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).

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.

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.

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Sofia may be the ugly duckling of the cheese world.  To judge by our sample, Sofia looks like something retrieved from my compost bin.  Yet if one looks beneath Sofia’s scraggly skin of dark ash and gray-green mold, one discovers a beautiful swan: Sofia is a lovely white goat cheese that is delicious.

sofia-goat-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatterSofia is a young goat cheese produced by Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese in Indiana.  It is a chevre-style cheese that has an elongated pyramid format.  The cheese is covered with vegetable ash and has an additional ash layer running horizontally through its middle.  It is aged for one week before market.

Sofia has a rind like the skin of a burnt marshmallow that slides around on its interior when touched.  The rind is heavily wrinkled and ashy, with patches of green surface molds.

The cheese paste is dense and creamy, with a thin translucent paste just beneath the rind.  As our sample sat of refrigeration, the translucent paste mixed with the rind’s ash and created an inky ooze.  My son said Sofia looked like a white squid with a burst ink sac.

Sofia’s flavor is sharply tangy.   The cheese paste has a creamy, yet dense texture.  The translucent paste near the rind has a biting flavor similar to that in blue cheese.  Sofia’s rind was so angry looking and showed evidence of green mold, that we avoided eating it.

Sofia is an excellent goat cheese.  This cheese reminded us a lot of Humboldt Fog, but we thought Sofia saltier and lacking the sweetness imparted from the vegetable ash.

The only problem we had with Sofia was it appearance.  Our sample of Sofia degraded quite a bit when out of refrigeration.  The translucent paste’s turn into an inky ooze was unattractive and is not something I’d serve guests.  Sofia’s appearance did not deter us from our enjoyment, however, and I would definitely purchase this cheese again.

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

Rush Creek Reserve is an intriguing cheese that begs to be shared.  The cheese is a beautiful coral color, encircled by a rustic bark band.  Rush Creek Reserve’s spruce band is not purely decorative: it gives structure, flavor, and perfume to the cheese.  I mistakenly purchased half a whole cheese and it softened into a puddle out of refrigeration.  This is a cheese that calls for friends and spoons.

Rush Creek Reserve is a recent cheese from Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin, released in 2010.  They also make the much-awarded Pleasant Ridge Reserve; Rush Creek Reserve is the first new cheese from Uplands Cheese Company in 10 years.

rush-creek-reserve-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatter

Rush Creek Reserve is made from raw cow’s milk, has a washed rind and is aged for 60 days before market.  It is a soft cheese that turns soupy when out of refrigeration, similar to Epoisses.  It is produced in a small flat cylinder and is banded with a spruce bark ring.  The bark band contains the cheese as it softens and becomes runny.

The bark band looks like an old leather book spine.  It smells like a wet forest: damp and crisp with an odor of decay.

The coral peach rind is a soft skin that hovers over the paste.  The rind has clusters of white surface molds like barnacle colonies on a rock.  The interior paste is golden yellow and has an inviting aroma like baked cheese bread.

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Lingot du Quercy offers another trip to the wonderland of French goat cheese.  Lingot du Quercy is a robustly flavored cheese with a rich texture that we found addictive.

Lingot du Quercy is produced by a small group of farms near Quercy in southwestern France.  The cheese is hand-made with pasteurized goat’s milk.  Lingot du Quercy has a distinctive flat bar-shaped format that suggests a gold ingot.

Lingot du Quercy has a gentle golden cast on its rind and paste, but is otherwise creamy white.  Its damp rind is heavily wrinkled like a prune.  Beneath the rind, the interior paste becomes gooey and translucent.  At the center of the cheese, the paste is dense and cakey. Lingot du Quercy smells of animals, milk and grass.

This cheese has intense flavor.  Lingot du Quercy has the familiar tanginess of goat cheese and also an intense sour flavor.  Its flavors are rich and linger.  Its texture is also exceptional: the dense paste is thick like peanut butter, while the gooey paste has a consistency similar to a triple cream cheese.

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Serra da Estrela is not a meek cheese.  It announces itself with an intense aroma, follows with a flavor to match, and creates a lazy mess on one’s plate.  My son who loves washed rind stinkers picked this one out at the cheese shop and pronounced it delicious.

Serra da Estrela carries the name of the region in Portugal where it is produced.  This region is the highest area of Continental Portugal and is home to shepherds and their sheep.  Serra da Estrela is hand made at farmhouses from a 2,000-year-old recipe that uses raw sheep’s milk, cardoon thistle and salt.  The cheese is produced in a short cylindrical format.

Serra da Estrela has a smooth and greasy rind.  The rind is golden yellow with red-orange bruises.  The cheese’s interior paste looks like vanilla pudding.  To the touch, the paste is wet, sticky and clings to one’s fingers like glue.

Serra da Estrela has an intense aroma that is similar to a toddler’s feet: stinky, but sweet.

The cheese is sweet with a fruity flavor profile.  Serra da Estrela has some tangy and salty flavors, but these are over-shadowed by its sour fruitiness.  The cheese also has an underlying sweetness.  The cheese’s flavors are rich and intense and they linger in the mouth long after eating.  On the tongue, Serra da Estrela’s is thick, smooth and pasty.

Serra da Estrela is an intense, rich and flavorful cheese.  We all liked this cheese, but a little of this cheese goes a long way.

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