It's not a secret that a smattering of tangy goat cheese can resuscitate even the dullest, most uninspired salad—not to mention a boring frittata or a lackluster quiche. Also known as chèvre, fresh, unripened goat cheese has enough zing to perk up almost any dish, and it can be lovely by itself, too, with crisp, raw veggies or on a piece of crusty artisanal bread.
To help us navigate the maze of goat cheese brands out there, we conducted a blind tasting of nine widely available ones, both domestic and imported. Some of the cheeses we tasted were surprisingly assertive, with a strong gamey quality that panelists found somewhat objectionable. With the exception of a few adventurous tasters, our panel tended to gravitate toward the milder cheeses that had a cleaner, more balanced flavor.
While the goat cheeses pictured here are our top five picks, we also tasted the following brands (in alphabetical order): Couturier Soignon, Montrachet, President, and Redwood Hill Farm.
Ile de France, $3.99 (4 oz.)
The only imported cheese in our top five list, Ile de France epitomizes our panelists' ideal goat cheese: fresh and mildly tangy with a discernible goat-milk flavor and a firm but creamy mouth-feel. We found this cheese to have a lot of character without being too assertive or excessively gamey.
Goat cheeses are numbered in order of preference; prices will vary.