Hyku is like a breath of summer–eating it makes me long for warm sunny days.  This goat cheese is bright and mild.  Yet it is Hyku’s fluffy, mousse-like texture that makes a lasting impression.  Hyku’s light flavor and airy texture would make a good compliment to a summer meal.

hyku_goat_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Hyku is a soft goat’s milk cheese produced by Goat’s Leap in Napa Valley, California.  It is made with pasteurized milk and has a mold-ripened rind.  Hyku is produced in a small 6-oz. cylinder format and is aged approximately 6 weeks before market.

Hyku looks like a gourmet marshmallow wrapped in a wonton skin.  Its white bloomy rind is folded and creased, giving it a paper-wrapped look.  To the touch, its rind is soft and downy.  The interior paste is brilliant white and looks dense and chalky.  Just under the rind, Hyku has a whisper thin translucent layer of paste the consistency of thickened cream.

Hyku has very mild aroma, with hints of flowers and pool water.

Hyku has mild flavor and a delightful texture.  Its flavor is like a tart cottage cheese, with more saltiness and some bright citrus flavors.  Hyku has a knock-out texture that is so light and fluffy it feels whipped.  The paste is very moist and creamy.

The soft, fluffy mouth feel of the interior paste is superb, but the rind feels like a thickened piece of skin and creates an unappealing contrast.  We all ate around the rind because its texture detracted from the cheese.

We all liked Hyku.  It has an airy quality that seems well-suited to warm weather and light meals.  I would definitely purchase this cheese again. However, I’d give some consideration to Hyku’s rind before sharing this cheese.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Hyku at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). Availability may be seasonal.  We divided our whole cheese into 8 servings.

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Hillis Peak is a goat cheese that stretches one’s imagination.  If chevre occupies one end of the goat cheese spectrum, Hillis Peak would anchor the other end.  This cheese has intriguing flavor, nice texture and a lovely appearance.  Hillis Peak satisfies as a stand-alone cheese.

hillis_peak_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Hillis Peak is a semi-firm cheese, farmstead produced by Pholia Farms in Rogue River, Oregon.  It is a washed curd cheese, produced from raw goat’s milk.  The cheese is produced in small, 2.5-pound drums.  During its 6-7 month maturation, the cheese’s rind is rubbed with oil and Spanish paprika.

Hillis Peak is a lovely cheese.  Its rusty rind has a deep chevron pattern across its top and bottom, while its sides have a shallow diamond emboss.  The rust brown rind is separated from the paste by a thin layer of bright orange paprika.  Hillis Peak’s ivory paste is smooth, solid and dry to the touch.

Hillis Peak has nice aroma.  Its rind smells of mineral water, ground corn, and cellar.  The interior paste smells like melted butter with a light popcorn scent.

Hillis Peak has varied flavors.  Its flavor starts with a roasted sweet corn flavor, but its sweetness turns almost jammy.  Hillis Peak also has warm buttery and toasted nut flavors.  The cheese finishes with a light nuttiness.  Hillis Peak leaves a mildly nutty aftertaste that has a distinctive goaty flavor.  Although the rind is natural, it tastes like soil and detracts from the cheese; the paste nearest the rind also has more cellar-like flavors that are not appealing.  Its texture is a bit dry and chewy.

Hillis Peak is a fun cheese.  For a goat cheese, it offers a lot of flavor complexity.  During our tasting, we enjoyed identifying its interesting flavors.  Hillis Peak makes a fantastic snacking cheese and is perfect on its own.  Yet, it is so rewarding and visually appealing that it deserves a spot on a cheese plate.

A serving note: Hillis Peak’s rind sheds orange dust that can migrate to the cheese paste if not handled with care.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Hillis Peak at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  Pholia Farms makes their cheese in small production, so expect irregular availability.

Coupole is a cheese of pure delight.  This cheese has it all: great flavor, lovely texture, and visual beauty.  Coupole is one of the best goat cheeses we have tasted.  Fair warning: we found this cheese addictive and difficult to stop eating.

coupole_goat_cheese_by_cheesechatter_March_2011Coupole is a soft, aged goat cheese produced by Vermont Creamery in Vermont.  It is produced with pasteurized goat’s milk in a small dome format.  The cheese is sprinkled with ash then matured for 45 days before release.  Vermont Creamery delivers Coupole to market pre-packaged in individual wooden crates.

Coupole looks like a wrinkled snow ball.  It has a deeply wrinkled rind similar to Langres.  Coupole’s rind has a sunny tint and is velvety to the touch.  The milk-white interior paste is dense but not chalky.  Just beneath its rind, Coupole has a silky translucent layer of paste that looks like buttercream icing.

Coupole has a pleasant goaty aroma.  Its rind smells musty with hints of beeswax and daisies.  The interior paste has a more defined honey-like scent.

Coupole is a full-flavored goat cheese with sweet and sour contrast.  The denser core of the cheese has a light honey flavor.  The translucent paste is sour, but more milky sour than citrus sour.  Coupole’s texture is thick, pasty, and buttery.  Coupole leaves a mild aftertaste.

Coupole is a superb cheese.  It is one of the best American-made goat cheeses we have tasted.  Coupole offers fantastic flavor, a rich texture, and a beautiful appearance.  During our tasting, I saved Coupole to the end–much like I did as a child with the best parts of my birthday cake–so that I could savor its flavors and texture more fully.  Coupole is destined for regular purchase.

Coupole’s sweetness suggests dessert, but I would purchase it for any occasion.  Coupole becomes creamier when out of refrigeration, but retains its dome shape.  Even when cut into, Coupole keeps its form.  Coupole should be a top consideration for a cheese plate.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Coupole at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).  We purchased a whole 6.5-oz. cheese (about 5-6 servings), pre-packaged in a balsa wood box.  The box can be pulled apart for clean removal of the cheese.

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.

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.

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).