Looking for a dense, snow-white chevre? Then Selles sur Cher is the goat cheese to seek out. Selles sur Cher is the first chevre we have evaluated and it set a high bar. We fell in love with this well-balanced and flawless cheese.

Selles sur Cher is a soft pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the chevre heartland of the Loire Valley, France. The cheese is produced in a disk format and covered with ash. In the cheese world, Selles sur Cher is the equivalent of a newborn: it is aged for just 8 days before market.
Selles sur Cher

The cheese looks like sculpted stone. The top of the cheese is flat and grooved with tight lines, while its sides look like crumpled newsprint. The exterior of the cheese is green-gray dusted with white. The interior of the cheese just beneath the rind is a creamy, icing-like layer that is sticky. The interior is snow-white, dense and dry.

Selles sur Cher has a barnyard aroma. The rind smells like animal; the paste has a grassy scent. The barnyard perfume may be off-putting when the cheese is initially unwrapped, but these relax and are not so strong as to deter eating.

Selles sur Cher has intense bursts of flavor, but comes across as a mild cheese. Initially, the flavor is intensely salty and tart. Its tart brightness is almost puckering. The icing-like layer beneath the rind adds a sour milk flavor that balances the cheese’s salty flavor. Selles sur Cher has a dense chalky texture and makes tiny crumbs on the plate.

What an amazing cheese. We loved Selles sur Cher. One juvenile taster said it was the best of the night’s 4 cheeses. Both kids described this cheese as mild, which is surprising given Selles sur Cher’s intense–yet brief–flavors.

Selles sur Cher is an excellent chevre-style goat cheese. Any occasion would be improved by the addition of this cheese.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Selles Sur Cher at Cheese Plus (San Francisco). We (thankfully!) purchased a whole cheese; it can be divided into 8 servings.

Inverness is a cheese that says “California.” Its flavors and aroma evoke pastoral images of California’s citrus orchards, native flora and beehives. Fans of Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam and Red Hawk will find much to appreciate in this well-crafted cheese.

Inverness is a soft pasteurized cow’s milk cheese produced by Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes, California. This is a young bloomy rind cheese, aged for 2 weeks before market. Inverness

Inverness looks like a miniature fluted column. The rind is skin-thin and has vertical scoring. Its exterior rind is butter yellow and covered with white surface molds. The interior paste looks like a dense New York-style cheesecake.

Inverness has a sweet aroma similar to honeycomb, a beeswax candle, or mum flowers.

Inverness’s flavors evoke a Southern California orchard. The cheese’s flavor starts salty then becomes sour citrus. It has an underlying sweet honey flavor that balances the salty and sour flavors. None of the flavors are dominant and overall the cheese is mild. Ben described this cheese as “bland, with a hint of nature.”

Inverness has a dense cheesecake consistency. In the mouth, Inverness has a thick buttery texture that encourages slow eating. This cheese coats the tongue and mouth with flavor. It leaves a mild sour after-taste that is like the juice from under-ripe oranges.

We all liked this cheese during our tasting. We actually tasted Inverness way back in July in a class at Cowgirl Creamery’s Point Reyes Station facility. My kids had no recollection of this cheese, so we considered it a “new” cheese.

Inverness is a beautiful cheese that would be good to share with visiting friends or family. Its small format also makes it a good choice for a picnic or outdoor meal.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Inverness at Cheese Plus (San Francisco); it is also available at Cowgirl Creamery’s stores. The small, 2-oz. cylinder could be cut into 4-6 servings.

Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel is a goat cheese of surprise and delight. I suspect when most people hear “goat cheese,” they think of snow-white, dense chevre. Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel is so far from that image that one asks: is this really a goat cheese?

Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel is a semi-soft raw goat’s milk cheese (raw cow’s milk is added sometimes). It is produced by Twig Farm in Vermont. It is aged for approximately 80 days and is washed with a whey brine.

This cheese has a pale yellow interior paste that seems closer to cow’s milk cheese than to milky-white goat cheese. The paste has irregular flat holes. Its thin rind is peach-colored and is splotched with bright yellow and traces of white surface molds. To the touch, Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel is bouncy and pliable. Its rind is smooth, yet tacky.

For a washed rind cheese, Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel’s aromas are surprisingly mild. Its rind smells like a garden–there are green leaf and herbal scents–with some smoky aromas. The interior paste smells like melted butter and macaroni & cheese.

Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel has a smoky flavor, with some savory and tangy flavors at the end. It is buttery smooth in the mouth; the paste is thick but not cloying. This is a full-flavored cheese, yet its flavors do not over-whelm the palate.

This cheese is addictive. We demolished Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel during our tasting. Jacob loved its flavor and creamy texture of the cheese and asked me to purchase it again.

Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel is fantastic. This cheese defies conventional expectations of goat cheese, yet that should not deter purchase. Twig Farm Washed Rind Wheel could be shared at a picnic, party or casual meal. It is well-behaved out of refrigeration and does not have off-putting odors. This cheese is destined for repurchase.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Twig Farm Washed Rind at Cheese Plus (San Francisco).

The first time we entered 24th Street Cheese Co., my son asked for a “good” cheese. The cheesemonger’s response: “We have 200 good cheeses.” That’s a big inventory of cheese, but if one wants to discover that wealth, one must engage with the gatekeeping staff.

24th Street Cheese is a destination for cut-to-order cheeses. Their inventory has cheeses from Europe and the US, but seems more European focused.

Their cheese is mostly tucked away out of view.  Their inventory is listed by name on a high chalkboard, but this list is not always complete and it is helpful only if one knows or has heard of the cheeses listed. The lack of display, however, reinforces the need to work with the shop’s staff.

Shoppers must be willing to engage with staff to narrow options. Staff listen and do there best to meet a shopper’s criteria. We usually shop with a loose criteria of “no blue or hard cheeses,” but this is still too broad. Lately, I have been asking to try whatever is good “right now,” and this has yielded nice recommendations.

We have had uneven shopping experiences at 24th Street Cheese. We have been introduced to some lovely cheeses here. However, we have also purchased cheeses that may have been too young or are past their peak (I don’t discover this until I start writing about a cheese post-evaluation).

We ask a lot of specific questions when cheese shopping. I used to get frustrated about the inaccurate information at 24th Street Cheese. Now I realize that it is difficult–maybe impossible–to retain minutia on every cheese in their inventory. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between inventory size and inventory knowledge.

24th Street Cheese is like a library with an inventory of hidden gems that one may overlook without staff help. One should view the shop’s cheesemongers like librarians–they are available to help guide one to an interesting selection or they can locate the exact cheese desired.

We keep shopping at 24th Street Cheese so we can tap into their expansive inventory. I wish our shopping experiences were more even, yet I am willing to sacrifice the shopping experience for good cheese.

Challerhocker took us straight back to the Swiss Alps. Eating this cheese reminded us of alp kase (literally, farm cheese) that we bought from small mountain dairies in Switzerland. It was hard to eat this cheese without thinking of the Swiss countryside, the Alps, and grazing cows. We could almost envision a farmer making Challerhocker over a fire-stoked cauldron.

Challerhocker is a firm cow’s milk cheese from Toggenburg, Switzerland. It is made with thermalized milk, a process of quick low temperature pasteurization. It is aged in a cellar for less than 1 year (Challerhocker means “sitting in the cellar”), and has a washed rind.

Challerhocker

Challerhocker’s blonde paste is firm and unmarred by fissures or holes. The reddish-brown rind is covered with small bumps. Both the rind and the paste have a sweet peanut aroma.

Challerhocker’s nutty flavor dominates the cheese, but there are also sweet and sour flavors to balance its nuttiness. Its flavor is initially sweet and peanutty, but then ends sour and tangy. Challerhocker leaves a long nutty after-taste.

In the mouth, Challerhocker is chewy. It has tiny crystallized bits in the paste that add delicate flavor and texture. Challerhocker slices easily with a table knife.

Challerhocker challenged our tasters; we never reached consensus on this cheese. Two tasters–who do not like firm cheeses generally–were not impressed with Challerhocker. One juvenile taster liked Challerhocker but wasn’t wild about it, and I really liked Challerhocker.

Challerhocker is a cheese that I would purchase again for almost any occasion. It would make a great cheese for a picnic, the dinner table, a day-hike, snacking, or a party. This cheese is delicious on its own and doesn’t need any accompaniment.

Purchasing Notes: We purchased Challerhocker at 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco).

We took a plunge with Blu del Monviso, hoping that its creamy texture would convert our kids to blue cheese eaters. (It seemed wrong to continue rejecting the blue cheeses offered by eager cheesemongers). Although Blu del Monviso did not win over our kids, this delicious blue cheese is destined for re-purchase.

Blu del Monviso is a bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from the Piedmont area of northwestern Italy. On a spectrum of blue cheeses, Blu del Monviso’s creamy style is closer to Gorgonzola than it is to Roquefort. Blu del Monviso is produced in thick logs; our sample is just one-half of a cross-section slice of the log.

Blu del Monviso

Blu del Monviso has a milky white paste speckled with green. The paste is soft, creamy and sticky like a double cream cheese. Its exterior rind has a bumpy surface that is tacky to the touch.

Blu del Monviso has the aroma of bread crust or wheat crackers. The rind has a faint scent of mushrooms and ammonia.

In the mouth, the cheese is smooth and creamy. The blue specks have a gritty texture that provide contrast to the creamy paste. The blue flavor does not dominate Blu del Monviso; rather, it shares space with sour fruit and sweet cream flavors. Blu del Monviso’s flavors are layered and enticing. It leaves a mild sour after-taste.

Although our juvenile tasters rejected Blu del Monviso, I would purchase this again for a picnic, a party, or to follow dinner. This is a cheese that one wants to linger over and share with friends. Blu del Monviso would work better with a flavorful wheat bread or cracker than classic baguette.

Purchase Notes: We purchased our sample at 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco).

Fosterkase, meaning “lumberjack cheese,” does not call to mind boot-strapping men with axes. Rather, it is soft and gooey and needs a fir bark band to give it some backbone. With its punched-in center and sodden band, Forsterkase looks like a vintage suitcase that has washed ashore after a storm.

Forsterkase is a soft cow’s milk cheese from Toggenburg, Switzerland. It is washed in a white wine brine. The bark band encircling its outer wall looks like wet cardboard, but the bark enhances Forsterkase’s aroma and flavor.

Forsterkase has a pinky-melon rind that feels like it has been dusted with granulated sugar. The interior paste is butter yellow and looks squishy and wet. Our photo of Forsterkase shows some collapse of the cheese; this collapse continued as the cheese remained out of refrigeration.

Fosterkase has a peculiar aroma. The interior paste smells like meat; I kept thinking of white veal sausage. The bark wrapper adds a woody cedar chest scent to the cheese that is also detectable in Forsterkase’s rind. The combination of scents is not appealing, yet these can be avoided by keeping the cheese away from the nose.

Forsterkase tastes like meat. It has smoky and savory flavors. Its flavors coat the mouth and leave a salty sour flavor on the tongue. The flavors are well-balanced and do not over-whelm. There is variety and depth to Forsterkase’s flavors that encourage slow eating. The cheese has a thick and smooth texture in the mouth.

Forsterkase was a hit during our tasting. One of our juvenile tasters rejected this cheese as “too tangy,” yet all other tasters liked it. We tasted Forsterkase on a rainy, cool day and the cheese’s richness and full flavors seem well-paired to autumn weather.

Forsterkase is not a picnic cheese, nor is it suited to a communal party plate. Yet it seems too special to eat without friends.

Purchasing Notes: We purchased Forsterkase from 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco). The cheesemonger cut our sample from a fresh round, so there was no degradation or collapse before purchase. During our tasting, Forsterkase continued to collapse into the plate the longer it was out of refrigeration.