Estero Gold is a cheese with charms so subtle, they can be easily missed.  During our tasting, we found Estero Gold’s flavors pleasant, yet too laid back to command our attention.  Estero Gold’s casualness is part of its charm, but it does not make a compelling cheese.

estero_gold_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Estero Gold is a firm cheese, farmstead produced locally by Valley Ford Cheese Co. in Valley Ford, California.  It is made from raw cow’s milk and is inspired by Swiss Italian cheeses.  Estero Gold is aged for approximately 4 months before market.

Estero Gold has a rich spun-gold appearance.   The interior paste is deep golden yellow flecked with small holes.  Estero Gold has a natural golden rind that shows impressions and folds from what appears to be a cloth wrap.  Both the rind and paste are smooth and solid to the touch.

Estero Gold has a delicious aroma of melted butter and cheese.

Estero Gold has subtle flavors that are relatively mild and reminiscent of melted Asiago.  It begins with a buttery rich flavor and finishes with a light nuttiness.  The nuttiness has a little prickliness to it that may cause a tingling sensation in the mouth.  It has a little milky sourness, but this flavor is not pronounced.  Estero Gold has a firm chewy texture and leaves a long mildy nutty after-taste.

We thought Estero Gold a pleasant cheese, but its flavors were too subtle to hold our attention.  My juvenile tasters found Estero Gold too acidic in the mouth; both complained of “mouth prickles.”  While Estero Gold did not have strong enough flavor to make it a compelling snacker, we thought it would make a good melting cheese (Valley Ford Cheese Co. suggests Estero Gold is good for this purpose).

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Estero Gold at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

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.

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.

It’s December and with holiday parties in full swing, many folks are assembling cheese plate indulgences to entertain their guests.  We are no exception.

Many people cannot justify the expense of  “fancy cheese” unless there is a special occasion or party.  Unfortunately, the go-to party cheese is often brie, but unless one gets a good brie (see Brie le Chatelain), most versions available in the US are weak copies of the classic.  These cheeses can also be messy and prone to collapse.

Not sure what to buy?  Get an artisanal cheese made in the US.

This past weekend, we  had a party to celebrate my son becoming a bar mitzvah.  My 13-year-old gave me a list of his favorite cheeses:

  • Mt. Tam by Cowgirl Creamery (California)
  • Red Hawk by Cowgirl Creamery (California)
  • Humboldt Fog by Cypress Grove (California)
  • Grayson by Meadow Creek Dairy (Virginia)
  • Wabash Cannonball by Capriole Farmstead Goat Cheese (Indiana)

These cheeses are all soft, creamy, and easy spreaders.  My son  loves chevre and triple cream cheeses, so his selections reflect these passions.  His list does not offer a lot of variation in texture or style, but these 5 cheeses are all delicious, easy to eat and certain to please a crowd.  Any one of these cheeses is likely to be a big hit at a party.

Availability may be the biggest hurdle to sharing these cheeses with family and friends.  Unfortunately for us, Wabash Cannonball was not available so we missed sharing it this time.

Bodacious: A Bumpy Tasting

December 8, 2010

We were all set to fall in love with Bodacious, especially after our recent experience with Bohemian Creamery’s Bo Peep.  Alas, our experience with Bodacious was not as smooth, and I suspect that we took home a cheese that was past its prime.  This is frustrating, because I sampled a healthy cheese at the cheese shop.

Bodacious is a fresh goat’s milk cheese produced by Bohemian Creamery in Sonoma County, California.  The cheese is produced in a wide flattened dome that suggests a miniature white volcano.

Bodacious looks like the top of a lemon meringue pie.  Its surface shows smooth white ridges and valleys, with light tan highlights.  The cheese’s interior paste is snowy white and fluffy.  The rind is velvety soft to the touch.  The underside of the cheese feels soft and wet.

Bodacious’s rind has a perfume like cooked cabbage, but the interior paste smells grassy and buttery.  The interior paste has a soft and airy texture like ricotta.

Bodacious’s flavor is sour and tangy.  The cheese is not tart like a classic chevre, but tastes more like a hyper-tangy plain yogurt.  Unfortunately, our cheese sample had an underlying bitterness reminiscent of green leafy vegetables; this bitter flavor lingered long in the mouth.  The rind’s flavor amplified the bitterness of the cheese.

So what happened? The Bodacious I tasted at the cheese counter was sharply tangy whereas the sample we took home was bitter and difficult to eat.  I do not think the sample we took home was representative of Bodacious’ optimal flavor, yet it is the sample we evaluated.  We look forward to a better purchasing experience next time.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Bodacious at Cheese Plus (San Francisco).  We purchased half of a whole cheese; it weighed approximately 4 oz.

Eureka!  We just discovered Bo Peep cheese, a local gem made in Sonoma County.  We like finding cheeses made in Northern California, yet were unaware of Bohemian Creamery’s cheeses.  Bo Peep is our first cheese from this producer and we were not disappointed.  Bo Peep is an accessible and addictive cheese.  It won a household of fans and put Bohemian Creamery on our radar for future purchases.

Bo Peep is a soft-to-semi-soft cheese made from a combination of cow’s and sheep’s milk. It is hand-crafted by Bohemian Creamery in Sonoma County, California. Bo Peep is aged for 2 months before market. It is produced in a small flat disc format, about the same size as Camembert.

Bo PeepBo Peep looks rustic and musty. It has a rigid brown rind that is covered with gray and white surface molds. To the touch, the rind feels dry and powdery. The interior paste is pale yellow like the inside of a banana. The paste does not have any holes or fissures;  it is somewhat gooey and slightly tacky to the touch.

Bo Peep’s rind smells slightly musty, yet the cheese’s more dominant scent of melted butter comes from its paste.

Bo Peep has a sour citrus flavor, followed by tangy and nutty flavors.  It leaves a sour lemon and light nutty after-taste on the tongue.  Bo Peep’s paste has a velvety texture that coats the tongue. The natural rind can be eaten; it adds a contrasting chewy texture and some tasty mold flavors to the cheese (we opted not to eat the rind).

We all liked Bo Peep.  I would purchase this cheese again without hesitation, and would enjoy introducing Bo Peep to friends, family and visitors. Although our sample became a bit gooey out of refrigeration, the rigid rind keeps the cheese paste contained.  Bo Peep would be a good cheese for eating anytime.  It would also mix well with other cheeses on a party plate.

Purchase Notes: We purchased Bo Peep from Cheese Plus (San Francisco).

Foggy Morning is is like San Francisco fog: soft, light and barely there.  Its lightness is well-suited to accompany summer meals and breakfast. This cheese got us talking about foods that would taste better with a bit of Foggy Morning.

Foggy Morning is a fresh pasteurized cow’s milk cheese.  It is farmstead produced by Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. in Marin County (California).  It is  produced in a small cylinder format. (Our photo shows half of a whole cheese).
Foggy Morning

Foggy Morning is marshmallow white.  Its exterior surface showed some specks of bright pink surface molds.  To the touch, the cheese is damp and spongy.  Its aroma is fresh and milky.

Foggy Morning is very mild.  It has a light sour flavor that is similar to cottage cheese.  It does not have much depth or variation in its flavor.  Its texture is light and soft.

We liked Foggy Morning’s light flavor and soft texture.  My kids really liked its mildness (one noted that it would be good for babies).  We ate it with classic baguette but thought it would do better mixed with fruit, vegetables, or herbs. This is not a cheese that would be good paired with other cheeses, as its mildness is likely to get over-shadowed by the others.

Purchase Notes:  We found Foggy Morning at Mollie Stone’s (San Francisco); we purchased a whole cheese.  It’s small size can be divided into 8 servings.