In the pantheon of divisive foods, blue cheese often stands alone. \n\n\n\nWisconsin-based journalist Nicole Haase has hated blue cheese all her life. \u201cThat funk is all I taste,\u201d she says. \u201cBlue cheese just kind of ruins everything.\u201d And she\u2019s not the only one who feels this way, either.\n\n\n\n\u201cNobody is ever \u2018meh\u2019 about blue cheese,\u201d says Pamela Vachon, a freelance food writer and cheese educator at Murray\u2019s Cheese in New York City. \u201cIt\u2019s always a strong feeling, whether it leans toward love or hate.\u201d\n\n\n\nThe reasons why some people adore blue cheese and others detest it include exposure, evolutionary instinct and, of course, personal preference. But some dismiss this very broad category based on erroneous, outdated or incomplete information. With an open mind and the right approach, almost anyone can find the right blue for them.\n\n\n\nWhat Is Blue Cheese?\n\n\n\nWhereas a cheese like Parmesan is strictly regulated, blue is a wide open wheel. Blue cheese is often ripened with edible cultures from the mold Penicillium and can be made from cow, sheep, goat or plant milk. This creates semi-soft varieties encased in bloomy rinds, as well as tart blues that crumble on contact. \n\n\n\nThe methodology is ancient. Some historians believe that Pliny the Elder was writing rave reviews of Roquefort, a French blue made from sheep\u2019s milk, as early as A.D. 79.\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nSay the word \u201cRoquefort\u201d today, however, and \u201ca fair number of people will pantomime their opinion by holding their nose and rolling their eyes, or worse,\u201d writes Joshua Levine in Smithsonian. While most blue cheese has a strong scent that some find off-putting, it\u2019s not always indicative of the gently nutty or even sweet taste. Like wine, cheese aromas and flavors are rarely identical.\n\n\n\nIs Blue Cheese Mold? \n\n\n\nThere are also elemental reasons why some people recoil at the sight of blue cheese, and it usually has to do with the noticeable blue mold within the creamy cultured milk. \u201cWe grow up learning that mold is bad, and so we have this preconceived notion that anything moldy is bad for us,\u201d says G. Daniela Galarza, a staff writer at The Washington Post and author of the Eat Voraciously newsletter.\n\n\n\nAversion to visible spoilage is an understandable instinct, but almost all cheesemaking involves mold in some capacity. It\u2019s used to culture milk and is cultivated to form the velvety white rind outside a wheel of brie or camembert. Blue cheese, with its ribboned veins and pungent aromas, just wears its mold on its sleeve.\n\n\n\nThe Wide Range of Blue Cheese\n\n\n\nBlues can vary greatly from funky to mild in their smell and flavor, so it's best to find the right style for your tastes. \u201cIts bark can be worse than its bite,\u201d says Galarza.\n\n\n\nFor instance, Queso La Parel is a cow\u2019s milk semi-blue from Asturias, Spain. It has a creamy texture and an approachable tang. Ireland\u2019s Cashel Blue is similarly accessible, and Cambozola, a cross between brie and gorgonzola, has been called a \u201cbeginner\u2019s blue.\u201d \n\n\n\nFew of us are as tenacious as Haase, the blue cheese hater in Wisconsin who \u201ckept trying different blue cheeses for years\u201d before swearing it all off. More likely, we sample a few lackluster salad crumbles or tinny-tasting schmears before we decide it isn\u2019t for us. But, like ros\u00e9 or Lambrusco, the caliber of blue cheese made and available in the U.S. has improved dramatically over the last 20 years. \n\n\n\n\u201cThroughout the 80s and 90s, blue cheese was thought of as a one-note product\u2014an astringent, acidic, strongly flavored cheese you only want a little bit of, and never would you eat it on its own,\u201d says Marguerite Merritt, the marketing manager for Rogue Creamery in Southern Oregon.\n\n\n\nModern craft cheesemakers create elegant blue cheeses given time to age properly. This is due to market shifts. Aging is expensive, younger generations of shoppers spend more on specialty foods than their predecessors and the introduction of quality cheese to national supermarkets. There has quite simply never been a better time in America to taste the diversity of blue cheese.\n\n\n\n\u201cIt doesn\u2019t have to be a strong, powerful cheese,\u201d says Merritt. \u201cIt can be nuanced and layered.\u201d\n\n\n\nCynics might argue Merritt is biased since Rogue Creamery\u2019s lineup includes Rogue River Blue, a cheese that made international headlines when it became the first U.S. cheese to win a global cheesemaking championship. But that very fact points to the quality of blue cheese available. \n\n\n\n\u201cThere are blue cheeses out there that I wouldn\u2019t touch,\u201d says Merritt. \u201cBut ones made with the finest ingredients and European-style, handmade tradition? Those are entirely different cheeses.\u201d\n\n\n\nAdditionally, pairing blue cheese with the right food or drink can help ease haters into enjoying it. Vachon believes we don\u2019t do blue any favors by introducing it to people via wings or salads. \u201cBoth add vinegar and, in the case of wings, hot sauce to the occasion,\u201d she says, \u201cwhich just amplifies the pricklier aspects of blue cheese.\u201d\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nA better complement might be fruit or dessert wine. \u201cPeople who are on the fence should try it with wines that they already love, and then maybe also try it with foods they already love,\u201d says Galarza. \u201cSo, if you happen to like honey, get some honeycomb, and have it with some blue cheese to see if you like it.\u201d\n\n\n\nThree Blue Cheeses to Try\n\n\n\nIf you're a blue cheese lover, or a long-time critic but are willing to give blue cheese a try, give these three options a taste. \n\n\n\nCambozola Black Label\n\n\n\nImage Courtesy of Cambozola \n\n\n\nMild and spreadable, with the faintest blue ribbons throughout, this is a great option for blue cheese skeptics. Its buttery flavor and texture and edible bloomy rind will put brie fans at ease, too.\n\n\n\nCashel Blue\n\n\n\nImage Courtesy of Cashel Blue\n\n\n\nMade by hand on a 200-acre farm in Tipperary, Ireland, this bright, creamy cow\u2019s milk blue is especially approachable when it first hits the market, at 6-10 weeks old. Enjoy it within three months of sale, after which it can take on a sharper tang.\n\n\n\nRogue River Blue\n\n\n\nImage Courtesy of Rogue Creamery \n\n\n\nThis award-winning blue cheese from Southern Oregon is made with pasteurized cow\u2019s milk and has elegantly subtle, fruity flavors. It\u2019s available nationwide but produced seasonally, so availability can be limited.