Serra da Estrela is not a meek cheese.  It announces itself with an intense aroma, follows with a flavor to match, and creates a lazy mess on one’s plate.  My son who loves washed rind stinkers picked this one out at the cheese shop and pronounced it delicious.

Serra da Estrela carries the name of the region in Portugal where it is produced.  This region is the highest area of Continental Portugal and is home to shepherds and their sheep.  Serra da Estrela is hand made at farmhouses from a 2,000-year-old recipe that uses raw sheep’s milk, cardoon thistle and salt.  The cheese is produced in a short cylindrical format.

Serra da Estrela has a smooth and greasy rind.  The rind is golden yellow with red-orange bruises.  The cheese’s interior paste looks like vanilla pudding.  To the touch, the paste is wet, sticky and clings to one’s fingers like glue.

Serra da Estrela has an intense aroma that is similar to a toddler’s feet: stinky, but sweet.

The cheese is sweet with a fruity flavor profile.  Serra da Estrela has some tangy and salty flavors, but these are over-shadowed by its sour fruitiness.  The cheese also has an underlying sweetness.  The cheese’s flavors are rich and intense and they linger in the mouth long after eating.  On the tongue, Serra da Estrela’s is thick, smooth and pasty.

Serra da Estrela is an intense, rich and flavorful cheese.  We all liked this cheese, but a little of this cheese goes a long way.

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When I saw Twig Farm’s Goat Tomme at the cheese shop I could not resist.  Yes, this cheese has a casual, rustic appearance that is appealing.  But really, I took home Goat Tomme because we demolished Twig Farm’s Washed Rind Wheel during our tasting a few weeks back.  Now, after tasting two cheeses from Twig Farm’s stable, we will try whatever we find from this producer.

Twig Farm Goat Tomme is a firm goat’s milk cheese produced in Vermont.  It is made from raw milk and is aged for 80 days.  It is produced in a tall cylindrical format (our photo shows the vertical side of the cheese, with its top and bottom book-ending the paste).

Twig Farm Tomme looks weathered.  Its natural rind is uneven and pocked; the rind is covered with soft gray, white and tan surface molds.  There are specks of what look like herbs embedded into the rind’s surface.  The rind is firm, yet the powdery surface molds give it a velvety feel.

The interior paste is the color of uncooked pasta.  The paste is smooth and solid with infrequent holes.

Twig Farm Goat Tomme smells like musty caves, stone, and forest soil.  The rind has an inviting aroma of rich soil and damp stone.  The interior paste has a fresh buttery scent.

Twig Farm Goat Tomme is a smooth cheese.  It is tangy, but the tanginess is balanced by a nuttiness and an underlying sweetness.  The paste’s berry-like sweetness is more evident in the paste closest to the rind.  The cheese has a smooth and almost semi-soft texure in the mouth.

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Constant Bliss is a dream cheese: it is rich, buttery, and smells of the earth.  Constant Bliss also has a visually intriguing interior and behaves well out of refrigeration.  At our table, Constant Bliss appealed to kids and adults alike.  What more could we ask for of a cheese?

Constant Bliss is a semi-soft cheese produced by Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.  It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and has a mold-ripened rind.  The cheese is matured in cellars at Jasper Hill Farm.

This cheese’s name created quite a chuckle at our table.  Living in San Francisco, “alternative relief” (a.k.a. medicinal marijuana) shops are more common than cheese shops; my husband commented that Constant Bliss sounded more like a relief product than a cheese.  However, the cheese is named after the Vermont settler, Constant Bliss, who was killed by American natives during the Revolutionary War.

The cheese is a small stacked cylinder with a white bloomy rind.  Constant Bliss’s rind feels dry and felty.  The rind smells like a mushroom farm, with distinct aromas of mushrooms and damp earth.  Constant Bliss has a translucent band of paste beneath the rind’s surface, and a denser, cake-like paste at the core.

Constant Bliss’s flavor is rich, sweet and buttery.  The cheese has a milky tanginess and a pleasant buttery flavor.  At the finish, there is a sweet Oro Blanco grapefruit flavor.

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Wabash Cannonball is the first US-made goat cheese we have tried that is comparable to classic French chevre.  Over the past month, we have enjoyed some phenomenal goat cheeses from the Loire Valley region of France.  Wabash Cannonball is a delicious chevre-style cheese that comes awfully close to those classics.

Wabash Cannonball is a soft-to-semi-soft cheese made from pasteurized goat’s milk.  It is farmstead produced by Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheeses in Indiana.  The surface of the cheese is dusted with vegetable ash to promote ripening.

Wabash Cannonball looks like a cannonball dusted with snow.  The ball-shaped cheese has a blue-green ash  rind just beneath its soft white surface.  The ash coating creates a thin, wrinkled skin around the interior paste of the cheese.  The snow white interior paste is dense, yet soft and yielding.

The exterior of the cheese smells like animals and barns; we could not detect any scent from the paste.

Wabash Cannonball is a tart cheese.  The paste has a bright lemony flavor. The ash rind adds a sour and bitter flavor to the cheese that is similar to grapefruit.  In the mouth, Wabash Cannonball has a soft and creamy texture.

In terms of flavor and texture, Wabash Cannonball stack’s up well against Loire Valley goat cheeses.  For me, Wabash Cannonball’s only detraction is its bitter rind, however one can eat around this.  Overall, we thought this a delicious cheese and one for re-purchase.

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Le Marechal is a lovely Swiss cheese.  Its flavor is nutty, yet sweet with berries and butterscotch.  At the cheese counter, Le Marechal may get overlooked in favor of reliably excellent Swiss cheeses like Gruyere or Appenzeller.  I faced this very dilemma at the cheese counter, yet Le Marechal came home for our tasting.

Le Marechal is a firm cheese made from raw cow’s milk.  It is produced in the Vaud region of Switzerland by a cooperative of dairies.  It is aged for a minimum of 130 days before market.  During its finishing, the rind’s surface is hand-rubbed with aromatic herbs.

Le Marechal has a dry brown rind that is flecked with dark green, brown and white.  The rind has bits of dried herbs embedded into its surface.  Le Marechal’s golden yellow paste is smooth and solid.  (Unfortunately, we do not have a photo of Le Marechal because our camera’s battery was drained).

Le Marechal’s paste has a strong nutty aroma.  On the rind, there are faint herbal scents that could be thyme, oregano, or a combination of  Mediterranean herbs.

Le Marechal has appealing flavors.  Initially, Le Marechal is nutty and salty.  We also tasted a blueberry fruitiness, a rich butter flavor, and a sweet butterscotch flavor like a ripe Honsui Asian pear. Le Marechal has a chewy and slightly grainy texture.  The cheese leaves a nutty after-taste.

We had mixed reactions to Le Marechal.  Two of our tasters generally reject firm cheeses and Le Marechal suffered a similar dismissal.  Our two other tasters liked Le Marechal.  This cheese has nice flavor, texture and aroma.  Le Marechal would make a nice table cheese.  It would also make a good day-hike or picnic cheese.

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

Epoisses: A Cheese for Kings

November 18, 2010

Epoisses is a traditional French cheese that is said to have been loved by kings and Napoleon.  We, too, fell in love with this cheese’s flavor during our tasting.  However, its soupy consistency created a serving nightmare.

Epoisses is a soft, washed rind cheese from the Burgundy region of France.    There are several producers of Epoisses, with some using raw cow’s milk for production.  Our sample was produced by Berthaut.  The cheese’s finishing process occurs over several weeks: it receives repeated dips in a brine bath and a brandy called “marc de bourgogne.”  Epoisses comes to market pre-packaged in a wooden box.

EpoissesEpoisses is a flat disc the size of camembert.  It has a rusty orange rind that is grooved with lines and wrinkles; the rind is soft and gummy to the touch.  The interior paste is pale yellow and runny.  Jacob compared the texture of Epoisses to “ooblek,” a sticky goo kids make at summer camps.

Epoisses has a reputation as a super stinker, but our cheese was not foul.  Epoisses has an aroma that is close to a light foot odor, but there are also ammonia and wheat germ scents.  The paste smells like sweet butter and cream.

The dominant flavors are sour and tangy.  There is also a little nuttiness and an underlying sweet butter flavor.  In the mouth, the paste is thick, rich and creamy.  The flavors and texture are enticing.  Epoisses leaves a sour and tangy after-taste in the mouth.

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Chabis Feuille could settle for being just another tasty chevre from France, but this cheese pushes for distinction.  At the cheese shop, I was smitten by Chabis Feuille, a small goat cheese plug tucked coyly inside a darkened chestnut leaf.  I thought the leaf purely decorative, but we discovered that the leaf gives this cheese both beauty and flavor.

Chabis FeuilleChabis Feuille is a goat chevre from the Loire Valley region of France.  It is produced in small cylinders.  The cheese is wrapped in a chestnut leaf to aid its ripening.  The leaf darkens to brown as the cheese ages.

Chabis Feuille looks like an over-sized marshmallow tucked inside a leaf jacket.  The ivory paste is dense but not heavy.  The cheese has light hatching on its top surface.  Chabis Feuille looks dry and crumbly, but is actually soft, damp and pliable.  The cheese has a faint damp leaf scent, even after the leaf is removed.

Chabis Feuille has a tart flavor that is border-line puckering.  The paste is bright and lemony.  The leaf wrap adds an underlying sweet flavor to the cheese.  This sweet leaf flavor is similar to tea, without the bitterness; the most similar flavor we came up with is the grape leaf wrap on dolmas.  The sweet leaf flavor leaves a brief after-taste.  Chabis Feuille is light and velvety on the tongue.

We all liked Chabis Feuille during our tasting.  The chestnut leaf sets Chabis Feuille apart from the average chevre by adding an interesting flavor and beautiful presentation.  This is not an entry-level chevre, but one to try if seeking a twist on the familiar.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Chabis Feuille at 24th Street Cheese Co. (San Francisco).  This cheese is purchased whole; our sample is about 5 oz.  The whole cheese could be cut into 4-6 servings.