Landaff is a cheese with all-around appeal.  It’s a mild version of farmhouse cheddar; its shorter maturation gives it softer flavor and a creamier texture than aged cheddars.  Landaff is a good everyday cheese, an easy snacker and likely to have wide appeal.

Landaff has its roots in traditional Welsh farmstead cheeses.  It is a semi-firm cheese, farmstead produced by Landaff Creamery of New Hampshire.  Landaff  is made from the raw cow’s milk and matured for 60 days before market.  The cheese is cave-aged by affineur Jasper Hill Farms.

landaff-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Landaff has a simple rustic appearance.  It has a weathered tan rind that is hard and dry.  The interior paste is deep yellow, darkening to caramel near the rind.  The paste is greasy and smooth to the touch.

Landaff has mild aroma.  Its rind smells like wet stone and mineral water.  The cheese paste has a rich buttery scent.

Landaff tastes like a mild cheddar.  It starts fruity with a blueberry jam flavor.  Its flavor builds and becomes sour, bitter and intensely nutty.  It has a cheddar-like tang that one can feel on the tongue.  Landaff finishes with a mild sourness.  Landaff has a chewy and thick texture with nice mouth feel.

Landaff is a nice all-around everyday cheese that could substitute for cheddar.  It would make a superb cheese for a picnic or outdoor meal.  Landaff makes a delicious snacking cheese and has enough zest for a party plate.  It is excellent on its own with no accompaniment.  Landaff Creamery suggests its cheese is good for cooking, too.

My kids liked Landaff a lot and appreciated its mildness relative to other cheddars we have tried.  Landaff is a definite re-purchase.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Landaff at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

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Devil’s Gulch forced us out of our comfort zone.  We have avoided Devil’s Gulch since its December release because it is flavored with red chili peppers.  With my juvenile tasters, any food with a hint of spice is cause for drama.  Yet, perhaps my kids would look beyond the peppers if the spice was married to a luscious cheese by Cowgirl Creamery.  Well, this was my hope.

devils-gulch-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Devil’s Gulch is a soft cheese, produced from pasteurized cow’s milk by Cowgirl Creamery.  It has a bloomy rind and a red pepper covered crown.  It is produced in a compact cylindrical format and aged for 4 weeks before market.  The dried red chili peppers are added after the cheese has matured.

Devil’s Gulch is a pretty, festive-looking cheese.  Its cloud white rind is a beautiful foil for the fiery red and orange pepper flakes.  To the touch, the rind is dry and velvety.  The interior paste is buttery yellow with many holes.  The cheese paste is spongy and slightly sticky to the touch.

The rind of Devil’s Gulch smells like button mushrooms, except for its pepper covered crown.  Not surprisingly, the crown smells like crushed red pepper.

Overall, Devil’s Gulch is a mild cheese.  The cheese paste has a sour citrus flavor, with a spicy paprika kick from the peppers.  The chili peppers add a sweet and smokey flavor, similar to roasted red pepper rouille.  After eating, a grapefruit sourness lingers on the tongue.  Devil Gulch’s texture is rich and luxurious in the mouth.

Devil’s Gulch makes a fun party cheese.  Its festive look creates visual interest.  The cheese’s luscious texture is certain to have wide appeal and it holds up well out of refrigeration.

During our tasting, my kids ate around the chili peppers.  They pronounced Devil’s Gulch delicious, yet they failed to embrace the cheese’s spicy intent.  One asked me to purchase Devil’s Gulch again, but we’d be happier with Mt. Tam or Red Hawk.

Purchase Notes:  Devil’s Gulch is a seasonal, winter cheese.  We began to see it in December, just in time for the holidays.  We purchased a whole cheese (about 9-oz.) from Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco); it easily serves 8.

Mayor of Nye Beach is a demanding cheese.  Like a bouillon cube, Mayor of Nye Beach has concentrated flavor in a tight dry package.  We found Mayor of Nye Beach’s goat cheese flavors enjoyable when the cheese was sliced paper thin, otherwise it was too salty.  For balance, the cheese’s sea salt flavor also demands a sweet accompaniment.

Mayor of Nye Beach is a firm goat cheese produced by Rivers Edge Chevre of Oregon.  It is washed in a local ale and aged for a minimum of 2 months before market.  Mayor of Nye Beach is produced in a small, 1-pound square format.

mayor-of-nye-beach-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Mayor of Nye Beach is a solid dry cheese.  Its interior paste is clear white darkening to bone at the rind.  The cheese’s rind is bright orange with some white surface molds.  The rind has a tight grid pattern on its top and bottom surfaces, while its sidewall shows more random creasing.  The cheese and rind are dry to the touch; the rind sheds orange and white bits when handled.

The rind of Mayor of Nye Beach has a scent that is woodsy and a bit like cooked broccoli.  The interior paste smells buttery.

Mayor of Nye Beach has concentrated flavor.  It tastes like a tangy goat cheese with a hefty dose of sea salt.  The rind adds an earthy mushroom flavor that gives some balance to the paste’s saltiness.  Yet, the sea salt flavor dominates.

Mayor of Nye Beach’s texture demands a sharp knife.  The cheese has a dry, almost brittle texture and will fracture.  In the mouth, the cheese crumbles and becomes grainy.  Paper thin slices reduce portion size so that the cheese’s saltiness does not overwhelm.

We all liked Mayor of Nye Beach but we didn’t fall in love.  When eaten on its own, the cheese’s saltiness dominates and demands more balance.  This cheese would do better paired with a sweet beverage or food that counters its saltiness.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Mayor of Nye Beach at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  Our sample was one-quarter of a whole cheese (about 4 oz).

Ocooch Mountain is a big cheese.  It is pungent, rich, fruity and intensely nutty.  Ocooch Mountain is not subtle and is not recommended for beginners.  Yet for the willing and adventurous, Ocooch Mountain is memorable.

Ocooch Mountain is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, farmstead produced by Hidden Springs Creamery of Wisconsin.  It is a firm cheese and has a washed rind.  The cheese is produced in small, 2-pound rounds and is aged for 3-4 months before market.

ocooch-mountain-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Ocooch Mountain looks calm enough.  It has a natural, orange-brown rind that shows some surface scars.  Its dull blonde paste deepens to golden brown near the rind.  The interior paste is riddled with holes of varying sizes.  To the touch, the paste is smooth and greasy.  When left out of refrigeration, the rind’s surface becomes tacky.

Ocooch Mountain has a strong perfume.  On the rind, there are scents of  hot rubber, musty old books, decayed flowers, and sweaty socks.  The cheese paste smells like beeswax, daisies, cheese and berries.

Ocooch Mountain has rich flavor.  It is very fruity and intensely nutty.  There is an underlying smokiness that helps to provide balance.  Its natural rind also mellows the cheese’s intense nuttiness.  Its fruity rich flavors and nuttiness linger long in the mouth after eating.  Ocooch Mountain has a chewy texture.

Ocooch Mountain’s fruity rich flavor reminded us of  Serra da Estrela, the soft sheep’s milk cheese from the Portugese mountains. We all liked this cheese, but its nutty tanginess was too intense for one of my juvenile tasters.

Ocooch Mountain is a sensational cheese.  Its flavors are distinctive and memorable.  Although this cheese may not appeal to everyone, it would be fun to share it with adventurous family and friends.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Ocooch Mountain at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Montgomery’s Cheddar is a country beauty with great flavor, inviting aroma and a chewy texture.  While cheddar cheese may not seem all that exciting at the cheese shop, Montgomery’s is a benchmark cheddar and should not be missed.   My 11-year-old said it best about Montgomery’s: “This is what cheddar cheese should taste like.”

Montgomery’s Cheddar is farmstead produced by Manor Farm in  Somerset, England.  It is considered a classic example of English farmhouse cheddar, made from raw cow’s milk.  Manor Farm hews to tradition when making Montgomery’s and uses a “peg mill” to cut the cheese curds.  This technique affects the cheese’s texture and creates its characteristic fissures.  Cheeses are aged 12-14 months before release and may age further with affineur, Neal’s Yard Dairy.

montgomerys-cheddar-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Montgomery’s is a quiet beauty.  Its rind is embossed with the tight weave of its traditional cloth wrap.  The rind looks like paint-brushed canvas with a palette of soft burgundy, caramel, gold, deep green, gray, and beige.  The interior paste is a rich yellow, darkening to butterscotch near the rind.  The paste is fissured, dry and smooth.

Montgomery’s has an inviting aroma.  The interior paste smells like a meadow of rich soil, flowers, grass and herbs.  Its rind smells like roasted peanuts.

Montgomery’s Cheddar has complex flavor: it is sour, tangy, fruity and nutty.  There is a compelling fruitiness to this cheese that gives it balance and a full flavor.  The cheese ends tangy, but its tanginess is not overwhelming or dominant.  Even the after-taste of Montgomery’s has complexity, leaving sour fruit and nutty flavors on the tongue.

The cheese has a chewy texture that encourages slow eating.  The cheese is prone to breaking along its fissures when slicing with a knife.

Montgomery’s is packed with flavor, yet my kids described it as a “mild” cheddar.  Its flavors are very well-balanced and compelling.  Montgomery’s makes a happy snacking cheese, could hold its own at a party, or be toted along for an outdoor meal.  Montgomery’s Cheddar is a definite re-purchase.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Montgomery’s Cheddar at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Mont St. Francis is another fantastic cheese from Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese of Indiana.  It is different from Capriole’s chevre-style goat cheeses (e.g., O’Banon, Sofia, Wabash Cannonball), but is no less appealing.  Mont St. Francis is a cheese for those who appreciate full flavors and rich texures.

mont-st-francis-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Mont St. Francis is a farmstead-produced, raw goat’s milk cheese. It is a semi-soft cheese with a washed rind. The cheese is aged 4-8 months; young cheeses are firm and become softer as they mature.

Our sample of Mont St. Francis barely gives hint to its washed rind surface.  Photos of Mont St. Francis often show this cheese with a mottled orange rind, but our sample’s rind is completely covered with white surface molds.  The powdery molds leave a fine dust on fingers and plates. The milk-white cheese paste is shiny and uniform like pudding.  The cheese is smooth and springy to the touch.

Mont St. Francis is a pungent cheese, but not offensive unless held directly under the nose. The paste smells like baby spit-up and sea water.  The rind has a musty cellar aroma.

Mont St. Francis is strongly flavored and has rich mouth feel. Its flavors are nutty, sour and very tangy. It has a pervasive mineral flavor that is like water with a heavy mineral content.  The cheese finishes sharply and leaves a citrus-like sourness long in the mouth. Mont St. Francis’s texture is smooth, rich and pasty.

We all liked this cheese, yet a little goes a long way. Among our tasters, Mont St. Francis had greater appeal with those who appreciate strongly-flavored washed rind cheeses.

Mont St. Francis is a cheese that invites lingering and sharing, but choose guests carefully. Although my kids enjoyed this cheese, I’d be reluctant to serve it to juveniles unless they’ve been exposed to washed rind cheeses.

Mont St. Francis is well-behaved out of refrigeration and easy to slice with a butter knife. It would be a great addition to a party plate.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Mont St. Francis from Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Beecher’s Flagship Reserve is a lovely American cheddar cheese. I took this cheese home on a theory that with cooler winter weather, my family would appreciate a more complex cheese. I hoped that our panel’s aged-cheese-rejectors would give Flagship Reserve a fair shake. I expected the worst from my tasters. Yet Flagship Reserve won over the whole crew.

Flagship Reserve is a firm cheddar-style cheese from Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Seattle, Washington.  Flagship Reserve is a special version of Beecher’s Flagship cheese, made “only on days when the milk composition is just right.”  The cheese is produced with pasteurized cow’s milk, then bound in cloth to mature.  It is open-air aged for 13-16 months before market.

beechers-flagship-reserve-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011

Beecher’s Flagship Reserve is statuesque and solid. Our sample (about 5″ tall) is just half the height of the whole cheese. The cheese has a natural rind that shows the tight weave from its cloth wrap. The interior paste is yellow-beige, with its color intensifying towards the rind. The cheese paste is smooth to the touch.

The rind smells fresh and natural like the outdoors: it has a faint cedar-like scent.  Flagship Reserve’s aroma has an inviting aroma that is cheesy and fruity.

Flagship Reserve’s flavor is intense from the get-go.  It is initially very nutty and tangy, just short of cheek-puckering. It has an underlying sour fruitiness that gives the cheese balance and mellows its tanginess. Flagship Reserve ends tangy and sour, with these flavors lasting long in the mouth after eating. The cheese has a nice, chewy texture.

Flagship Reserve is an addictive cheese. Its flavors are intense, yet offer a lot of complexity. The flavors linger nicely on the tongue and encourage further eating. We all liked this cheese a lot.

Flagship Reserve is a versatile cheese.  It is easy to eat on its own as a snack, but has enough weight and complexity to make it a good one to share at a party.  I’d take this camping, on a picnic or a hike.  I expect it would be superb in recipes that call for cheddar cheese.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Beecher’s Flagship Reserve at Cowgirl Creamery.  It is also available in 1-lb quantities at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.