March 26, 2011
Pata Cabra is a quirky goat cheese. It has an intriguing flavor that we were challenged to describe, but had us thinking about meadow flowers. While Pata Cabra appealed to some of our tasters, its flavor and texture gave others pause.
Pata Cabra (also called Queso Patacabra) is a semi-soft cheese from the Aragon region of Spain. It is a washed rind cheese made with pasteurized goat’s milk. It is produced in a large brick format and aged for about 3 weeks before market.
The whole cheese resembles a loaf of rustic bread (our sample is a cross-wise slice of the loaf). Pata Cabra’s natural rind gives a golden crust-like skin to the cheese. The interior paste is milky white and has flat oval holes. To the touch, the cheese paste is greasy and springy.
Although this cheese is described elsewhere as pungent, our sample was aromatically tame (perhaps our cheese was young). Pata Cabra’s paste smells like melted butter and baked cheese crackers. The rind smells like cooked broccoli.
Pata Cabra has an interesting flavor. It has a light sour flavor and some tanginess that is similar to American sour cream, but neither flavor lingers. Pata Cabra’s more dominant flavor is buttery, sweet and floral. On the tongue, the cheese is thick and chewy.
Pata Cabra received mixed reviews. Our juvenile tasters both liked Pata Cabra, as it combined their love of semi-soft cheeses with a washed rind. Our adults tasters were less impressed with its “rubbery texture” and “cooked” flavor. Pata Cabra’s flavor is intriguing, yet it may not have universal appeal.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Pata Cabra from Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). Our slice was about .25-pounds.
March 20, 2011
Dallenwiler Wychas is a relatively mild and pleasant goat cheese. It is a friendly and approachable cheese with a sweet nutty flavor that should have broad appeal.
Dallenwiler Wychas is a firm cheese from the Oswalden region of Switzerland. It is made from pasteurized goat’s milk by Odermatt Kaserei. The cheese is produced in small chunky wheels that weigh under 2-pounds (800 grams). The cheese is washed daily with red wine during its 3-month maturation.
Dallenwiler Wychas looks like a goat cheese rolled in charcoal, but its hard rind is natural. Its dark gray and brown rind has a tight bubble pattern that gives it a rubber tread look. The cheese’s bone colored paste is marred with compressed holes. To the touch, the cheese is smooth and solid.
Dallenwiler Wychas’ interior paste has a pleasant scent of roasted nuts, but its rind smells of musty cellar, barnyard stink, and wet hay.
Dallenwiler Wychas’ flavor is sweet and nutty. It has a gentle tanginess at first, but is then predominantly sweet roasted nuts. It leaves a mild nutty after taste. The cheese has a chewy texture that is slightly rubbery. Although its rind is edible, it gives the cheese an unappealing chalkiness.
We all liked Dallenwiler Wychas a lot. We found the cheese’s sweet nutty flavor and chewy texture appealing. We polished off our entire purchase of this cheese during our tasting and my kids said it was their favorite cheese of the night. I would re-purchase this cheese again; it would make a good stand-alone cheese or would do well paired with other cheeses on a plate.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Dallenwiler Wychas at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). In 2011, I have seen this cheese irregularly at Cowgirl Creamery.
March 17, 2011
Ascutney Mountain is a delicious cheese that calls up comparisons to classic Swiss mountain cheeses. This US-made cheese is like a younger version of Appenzeller. It does not deliver Appenzeller’s concentrated flavor, but its flavors are similar and very accessible.
Ascutney Mountain is farmstead produced by Cobb Hill Cheese, Vermont. Cobb Hill is a farm-based community whose residents produce 2 cheeses along with other farm goods through cooperative enterprises. Ascutney Mountain is a firm cheese made from raw cow’s milk. The cheese is produced in 10-pound wheels and aged for at least 8 months before market.
Ascutney Mountain is a solid cheese with a natural nutmeg brown rind. The paste is deep yellow and darkens to golden brown near the rind. The cheese paste is marked with many irregular-shaped holes. To the touch, the paste is firm and slightly greasy.
Ascutney Mountain’s rind has a musty cellar scent; the paste smells like freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Ascutney Mountain tastes like a softer–or younger–Appenzeller. Ascutney Mountain has the tangy and nutty flavors of Appenzeller, yet they are less intense. Ascutney Mountain has sweet fruity and warm buttery flavors that balance its nutty tanginess. In the mouth, Ascutney Mountain has a chewy texture with crystallized granules that invite slow eating. After eating, a sour nuttiness lingers.
Ascutney Mountain was a big hit at our table. It is a lovely cheese with warm flavor and a nice texture. Interestingly, our juvenile tasters found Ascutney Mountain more accessible than Appenzeller. Like a good Swiss classic, Ascutney Mountain is easy to eat and needs no accompaniment.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Ascutney Mountain at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).
February 26, 2011
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 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.
February 24, 2011
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 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.
February 19, 2011
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.
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.
February 17, 2011
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 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).