Winnimere is a first class cheese for an inelegant party among friends.  When out of refrigeration, Winnimere relaxes into a gooey ooze.  Even when eating with spoons, this cheese was messy.  Winnimere is fun to eat and has a flavor similar to another bark-banded cheese, Forsterkase.

winnimere-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Winnimere is a soft washed rind cheese, farmstead produced by Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.  It is made from raw cow’s milk.  The cheese is produced in a flat disc format, banded with spruce bark, and washed with local beer.  Like Forsterkase, Winnimere’s spruce band gives the cheese structure, flavor and a distinctive aroma.  It is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill for 60 days before market.

Winnimere is a rustic beauty.  Its bark band gives this young cheese a weathered appearance.  The bark ring looks like damp old leather; it is flecked with white and blue-green surface molds.  Winnimere has a salmon pink rind that is thick, bumpy and pliable.  Its interior paste is pale, wet and soupy.

Winnimere has a pervasive perfume, but it is not offensive.  Its dominant scent is woodsy and reminiscent of freshly ground mulch or a cedar-lined chest.  The rind has a barnyard odor, while the cheese paste smells like smoked nuts.

Winnimere has strong flavors.  Its flavors are smoky, herbally, softly nutty, woodsy and sour.  It leaves a long smoky and woodsy aftertaste.  Winnimere’s texture is like thick glue; the cheese coats the tongue with a pasty cream.

We all liked Winnimere and had a lot of fun eating it.  Its flavor reminded us of Forsterkase, yet Winnimere’s texture has a soupier consistency.  Unlike Forsterkase, Winnimere is a cheese one ought to purchase whole, remove its top rind, and dip into with spoons.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Winnmere at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco); it is available January-June.  Winnimere should be purchased as a whole cheese; if purchasing half a cheese, get home quickly before it relaxes too much.

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Browning Gold is a humble cheese.  At the cheese counter, it does little to differentiate itself from other aged cheddars.  Yet what it lacks in visual intrigue, it makes up for in flavor.  Browning Gold offers warmth and sweetness, and seems a natural fit for a casual intimate gathering.  More importantly, Browning Gold retired my family’s bias against aged cheeses.

Browning Gold is a hard, cheddar-style cheese produced by 5 Spoke Creamery in Westchester County, New York.  It is farmstead produced with raw cow’s milk and cave-aged for 24 months before market.  The cheese is produced in a large brick format; each cheese weighs about 10 pounds.

browning-gold-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Browning Gold looks as if it has been wrapped in a white paper skin.  The rind’s surface molds give the exterior a velvety feel.  The interior paste is the color of pale straw,  darkening to nutmeg at the rind.  To the touch, the paste is solid and a bit greasy.

Browning Gold has a musty aroma.  Its rind smells like fresh earth and mushrooms.  Its interior paste has a baked cheese cracker scent.

Browning Gold has deep flavor and marked sweetness.  Its flavors are strongest at the start, then mellow while chewing.  Its dominant flavors are a warm nuttiness and pineapple sweetness.  The cheese also has a some sourness.  It leaves a mild aftertaste.

The cheese has a moist and crumbly texture in the mouth.  Browning Gold breaks into pebble-sized morsels on the tongue,  encouraging one to savor the cheese.

With its sweeter profile, Browning Gold was an easy sell at our table.  One juvenile taster commented that it tasted like a sweet and savory sauce.  We all liked this cheese a lot.  The day after our tasting, there was a hasty scramble for the remaining cheese.

Browning Gold is a superb stand-alone cheese.  Its crumbly texture demands slow eating and seems ideal for a casual gathering.  It would be fantastic on a day hike, camping or as an everyday cheese.

Purchase Notes:  I purchased Browning Gold at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  The cheesemonger commented that Browning Gold is available occasionally.

Petit Ardi Gasna is a lovely everyday cheese.  It is easy to eat, smooth on the palate and offers perfectly balanced flavors.  Ardi Gasna looks rather boring at the cheese counter, but we found it addictive on the plate.

Ardi Gasna is a semi-firm cheese from the Basque region in France.  It is made with raw sheep’s milk by Fromagerie Agour and has earned several awards.  The cheese is produced in small 700-gram drums (about 1.5 pounds), and is brushed with coulis de Piment d’Espelette, a puree of  espelette chili peppers  dry-rubbed with pimenton, a Spanish paprika.  Cheeses are aged for a minimum of 3 months before market.

petit-agour-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011 Ardi Gasna’s chili red rind gives it a fiery appearance.  The natural red-orange rind is thin, dry and scored with lines from its production.  The interior paste is dull yellow and has a greenish cast.  At the rind, the paste darkens into a light walnut.  To the touch, the paste is solid and greasy.

Ardi Gasna’s rind smells like toasted nuts.  The interior paste has light scents of  blueberries and rye.

Ardi Gasna has well-balanced flavor.  It has a sweet berry fruitiness that is matched by a rich nutty flavor.  The flavors are not too assertive and seem “just right.”  Ardi Gasna leaves a mildly nutty aftertaste in the mouth.  The cheese has a chewy texture that is not overly rich.  When eaten, the rind adds some spicy hotness to the cheese, but its grittiness is detracting.

We all liked this cheese and it was a big hit with my kids.  Ardi Gasna makes an excellent snacking cheese.  Its flavors and texture are so pleasing that this cheese was hard to stop eating.  While Ardi Gasna offers the casual simplicity of an everyday cheese, it would make a good addition to an outdoor meal.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Petit Ardi Gasna from Say Cheese (San Francisco); it was sold as Petit Agour.

Stinking Bishop is an unforgettable cheese.  Long after eating, its robust flavors linger in the mouth and its stinky perfume clings to one’s fingers.  Stinking Bishop is a delicious stinker, but one has to ignore its odor to enjoy this fine cheese.

Stinking Bishop is a soft cow’s milk cheese produced by Laurel Farm in Gloucestershire, England.  During its production, Stinking Bishop’s curds are washed with a locally produced pear cider (called perry) before the cheese is placed into molds.  As they mature, whole cheeses are dipped in perry every few weeks.  The cheese is aged for up to 2 months before market.

stinking-bishop-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Stinking Bishop has the soft pastel colors of Spring.  The exterior rind is melon orange with tints of rose and yellow.  The rind has a tight grid pattern and is tacky to the touch.  The interior paste is creamy and the color of banana cream pie.  The paste has many irregular shaped holes; it is pliable and gluey.

Stinking Bishop has a reputation as a super stinker: it is much deserved.  Stinking Bishop has a pungent odor that is off-putting.  My kids likened the rind’s aroma to a cow’s posterior.  The interior paste smells wheaty, like freshly baked bread.

Stinking Bishop is distinctly savory, but is surprisingly sweet and nutty.  Its has a long sour flavor, but this is given balance by a light nuttiness and fruity sweetness.  Stinking Bishop leaves a long smoky sour after-taste that encourages more eating.  The cheese has a creamy rich texture and excellent mouth feel.

Stinking Bishop split out tasters generationally.  The adults appreciated Stinking Bishop’s robust flavors, while the juvenile tasters struggled with its pungent odor and strong flavors.  Although we all liked this cheese, Stinking Bishop held more appeal with the adults.

Stinking Bishop is a good cheese for a special occasion or to share with family and friends; it is not a cheese to spring on an unsuspecting guest.  Its aroma may deter eating.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Stinking Bishop at Say Cheese (San Francisco).

Weybridge is a bright, pocket-sized cheese.  It has a tart flavor that is mild and appealing.  Its petite format and crisp flavor make it ideal for outdoor meals.

Weybridge is a farmstead cheese produced by Scholten Family Farm in Weybridge, VT.  It is a soft, bloomy rind cheese made from pasteurized cow’s milk.  The cheese is produced in a petite flat disc (or “medallion”) format.  It is aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill for 30 days before market.

weybridge-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Weybridge looks like a shrunken Camembert.  Its soft white rind is like a thickened skin; it is embedded with lines and wrinkles from the cheese’s production process and packaging.  The interior paste is buttery yellow, with a denser chalkier core.

Weybridge’s rind has a delicate mushroom aroma.  The interior has a light scent that is similar to Band-Aids.

Weybridge’s flavor is bright and straight-forward.  It has a tart and fresh citrus flavor.  The cheese’s denser core is more intensely tart than its creamier paste.  Weybridge leaves a mild sour after-taste.

Weybridge is an easy-to-please cheese.  It has mild flavors that are accessible, but unlikely to make a dramatic impact.  At our tasting, half of our tasters liked the cheese a lot and would purchase it again, while the others found it too bland.

Weybridge is an excellent cheese for a picnic: its compact format is easy to tote and it keeps shape out of refrigeration.  Its flavors evoke summer and would be a perfect compliment to an impromptu outdoor meal.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Weybridge at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  We quartered our petite, 5-oz. cheese into 4 servings.

Chimay: A Bitter Rejection

February 3, 2011

Chimay is an obnoxious cheese.  It is pungent and robust with a pasty thick texture that coats the tongue.  There is nothing subtle or nuanced about Chimay.  Our tasters are generally forgiving, but Chimay found no fans at our table.

Chimay is a semi-soft, beer-washed cheese made in Belgium at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont.  It is considered a classic example of a monastic washed rind cheese.  The monastery produces both beer and cheese under the Chimay name.  Once produced, the cheese is regularly washed with Chimay beer.  The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and produced in a wide, flat disk format.

chimay-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Chimay looks simple and rustic.  It has a crusty thick rind that is bright orange and tacky to the touch.  The interior paste is a deep lemon curd yellow.  The paste is springy and has small flat holes.

The cheese rind smells a bit like a brewery: its aroma is yeasty and smells of damp hops.  The rind also has a distinct ammonia scent.  The interior paste smells of baked crackers and toasted grain.

Chimay’s flavor is robust and lingers long after eating.  It has a brief sweet start, but this flavor is quickly overwhelmed by a smoky sourness.  The sour flavor is grapefruit-like and bitter; it is quite intense and lingers long in the mouth.  Chimay has a rich and thick texture that coats the tongue like peanut butter.

Chimay earned no fans during our tasting.  My kids rejected the cheese  as too bitter and sour.  One likened Chimay to a swallow of chlorine.  The grapefruit-like bitterness is intense and I achieved balance only by eating a super sweet pear.

The flavors of Chimay are more likely to appeal to adults than kids, yet even for adults, the bitter flavors of this cheese require off-plate management.

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