O’Banon: A Sweet Goat Cheese

January 6, 2011

O’Banon may be modeled on a French goat cheese, but during our tasting we kept looking East.  O’Banon’s appearance has a Japanese aesthetic: its simple chestnut leaf packaging makes the whole cheese like an elegant gift.  Jacob described O’Banon as a sakura mochi, the leaf-wrapped rice confection one eats to celebrate the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival.  Beyond its beautiful presentation, O’Banon is another terrific goat cheese from Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese.

o-banon-goat-cheese-whole-wrapped-by-cheesechatter-january-2011O’Banon is a soft, chevre-style goat cheese farmstead produced in Indiana.  The cheese is produced in small discs and wrapped in bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves.  The wrapped cheese is then neatly trussed with twine.

The cheese’s olive brown chestnut leaves are pliable and slightly damp.  When removed from its leaf wrap, the cheese shows some brown staining where the cheese came into contact with the leaves.  The cheese surface also shows an artful leaf impression from its wrapping.  O’Banon’s paste is very dense and bone white.

The leaves and the cheese have the aroma of sweet Japanese plum wine.

o-banon-goat-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011O’Banon has a bright, tart fruit flavor initially, but the cheese’s tartness and tanginess are balanced by an underlying sweetness.  O’Banon has a sweet prune flavor that mellows out the cheese and leaves a lasting impression.  In the mouth, the paste is soft and dense like cheesecake.

We all really liked O’Banon.  When eaten on its own, O’Banon seems quite flavorful.  Yet, its delicate plum flavors are overwhelmed when eaten with anything but the most simple bread. O’Banon’s sweetness and cheesecake-like density suggest dessert.

O’Banon has such a beautiful presentation that I’d hesitate to have it share space on a plate with other cheeses.  Capriole shows O’Banon exposed with its leaves arraying the cheese (lovely).  O’Banon has the feel of a more singular and intimate occasion cheese.

O’Banon would also make an excellent cheese for a host/hostess gift.  It is neatly wrapped and is a delicious treat that not many would purchase on their own.  And, O’Banon is a relatively sweet cheese that should have broad appeal.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased O’Banon at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  A whole wrapped cheese weighs 6 oz. and serves 4-5 people.


3 Responses to “O’Banon: A Sweet Goat Cheese”

  1. Farmer Jess Says:

    We are working on a Banon right now and keep changing our mind about what the cheese’s surface should look like when unwrapped. I have seen lots of pictures of white surfaces resembling Brie or Camembert, but also hear of blue and green mold surfaces. In your opinion, which makes for better Banon?

    I very much enjoy our blue and green mold-skinned banons, but I’m concerned it would be a turn-off for the public.

    • What an interesting question, Farmer Jess. I’ve been mulling this one over for a bit before responding; I also conducted an unscientific poll of our panel at dinner last night. Since I’m a market researcher by day, I’m intrigued by this question and curious whether or not cheese makers or a university has some real research studies that you can access.

      I’m going to break this response down into two parts: 1) consumer shopping behavior–are consumers turned off by non-bloomy rind cheeses?; and 2) consumer taste–what makes for a better Banon? But, this is very unscientific research–a focus group of 1. I will share with you my experiences as a consumer.

      I shop at cheese shops where cheeses are mostly unwrapped and I can taste cheeses before purchasing. When I buy cheese for Cheese Chatter tastings or just general eating, appearance is important. When I am selecting cheeses for tasting prior to purchase, cheeses with an unusual feature–such as a colored rind, an herb or leaf wrapped cheese, a very tall or very small cheese, one with a different shape–are more likely to catch my attention. Frankly, I think the Brie- and Camembert-style bloomy rind cheeses are at a disadvantage because they look boring at the cheese counter–visually, they don’t offer much. A cheese monger could make the difference on whether or not I try one of the bloomy rind cheeses.

      For casual eating, taste and texture play the biggest roles in whether I purchase a cheese. If I am buying cheese for a party, I consider other factors like appearance, odors, and how long it will keep shape out of refrigeration. For a picnic, I consider if the cheese will hold up to transport and hanging outdoors for a bit.

      Is a green- or blue-colored surface on a cheese a deal-breaker for us? No. We LOVE goat cheeses with wrinkled, ash-covered rinds that look blue or green at the counter. We have eaten ugly, angry cheeses that look closer to a compost bin than a fancy cheese plate and have had no problem. I recall eating some cheeses with significant molds on the rind–enough to set off my allergies and make my mouth itch–yet we still enjoyed the cheeses’ flavors.

      Why do humans suspend their food avoidance cues to not eat things that smell or look rotten when it comes to cheese? I think it’s because we have learned that stinky cheeses and ugly cheeses offer tremendous flavors. We learn that there are big rewards in cheese, if we suspend our notions about what is “good” and “safe.” Cheese offers a lot of surprise and delight with minimal risk. I think consumers learn through experience that they ought not judge a cheese by its rind.

      What makes a “good” Banon? Honestly, we haven’t tasted the french Banon, so I do not know the standard for this cheese. However, I am very appreciative of US cheese makers who take a classic cheese, use it for inspiration, and create a cheese that is completely their own (ultimately, tasting like a cousin to the classic). This, I believe was achieved with the O’Banon we tasted.

      I wish you well in your cheese making endeavors! If your cheeses are distributed on in San Francisco, let me know and I will try to find them.


  2. Farmer Jess Says:

    I’ve just put some in to age that I treated with penicillium to make a Camembert-like bloom since that is more “normal” to most of the cheese consumers around here. We’re a little west of central North Carolina, just outside of Winston Salem, so I doubt you’ll be seeing anything of ours all the way out where you are, but thank you for the offer and such a thorough response. I’m really struggling to gauge the level of adventure our less cheese-exposed locals are up to tackling from a raw milk dairy. I will say thus far, as a majority, they have yet to meet a piece of cheese they didn’t like, but I don’t want to go so far I’m going to traumatize anyone when they unwrap their pretty little leafy package and see a green powdery-mold for a rind when they were expecting a pretty little piece of stark white goat cheese.

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