May 3, 2011
Bijou is an excellent cheese. One might snicker–as did my husband–at this goat cheese’s diminutive size. Yet what petite Bijou lacks in size, it makes up for in flavor. This American-made gem is one of the best goat cheeses we have tasted. It is very rewarding and should not be missed.
Bijou is a soft-to-semi-soft cheese produced by Vermont Butter & Cheese Co., in Vermont. Bijou is made from pasteurized goat’s milk and matures for approximately 2 weeks before market. Bijou is produced in a petite cylinder format. Vermont Butter & Cheese delivers Bijou pre-packaged in a 2-cheese “micro-cave” that promotes ripening.
Bijou is a tiny crottin-style cheese plug. Its deeply wrinkled rind has a buttery cream color. The interior paste has a milky white core that is dense like clay. The core is surrounded by a more translucent buttery paste that has a consistency similar to its core.
Bijou’s aroma is farmy: it smells of fresh cut grass, honeycomb, and barnyard.
Bijou is robust and goaty, with a texture that invites savoring. Its flavors are direct, tangy and lemony tart. It has a nice, underlying beeswax sweetness that balances its tart flavor. Bijou’s pasty texture coats the tongue with flavor and encourages slow eating.
We loved Bijou! It is one of the best goat cheeses we have tasted–American or French. Bijou’s punch of flavor and goaty aroma reminded us of good French goat cheese. Bijou is an excellent cheese and one that we look forward to sharing. Its intimate size makes it a good choice for a small gathering.
Bijou behaves beautifully out of refrigeration; we left our cheese out for over an hour and it did not degrade. Bijou is a cheese to linger over and savor. I would consider it for a picnic if carefully packaged.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Bijou at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). The cheese is sold whole in a 2-oz. petite size. We purchased two cheeses in a “micro-cave” package for 4-5 servings.
April 16, 2011
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 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.
April 10, 2011
Hillis Peak is a goat cheese that stretches one’s imagination. If chevre occupies one end of the goat cheese spectrum, Hillis Peak would anchor the other end. This cheese has intriguing flavor, nice texture and a lovely appearance. Hillis Peak satisfies as a stand-alone cheese.
Hillis Peak is a semi-firm cheese, farmstead produced by Pholia Farms in Rogue River, Oregon. It is a washed curd cheese, produced from raw goat’s milk. The cheese is produced in small, 2.5-pound drums. During its 6-7 month maturation, the cheese’s rind is rubbed with oil and Spanish paprika.
Hillis Peak is a lovely cheese. Its rusty rind has a deep chevron pattern across its top and bottom, while its sides have a shallow diamond emboss. The rust brown rind is separated from the paste by a thin layer of bright orange paprika. Hillis Peak’s ivory paste is smooth, solid and dry to the touch.
Hillis Peak has nice aroma. Its rind smells of mineral water, ground corn, and cellar. The interior paste smells like melted butter with a light popcorn scent.
Hillis Peak has varied flavors. Its flavor starts with a roasted sweet corn flavor, but its sweetness turns almost jammy. Hillis Peak also has warm buttery and toasted nut flavors. The cheese finishes with a light nuttiness. Hillis Peak leaves a mildly nutty aftertaste that has a distinctive goaty flavor. Although the rind is natural, it tastes like soil and detracts from the cheese; the paste nearest the rind also has more cellar-like flavors that are not appealing. Its texture is a bit dry and chewy.
Hillis Peak is a fun cheese. For a goat cheese, it offers a lot of flavor complexity. During our tasting, we enjoyed identifying its interesting flavors. Hillis Peak makes a fantastic snacking cheese and is perfect on its own. Yet, it is so rewarding and visually appealing that it deserves a spot on a cheese plate.
A serving note: Hillis Peak’s rind sheds orange dust that can migrate to the cheese paste if not handled with care.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Hillis Peak at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). Pholia Farms makes their cheese in small production, so expect irregular availability.
April 1, 2011
Coupole is a cheese of pure delight. This cheese has it all: great flavor, lovely texture, and visual beauty. Coupole is one of the best goat cheeses we have tasted. Fair warning: we found this cheese addictive and difficult to stop eating.
Coupole is a soft, aged goat cheese produced by Vermont Creamery in Vermont. It is produced with pasteurized goat’s milk in a small dome format. The cheese is sprinkled with ash then matured for 45 days before release. Vermont Creamery delivers Coupole to market pre-packaged in individual wooden crates.
Coupole looks like a wrinkled snow ball. It has a deeply wrinkled rind similar to Langres. Coupole’s rind has a sunny tint and is velvety to the touch. The milk-white interior paste is dense but not chalky. Just beneath its rind, Coupole has a silky translucent layer of paste that looks like buttercream icing.
Coupole has a pleasant goaty aroma. Its rind smells musty with hints of beeswax and daisies. The interior paste has a more defined honey-like scent.
Coupole is a full-flavored goat cheese with sweet and sour contrast. The denser core of the cheese has a light honey flavor. The translucent paste is sour, but more milky sour than citrus sour. Coupole’s texture is thick, pasty, and buttery. Coupole leaves a mild aftertaste.
Coupole is a superb cheese. It is one of the best American-made goat cheeses we have tasted. Coupole offers fantastic flavor, a rich texture, and a beautiful appearance. During our tasting, I saved Coupole to the end–much like I did as a child with the best parts of my birthday cake–so that I could savor its flavors and texture more fully. Coupole is destined for regular purchase.
Coupole’s sweetness suggests dessert, but I would purchase it for any occasion. Coupole becomes creamier when out of refrigeration, but retains its dome shape. Even when cut into, Coupole keeps its form. Coupole should be a top consideration for a cheese plate.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Coupole at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). We purchased a whole 6.5-oz. cheese (about 5-6 servings), pre-packaged in a balsa wood box. The box can be pulled apart for clean removal of the cheese.
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.
January 26, 2011
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 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).