I love cheese. I love Halloween. Transylvania is on my travel bucket list. So when my local Aldi unveiled Transylvanian cheese this season, I was all over it. And I’ll be sad when this seasonal treat leaves shelves, because it’s absolutely delightful.
First off, the packaging. Look at that adorable bat! Yeah, normally it might feel like they’re pandering to the Halloween crowd. But this particular cheese is “aged in a salt cave,” so Batsie looks completely at home here. There are two types on offer, the regular and “soaked in red wine.” Naturally, the wine version went into my tote.
This cheese is vacuum-wrapped in strong plastic, so buyers can get a good solid look at the goods before popping it into their carts. And it looks a bit like the adorable offspring of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s hard but has a slight bit of give to it. But what you want to know is how it tastes, right? Of course.
TRCC (what all the cool kids are calling it) has an earthy, milky scent that had me swooning when I opened the package. It’s the kind of smell that’ll have you itching to dig in immediately. The cheese crumbled a bit when I tried to pull it out after getting the packaging stuck a bit. (I might have yanked with cheese-lust induced desperation.) When it first hit my lips there was a waxy saltiness to it, and it squeaked a bit between my teeth. Then the rich umami flavor hit me, along with a salty smoothness. As the cheese slowly disintegrated – I wouldn’t say that this hard cheese melted – on my tongue, there was a pleasant milk and salt flavor, and a deeper richness. If I smoked, I’d have lit up after that experience. I can’t say I noticed any red wine flavor, unless you count that smoothness and the subtle woodsy flavor.
What’s the best way to enjoy this seasonal treat? Not with anything salted. Let the sharp salty tang of this cheese be the strong note. Pair it instead with pears or apples (a nice Honeycrisp would be perfect), and crumble a bit on top of the last of your heirloom tomatoes. This cheese doesn’t crumble very well, but put some muscle in those thumbs ’cause it’ll be worth it. For a warmer, more filling meal, cook up some pasta, toss with a little olive oil – extra-virgin of course, to set the Transylvanian mood – and fresh ground pepper, then grate a little TRCC on your pasta. Or a lot. I won’t judge.
Thank you, Transylvania.