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_cheese_by_cheesechatter_april_2011Hillis 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.

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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.

petit-agour-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011 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.