Dear Mr. Gold:
A friend went back to Wisconsin for the holidays and returned with a bounty of cheesy treats. I was introduced to juustoleipiä and totally fell in love with this funny, squeaky cheese with its baked, sweet, caramelized crust. Do you know where I might be able to find some in L.A.? Please help abate my cheesy cravings …
—Lan Tran, L.A.
Juustoleipiä is a traditional, baked, Lapp reindeer cheese, usually slathered with jam and fresh cream as a dessert. As the saying goes: First, you catch your reindeer — at least it seems to be easier on the animals than the smoked reindeer tongue that is also a specialty of the region. You could also dry it, put it in a safe-deposit box and serve it to your grandchildren someday. It won't squeak, but elderly juustoleipiä is apparently still tasty when you toast it over a fire.
Reindeer milk is hard to come by in these parts, so the version you tasted was probably made from cow's milk by Carr Valley Cheese Co., a Wisconsin cheesemaker revered for its extremely aged cheddars. The trick, I guess, is finding the cheese, which often goes by the more prosaic but easier-to-pronounce “bread cheese.'' Local Whole Foods stores carry Carr Valley cheeses, but a survey of two or three of them turned up nothing. And the guy behind the counter at Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City, when he finally understood what I was asking for, wrinkled his nose at the thought of bread cheese. It hadn't been a big seller. Still — he can order it for you. Get a couple. Juustoleipiä sounds as if it might be a useful addition to the survival provisions some of us keep in the basement in case of earthquakes or zombie attacks. 12023 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. (818) 505-0207.