookies, gingerbread houses, and endless displays of festive food. It was Christmas Eve. The place was a madhouse with frantic shoppers shoving, some even yelling, angrily or excitedly—or both. It was hard to tell.
Feta-style cheeses and deli loaves Credit: domino.com
In a back nook of the store, I found the cheese. (I am talented in that way!)There were cheeses from all over the world, from Canada to Bulgaria. The prices on the wheels and small packs were unbelievably low, and the tubs of Feta and Feta-style cheeses were varied in both milk and flavor. On the bottom shelf were the loaves for deli slices.
The woman behind the counter barely spoke English, and when she did, she had a thick accent—I assume Russian—which I had trouble understanding. No worries. Cheese is the universal language!
Have you forgotten exactly where Latvia is?
I ordered four cheeses from Eastern European countries—Russia, Lithuania, the Ukraine, and Latvia. Each cheese was similar to a cheese style in the near-bye Western countries.
Due to difficulties obtaining imports in modern Balto-Slavic time, countries had to rely on homegrown production of international favorites.
Havarti-style Cheese, Russia
Since I was in a Russian-style market, I asked first for a Russian cheese. There was only one, in a loaf form for slicing or selling in blocks. I didn’t catch the brand or cheese type since the label was in Cyrillic, so I will call it “Russian cheese.”
This Russian cheese is extremely buttery. In fact, it’s one of the most buttery cheeses I’ve ever tasted—one that truly tastes like butter and melts in the mouth accordingly. It is even buttery yellow in color.
This Havarti-style cheese is super soft on the palate, and tastes milky, salty, and tangy. The slices crack when folded, and it has a scattering of tiny irregular eye holes. I had the choice of slices or a whole chunk. I chose slices, but regret it a bit as the cheese was so sticky that it adhered to the deli paper. I couldn’t get all the paper off and had to throw away much of the cheese, or else eat paper along with my cheese. Not an option.
Havarti-style “Dvaro” Cheese, Lithuania
Dvaro Cheese from Lithuania looks a lot like the Russian Havarti-type one. It, too, is yellow—even more yellow than the Russian cheese—and it is riddled with small curd holes. It comes in a slice pack with each slice separated by deli sheets, which thankfully do not stick to the cheese like they did with the freshly sliced Russian cheese. It is tangy with a slight pungency, and a slightly floral aftertaste. It is not overly salted. The label is in standard type Cyrillic and also cursive Cyrillic. I can’t figure out what Dvaro means besides just being a brand name. Perhaps the label gives a clue? “Литовский-сыр-“Дваро”-сливочный” Dvaro melts well and keeps its flavor under heat.
Swiss-style “Dytyachiy” cheese, the Ukraine
The moon is made of Ukrainian cheese!
This slice pack hails from the Ukraine and the writing is in Cyrillic. I bought this because of the cute mouse on the label. The texture is a little rubbery like Swiss, and it is light yellow in color, but it has no trademark round “Swiss” holes. It is most similar in flavor to Swiss, but it also reminds me of very mild Edam. It comes in tightly packed deli slices separated by deli sheets.
It is a smooth melter; it doesn’t separate too much. Its strings are less intense than a mozzarella’s, but still significant.
Parmesan-style Džiuga Delicate, Latvia
Fairy Tale Giant Cheese
I bought this because part of the label is a sort of Viking (with no horns) or a blond mountain man holding what looks like a wheel of Parmesan. “Time to taste, Time to appreciate” the label says. Džiugas Delicate is aged at least 24 months. Although it looks like a Parmesan, it is lighter and earthier. In flavor. When shredded fresh over pasta, it melts and even gets a little stringy. It seems to have won 7 awards, but I would need a jeweler’s loupe to tell what they are.
24-month Dziugas, Ukraine
The awards’ names are written in tiny script on gold medals. The ingredients are translated first in Lithuanian since the cheese is from Lithuania. Then Litvak. Then under EE (Eastern Europe?) and in Cyrillic under UA (Ukraine?).
Click on The Legend on www.dziugashouse.eu to see an illustrated fairy tale of Džiugas the Giant.
“The Legend about the Giant Džiugas and his Cheese”
An illustrated slide show tells the story of a giant who married the king’s daughter in the village. After the wedding, the bride and groom brought a huge hard cheese that the wedding guests feasted on for a week. The giant, Džiugas, made this cheese and used it to renew his strength. Then his wife died, leaving him so distressed that he dug a hole next to her grave and died. The townspeople kept his memory alive by continuing to make his hard cheese from the original recipe.
Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress