The Philippines is not nor has it ever really been a dairy-centric country, so cheese has never really been a part of local diets unless it’s kesong puti , the haloumi-style fresh cow’s milk cheese that goes so beautifully with hot pan de sal. The rest of the time, the only cheeses many Filipinos are aware of are the processed Cheddar-style kind used for grating over what passes for spaghetti Bolognese in this part of the world, those thin slices used for fast-food cheeseburgers, or the round, red, wax-covered balls of Edam or Gouda referred to as quezos de bola that are part of the Yuletide feast.
But Davao’s Malagos Farmhouse way down south in Mindanao is changing the food scene by offering a variety of cheeses made according to French methods. This company offers blue cheeses, surface-ripened (Camembert/Brie-style cheeses) cheeses, and fresh cheeses made with either cows’ milk or the more robust goats’ milk. Every single one of the cheeses I’ve tried has been deliciously good: the blues are as perky and as pungent as Stilton and work nicely on rustic bread and even the barest smidgen of either chutney or Branston pickle. The surface-ripened best-selling Blue Pepato is mild and nutty and given fire and character by the addition of green peppercorns; it is a treat served best with sliced apples.
And then there is the chevre that has become one of my favorites. As its name suggests, it is a goat-milk cheese but this one is done in the fresh style, similar to local kesong puti, but with a tangier flavor and a creamy-grainy texture as opposed to being sliceable. It’s a wonderful breakfast cheese that lends itself well to being spread on toast or bagels, tossed into a tortilla with some Cheddar and spring onions for a quesadilla, and even for filling cheese omelettes.