Our guide to popular varieties of cheese.

Anyone who's visited the dairy department of a localsupermarket, eaten at a white-linen restaurant, or gone to afarmers' market recently has noticed this country's most excitingfood trend: cheese. From Hispanic cheeses to handcrafted goatcheeses, Americans have more choices now than ever before.

Here, you'll find guidelines for cooking with cheese, how to buyand store it, and more. Our goal is to answer common questions sothat you can move from novice to knowledgeable in no time.

The Popular Cheeses
From the vast world of cheese, here is a rundown of widelyavailable favorites. We selected cheeses with different flavors andtextures to demonstrate their best uses in recipes. All provide bigpayback in taste from a small investment.

Blue cheese―
The distinctive flavor of blue cheesedrives people to love it or hate it. Whether its source is goat's,cow's, or sheep's milk, a little blue packs a potent punch.

Brie―Traditionally a French cheese, Brie is earthy andslightly musty or mushroomy. Brie's buttery flavor is great pairedwith sharp, tangy foods.

Feta―Greek feta is popular and best known for itssalty, tangy flavor and versatility, but we also like French fetapacked in brine for its smooth texture and flavor.

Fontina―One of Italy's great cheeses, fontina has amildly nutty flavor and a creamy texture; it melts easily.

Goat―Loved for its characteristic acidic flavor, goatcheese ranges from soft and spreadable to dry and crumbly.

Gruyère―An assertive, nutty Swiss cheese,Gruyère pairs well with sweet and savory dishes alike.

Mascarpone―A traditional dessert cheese, mascarponehas a silky texture and a rich, creamy flavor.

Monterey Jack―This delicate, buttery cheese is a goodmedium to carry or enhance flavors. It's a natural complement tospicy foods and therefore a good choice for Mexican dishes.

Parmesan―For unrivaled flavor, this is our favoriteand Italy's preeminent and most versatile cheese. As we've saidmany times, seek out the real thing―look for the wordsParmigiano-Reggiano imprinted on the rind.

Sharp cheddar―This has always been America's favoritecheese. Look for the many wonderful white cheddars madedomestically. The sharper the cheese, the better, because you canuse less of it for the same amount of flavor.