Berkswell is a cheese for savoring.  Its rustic appearance belies its complexity: each time we tasted this cheese, we detected new flavors.  Berkswell is not a cheese for haste.  It demands one’s attention, but is guaranteed to reward.

berkswell_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Berkswell is a firm sheep’s milk cheese from the West Midlands region of England.  It is farmstead produced at Ram Hall by the Fletcher family.  The cheese’s flying saucer shape is created by colanders used during its production.  Berkswell is aged for about 6 months before market.

Berkswell is a sunny, rustic cheese.  The colander forms used during the cheese’s production emboss the rind with a basket weave pattern.  Its natural orange-tan rind feels dry and rough.  Berkswell’s solid paste is lemon yellow, darkening to butterscotch near the rind.  The solid cheese paste is smooth and a bit greasy.

Berkswell has a warm, pleasant aroma.  Its rind smells like straw and cellar.  Its interior paste smells like parmesan.

Berkswell is a full-flavored and rich cheese.  Its flavors are nutty, buttery, sweet and salty.  It has a lovely salted caramel flavor that is buttery, sweet and salty.  Berkswell’s nutty flavor is like a light parmesan; it intensifies towards the finish.  Berkswell ends with a light fruity sweetness and leaves a long butterscotch after-taste.  Berkswell’s texture is chewy and grainy.  The cheese feels rich and fatty in the mouth.

Berkswell is a cheese for slow savoring.  At first blush, Berkswell seems like a straight-forward cheese, but its flavors are complex and demand slow eating.  With its rich and fatty mouth feel, a little of this cheese goes a long way.

We all liked Berkswell, but San Francisco’s weather created havoc with our appreciation.  We tasted Berkswell on an unusually hot summer-like day in Spring.  The cheese’s fatty mouth feel created a heavy impression on the palate; Berkswell would be well-served by a good beverage pairing to cut its richness.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Berkswell at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco, CA).

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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_cheese_by_cheesechatter_march_2011Ascutney 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).

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-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Winnimere 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.

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.

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).

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).