Nocturne is a delicate cheese that won a household of fans with its light flavor, beautiful appearance and creamy consistency.  This cow’s milk cheese is produced locally at Andante Dairy (Petaluma, CA) and deserves attention.

Nocturne is a small cheese with a flat pyramid format.  It has a bloomy white rind that is dusted with gray vegetable ash.  To the touch, the exterior is velvety and a bit moist.  The rind smells a bit like mushrooms or dirt.

Nocturne

It is hard not to think of pie when evaluating this cheese.  Nocturne collapses a bit under the knife and gently oozes like a fruit pie, yet its shape is retained by a more firm interior.  A gluey layer separates the rind from the cheese’s interior paste; once this leaks away, the crust-like rind stands on its own and reveals interior pockets between rind and paste.

Nocturne’s flavor is delicate.  There is some saltiness, a gentle tangy flavor and light sweetness from the rind.  Nocturne’s paste has a consistency similar to chevre–moist, dense, creamy, and easy to spread.

We all liked this cheese a lot and would definitely buy this cheese again.  Nocturne’s hand-crafted look and feel communicate the maker’s care and attention.  I am eager to try other cheeses Andante Dairy makes.

We shared this cheese with visiting family and no one was put off by the minor leakage Nocturne made on the cheese plate.  On our second night eating this cheese, we had little to no leakage on the plate, so perhaps Nocturne’s ooze occurs mainly after the first cut.

Notes on purchasing:  Nocturne is the type of cheese one should purchase whole.  It’s small shape can be carved into 8 servings; we ate our cheese over 2 nights and the cheese did not degrade much over 24 hours.  We purchased Nocturne pre-wrapped at Rainbow Grocery (San Francisco).  Andante Dairy also sells cheese at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market (San Francisco) on Saturdays.

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Oma: A Smoky Rich Cheese

August 26, 2010

Oma is a big cheese.  This is the first cheese we’ve tasted that I really wanted a beverage to cut the cheese’s richness.  I liken it to eating cheesecake without hot coffee–not unpleasant, but having that beverage really helps balance the food’s richness.  About three-quarters of the way through my sample of Oma, I needed some liquid relief.

Oma

Oma is a raw cow’s milk cheese produced by Von Trapp Farmstead (Vermont).  Oma looks a lot like Grayson, another washed rind cheese made from the milk of Jersey cows.  The interior is a pale lemon yellow with flat holes.  The rind is a light orange-brown color, dusted with white surface molds.

Compared to other washed rind cheeses, Oma’s aromas are quite delicate.  Its rind smells like minerals and nuts, and faintly of mold.  The interior smells herbal.

Oma is a mouthful.  We tasted smoky, meaty, sour, and fruity flavors.  It finishes with a lingering smoky sour flavor.  On the tongue this cheese feels fatty and rich, almost beefy. Its texture is the consistency of pudding.

Oma is not a delicate cheese.  We all liked this cheese but found it hard to eat a lot of this cheese on its own.  Jacob abandoned his sample midway through, saying it was too rich ( he does this with cheesecake, too).  This cheese needs some type of beverage to compliment it, but I’m not sure what to suggest. Cheese Culture Magazine suggests a craft beer, but that wouldn’t work for my under-age tasters.

Note on purchasing:  This cheese is produced year-round.  Our purchase source was Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Old Kentucky Tomme is one reason to celebrate raw milk cheese from the USA.  It is a farmstead cheese, made by hand from raw goat’s milk by Capriole Dairy (Indiana).  This is a lovely cheese that should not be missed.

Old Kentucky Tomme

Old Kentucky Tomme is a statuesque cheese that commands attention on a plate.  It stands tall and quiet, and doesn’t slouch when out of refrigeration.  Old Kentucky Tomme’s interior paste is creamy white like mashed potatoes.  Its natural rind looks like crinkled paper.

The cheese’s interior smells like butter, while some mold and mushroom odors are detectable on the rind. To the touch, the interior feels like smooth clay while the rind is dry, hard and rough.

Old Kentucky Tomme has multiple flavors.  The cheese’s interior tastes tangy and salty at first, but then ends with a sour citrus flavor similar to grapefruit.  If the rind is consumed with some of the cheese paste, the surface molds add another dimension to the cheese.  Old Kentucky Tomme’s sour grapefruit flavor lingers long in the mouth.

Old Kentucky Tomme is melt-on-the-tongue, velvety smooth.  Its texture is very creamy and provides nice mouth feel. The rind is a bit chewier than the cheese’s interior, but if the cheese is sliced thinly, the rind adds flavor (good, I think) to the cheese.

Old Kentucky Tomme is a fantastic goat cheese.  It packs a lot of flavor and variety into each sliver.  We all liked this cheese (my kids did not eat the rind and if they had, their opinion may have changed).  Old Kentucky Tomme is a great cheese to share with friends and would make a beauty for a party plate.  This cheese is destined for a repeat purchase.

Notes on purchasing: Our purchase source was Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Photographs of Fougerus in books show a flat white round of cheese with a fern frond draped delicately across its top.  If my kids had seen that greenery, Fougerus would have never made it to a tasting. Yet Fougerus is a fantastic cheese that is destined for regular purchase.

Fougerus

Fougerus is a soft, cow’s milk cheese from the Ile-de-France region in France.  This cheese has a flat round format with a white rind, similar in appearance to Brie.  The interior of the cheese is a soft pale yellow paste with many irregular shaped holes.

The cheese’s rind smells faintly peppery, while the interior smells more like grain.

Fougerus seems like a simple cheese, but it has a more complex flavor profile.  It has a mild sour milk flavor, yet is also sweet, fruity and salty. The edible rind does not significantly alter the cheese’s flavor.  Fougerus’ consistency is thick and creamy in the mouth, more like cake icing.

Fougerus is an easy cheese to enjoy.  It is unassuming, has an array of flavors and has luscious mouth feel. Our tasters compared Fougerus to a long-time favorite, Mt. Tam.  Fougerus would be a good cheese for sharing with family and friends (Our photo was snapped when the cheese was out of refrigeration for 45-60 minutes, so there was not much collapse).  This lovely cheese would also make a good everyday cheese.

Note on purchasing: if kids in tow that balk at the faintest dusting of parsley, make sure the Fougerus is free of its decorative fern frond.  Our sample was purchased at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Grayson is a delicious cheese full of umami flavor.  Grayson is a soft cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind that emulates Taleggio.  Based on our tastings, we would be more likely to select Grayson over Taleggio at the cheese counter.

We sought out Grayson because of a recent misfire with Taleggio.  We were disappointed with one Taleggio sample and wanted to try a raw milk version of this cheese.  (Raw milk versions from Italy face import restrictions).  Fortunately, Meadow Creek Dairy of Virginia fills the void with Grayson.

Grayson

Grayson is a beautiful cheese that looks like summer.  The rind is a soft, cantaloupe color with a hatched pattern on its surface.  Grayson’s rind is dusted with white surface molds.  The interior of the cheese is a very deep, creamy yellow like lemon curd.

Grayson has a large, pungent aroma similar to body odor or bad breath. Its texture is squishy and wet to the touch.

Grayson’s flavor profile is similar to Taleggio, but its flavors are softer.  Grayson is a more nuanced cheese: its flavor is not overly salty, it has a delicately sweet finish, and overall Grayson is more mild than Taleggio.  In the mouth, Grayson is thick and creamy–almost buttery smooth.

Grayson is an extremely yummy cheese.  We all liked this cheese a lot and kept taking “just a little bit more” until we finished all that we purchased.  I would hunt down this cheese again for anyone who likes rich, stinky, and flavorful cheeses.  This is another cheese that begs to be shared with family and friends (as long as they don’t mind the odor).

One note on availability: Grayson is a farmstead cheese that is produced seasonally; it may be available only summer-fall.  Our purchase source was Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Tome d’Aquitaine is a delicious cheese that is hard to forget.  It has an inviting aroma, distinctive flavor and a luxurious production process that all create a lasting impression.  This cheese was recommended to us by a cheesemonger at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco, CA), and for once, we appreciated the cheesemonger’s rave.

Tome d’Aquitaine (a.k.a. Clisson) is a semi-soft goat’s milk cheese from southern France.  It has a washed rind, a treatment seen more often with cow’s milk cheeses (e.g., Red Hawk, Taleggio).  During production, the cheese rounds are brined in a mixture that includes Muscadet.  Then while aging, Tome d’Aquitaine’s rind is hand rubbed with Sauternes, a sweet dessert wine.

Tome d'Aquitaine

The rough, orange rind has a sweet nutty aroma. The cheese’s interior smells milky and faintly floral. The interior looks like vanilla ice cream, very pale and creamy.  To the touch, Tome d’Aquitaine is squishy, with a smooth and greasy surface.

Tome d’Aquitaine has a nice, tangy flavor that is similar to roasted nuts.  The cheese paste closer to the rind tastes distinctly like roasted peanuts and is sweet.  This cheese leaves a soft nutty after-taste that lingers long on the tongue.  Tome d’Aquitaine has a creamy, melt-on-the-tongue texture in the mouth.

We all liked this cheese.  Tome d’Aquitaine is a delicious cheese and deserves to be shared with family or friends.  This is another goat cheese that will surprise anyone who has not gone beyond the limited range of chevre-style goat cheeses.

This is a tale of two Taleggios.

Last week, we were on vacation and purchased Taleggio for a picnic and decided not to evaluate it outdoors.  We really liked the Taleggio then, and since we enjoy writing up stinkier cheeses, we purchased another sample in San Francisco for Cheese Chatter.  Our two samples–Taleggio #1 and Taleggio #2–were surprisingly different.

Taleggio

First, Taleggio is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese from Italy.  It has a moist pale orange rind that is firm; the cheese’s paper label adheres to the rind yet it is easily removed with a dull knife .  Taleggio is springy and slightly sticky to the touch.  When slicing the cheese, its interior is gummy but it spreads easily.

Taleggio is a stinky cheese.  Taleggio #1 was quite smelly and before we had unwrapped it, its aroma had permeated the picnic box.  Its odor is similar to dirty gym socks.

Tallegio #1 had a definite sour milk flavor from start to finish, with a saltier finish.  This cheese had deep flavor that lasted long on the tongue.  It is a thickly creamy cheese that is satisfying in the mouth.

Unfortunately, Taleggio #2 paled in comparison to the first.  We anticipated a pungent cheese, but its scent was closer to cooked milk.  Taleggio #2 did not have the same flavor or depth as Taleggio #1; it had a slightly sour flavor, but this was over-shadowed by a strong salty flavor.  Taleggio #2’s aftertaste was pronounced, but it was unpleasantly salty, like a snack food.

Taleggio #1, purchased pre-wrapped at Whole Foods (Long Beach, CA), was a lovely and enjoyable cheese.  Taleggio #2, cut to order for us at 24th Street Cheese Company (San Francisco, CA), was a poor cousin in comparison and proved disappointing.

What can explain this?  Cheese flavors are affected by many circumstances along the chain from the initial animals creating the milk (water and food consumed) to production, then storage, and finally human consumption.  It is possible that our two Taleggios came from different regions, different producers, were stored and handled differently post-production, or were at a different age when purchased.

Which of our samples is a better example of Taleggio?  We definitely preferred Taleggio #1 and my reading suggests that this is a better example of the cheese.  I would definitely purchase Taleggio #1 again, but would like to avoid Taleggio #2.