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.

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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.

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).

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).