Edwin’s Munster is a cheese for those who like their cheeses robust and pungent.  I loved this cheese and once again, regretted purchasing only half of a whole cheese.  Edwin’s Munster is a memorable cheese and one I would enjoy sharing with family and friends.

Edwin’s Munster is a soft cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind.  Most people associate Munster with the Alsace region of France, but this version is produced in Austria by Edwin Berchtold.  Edwin’s Munster is produced in a flat cylindrical format; a whole cheese is a bit larger than a standard camembert (our photo shows half of a whole cheese).

edwins-munster-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatterEdwin’s Munster has a thin pale apricot rind.  The rind has light scoring across its surface and some white surface molds.  The interior paste is light golden yellow, with small compressed holes.

When first unwrapped, Edwin’s Munster has a cooked cauliflower scent.  However, its aroma opens up out of refrigeration and changes into old sour milk then foot odor.  When held under the nose, the rind has a mild ammonia odor.

To the touch, Edwin’s Munster is springy and sticky.

Edwin’s Munster has a robust flavor that is smoky and sour.  The sourness dominates and is similar to a grapefruit.  A salty sourness remains in the mouth long after eating.  Edwin’s Munster has rich mouth feel, with a thick and pasty texture.  One of our juvenile tasters aptly described its flavor as “smoky Taleggio.”

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Sofia may be the ugly duckling of the cheese world.  To judge by our sample, Sofia looks like something retrieved from my compost bin.  Yet if one looks beneath Sofia’s scraggly skin of dark ash and gray-green mold, one discovers a beautiful swan: Sofia is a lovely white goat cheese that is delicious.

sofia-goat-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatterSofia is a young goat cheese produced by Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese in Indiana.  It is a chevre-style cheese that has an elongated pyramid format.  The cheese is covered with vegetable ash and has an additional ash layer running horizontally through its middle.  It is aged for one week before market.

Sofia has a rind like the skin of a burnt marshmallow that slides around on its interior when touched.  The rind is heavily wrinkled and ashy, with patches of green surface molds.

The cheese paste is dense and creamy, with a thin translucent paste just beneath the rind.  As our sample sat of refrigeration, the translucent paste mixed with the rind’s ash and created an inky ooze.  My son said Sofia looked like a white squid with a burst ink sac.

Sofia’s flavor is sharply tangy.   The cheese paste has a creamy, yet dense texture.  The translucent paste near the rind has a biting flavor similar to that in blue cheese.  Sofia’s rind was so angry looking and showed evidence of green mold, that we avoided eating it.

Sofia is an excellent goat cheese.  This cheese reminded us a lot of Humboldt Fog, but we thought Sofia saltier and lacking the sweetness imparted from the vegetable ash.

The only problem we had with Sofia was it appearance.  Our sample of Sofia degraded quite a bit when out of refrigeration.  The translucent paste’s turn into an inky ooze was unattractive and is not something I’d serve guests.  Sofia’s appearance did not deter us from our enjoyment, however, and I would definitely purchase this cheese again.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Sofia at The Cheese Board (Berkeley, CA).

Rush Creek Reserve is an intriguing cheese that begs to be shared.  The cheese is a beautiful coral color, encircled by a rustic bark band.  Rush Creek Reserve’s spruce band is not purely decorative: it gives structure, flavor, and perfume to the cheese.  I mistakenly purchased half a whole cheese and it softened into a puddle out of refrigeration.  This is a cheese that calls for friends and spoons.

Rush Creek Reserve is a recent cheese from Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin, released in 2010.  They also make the much-awarded Pleasant Ridge Reserve; Rush Creek Reserve is the first new cheese from Uplands Cheese Company in 10 years.

rush-creek-reserve-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatter

Rush Creek Reserve is made from raw cow’s milk, has a washed rind and is aged for 60 days before market.  It is a soft cheese that turns soupy when out of refrigeration, similar to Epoisses.  It is produced in a small flat cylinder and is banded with a spruce bark ring.  The bark band contains the cheese as it softens and becomes runny.

The bark band looks like an old leather book spine.  It smells like a wet forest: damp and crisp with an odor of decay.

The coral peach rind is a soft skin that hovers over the paste.  The rind has clusters of white surface molds like barnacle colonies on a rock.  The interior paste is golden yellow and has an inviting aroma like baked cheese bread.

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Hudson Valley Camembert is a cheese that is easy to skip over: it is diminutive and lacks visual intrigue.  Had I not tasted this cheese at the cheese counter, I probably would have ignored it.  Yet, this mild-mannered cheese is an easy crowd-pleaser that offers good buttery flavor and texture.

Hudson Valley Camembert is produced by Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. of New York.  It is a bloomy rind camembert-style cheese made from a combination of sheep and cow’s milk.  Old Chatham produces its camembert in both round and square formats; our sample is from a square cheese.

hudson-valley-camembert-december-2010-by-cheesechatter

Hudson Valley Camembert cuts a low-profile on the plate.  The cheese’s unimposing format is very low and flat.  Its snowy white rind is gently pressed with vertical lines.  To the touch, the rind is velvety and damp.

Its interior paste is butter yellow and soft.  The paste feels smooth and greasy, similar to butter.

The rind has faint aromas of mushrooms and crayons.  The interior paste smells like crackers or baked bread.

Hudson Valley Camembert’s flavor is sweet and buttery, with a slight tangy kick that reaches the nose.  The rind adds a light mushroom flavor to the cheese.   Hudson Valley Camembert has a smooth texture that feels like butter.

Hudson Valley Camembert is a mild and pleasant cheese, with a modest kick.  This cheese is easy to eat and likely to be a crowd pleaser.  Its small format makes it a good candidate for outdoor eating; the whole cheese is compact and portable.   Although we all liked this cheese, it did not knock our socks off.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Hudson Valley Camembert at The Cheese Board (Berkeley, CA).  We purchased half of a whole cheese, but should have purchase the whole thing.  Our sample was just 2 0z., which we cut into 4 mini servings.

It’s December and with holiday parties in full swing, many folks are assembling cheese plate indulgences to entertain their guests.  We are no exception.

Many people cannot justify the expense of  “fancy cheese” unless there is a special occasion or party.  Unfortunately, the go-to party cheese is often brie, but unless one gets a good brie (see Brie le Chatelain), most versions available in the US are weak copies of the classic.  These cheeses can also be messy and prone to collapse.

Not sure what to buy?  Get an artisanal cheese made in the US.

This past weekend, we  had a party to celebrate my son becoming a bar mitzvah.  My 13-year-old gave me a list of his favorite cheeses:

  • Mt. Tam by Cowgirl Creamery (California)
  • Red Hawk by Cowgirl Creamery (California)
  • Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove (California)
  • Grayson by Meadow Creek Dairy (Virginia)
  • Wabash Cannonball by Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese (Indiana)

These cheeses are all soft, creamy, and easy spreaders.  My son  loves chevre and triple cream cheeses, so his selections reflect these passions.  His list does not offer a lot of variation in texture or style, but these 5 cheeses are all delicious, easy to eat and certain to please a crowd.  Any one of these cheeses is likely to be a big hit at a party.

Availability may be the biggest hurdle to sharing these cheeses with family and friends.  Unfortunately for us, Wabash Cannonball was not available so we missed sharing it this time.

Gabietou generated a lot of passion at our table, but not all of it was positive.  Gabietou is not for the wishy-washy: one either likes it or one does not.  We are usually pretty forgiving about cheese, but Gabietou was divisive.

Gabietou comes from Pau in the Pyrenees region of France.  It is a semi-soft cheese made with a blend of raw cow and sheep milks.  The cheese is aged for 3-5 months, during which time the rind is washed with a water and salt brine.  Gabietou has slightly different maturation processes, depending on its affineur (Gabietou may also carry the names of affineurs Herve Mons or Jean d’Alos).

Gabietou has a light orange-tan rind that is smooth and tacky.  The rind has flecks of gray and white surface molds.  The interior paste is pale yellow and populated with small flat holes.   To the touch, the paste is smooth and springy.

Gabietou has an offensive odor that is detectable when it is held close to the nose.   The rind’s perfume calls to mind cigar smoke, week-old socks and our dog’s breath after she has munched another animal’s feces.  The paste smells like daises.

Gabietou has robust flavor that is balanced by an underlying sour fruitiness.  Gabietou has smokey, sour and sweet peanut flavors.   The sweet nutty flavor intensifies in the paste nearer the rind.  After eating, a nutty sourness lingers on the tongue.  Gabietou’s texture is rich and thick in the mouth.

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Bodacious: A Bumpy Tasting

December 8, 2010

We were all set to fall in love with Bodacious, especially after our recent experience with Bohemian Creamery’s Bo Peep.  Alas, our experience with Bodacious was not as smooth, and I suspect that we took home a cheese that was past its prime.  This is frustrating, because I sampled a healthy cheese at the cheese shop.

Bodacious is a fresh goat’s milk cheese produced by Bohemian Creamery in Sonoma County, California.  The cheese is produced in a wide flattened dome that suggests a miniature white volcano.

Bodacious looks like the top of a lemon meringue pie.  Its surface shows smooth white ridges and valleys, with light tan highlights.  The cheese’s interior paste is snowy white and fluffy.  The rind is velvety soft to the touch.  The underside of the cheese feels soft and wet.

Bodacious’s rind has a perfume like cooked cabbage, but the interior paste smells grassy and buttery.  The interior paste has a soft and airy texture like ricotta.

Bodacious’s flavor is sour and tangy.  The cheese is not tart like a classic chevre, but tastes more like a hyper-tangy plain yogurt.  Unfortunately, our cheese sample had an underlying bitterness reminiscent of green leafy vegetables; this bitter flavor lingered long in the mouth.  The rind’s flavor amplified the bitterness of the cheese.

So what happened? The Bodacious I tasted at the cheese counter was sharply tangy whereas the sample we took home was bitter and difficult to eat.  I do not think the sample we took home was representative of Bodacious’ optimal flavor, yet it is the sample we evaluated.  We look forward to a better purchasing experience next time.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Bodacious at Cheese Plus (San Francisco).  We purchased half of a whole cheese; it weighed approximately 4 oz.