Saturday, 7 July 2012

Saint George - the best mature cheese in Poland

The title in full should be "the best mature hard cheese that has been widely available in Polish shops". It was still in Biedronka a week or so back and it is the best I have bought.

It is Portuguese Saint George cheese, matured for at least four months. I suspect the name is deliberately to hint at it being a cheddar type cheese, which it is and which it tastes like. (The unopened packet in the picture is my second one.) It has a good strong taste, without the overpowering bite of the longer matured Australian cheddar I remember in England.

The price was either 6 or 7 zloty, which at therefore either 30 or 35 zloty a kilo compares extraordinarily well with the tasteless to mild, but pleasant tasting, standard hard cheeses whose price seems to be focusing around 25 zloty a kilo. A 3 month matured version had the same price.

(To divert: the wine is a very nice, slightly sparkling dry red. I can't remember where I bought it, but most probably Tesco, although Lidl or Biedronka are possibilities. The price would have been between 12 and 16 zlotys.)

The bad news about Sao Jorge is that it seems to be a short term offering by Biedronka, so I don't know if and when it will return. It was discounted from what was said to be an original price (although I never noticed it at full price). I fervently hope that they will be taking up the Lidl practice of regularly re-introducing 'new' specialist products like this for short periods. Even if they do, however, Sao Jorge may not be one of them: they stayed on the shelves for weeks.

Biedronka is Portuguese owned and I had been wondering for some time if they would, again like Lidl, move to using their foreign retail chain supply line to give alternative products in Poland. The first hint I had of this was a couple of months ago, although it was a range of French soft cheeses, again at about the 35 zloty a kilo mark (discounted price). This was cheaper than Polish camembert and brie, which is sometimes strangely advertised as being like rubber, which they usually are. Whilst a soft cheese expert might have dismissed Biedronka's French cheeses, I am not willing to pay the 80 to 150 zloty a kilo price in other places for what to me is rarely better. I think there was a camembert, but the others were well known regional cheeses. These disappeared very quickly from the shelves. New availability of French products did not mean it was part of a Polish/Portuguese joint marketing approach, but I wondered...

(The long-term availability of Gorgonzola in Biedronka, however, is a sign of the success of Gorgonzola in Poland, not Biedronka's internationalisation: it is available everywhere.)

However, the last few times I have wandered around there has been, in addition to Sao Jorge, a reasonable range of other Portuguese items. Especially interesting were fish products in the freezer: a cod meal/pie without pastry (if you know what I mean), and cod croquettes. Both reasonably priced and still in our freezer, so I don't yet now what they are like.

It all makes Biedronka a much more interesting and worthwhile place to go to for the occasional value for money luxury, rather than being just a conveniently positioned partial alternative.