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.
January 12, 2011
Montcabrer looks as if it has been charred by fire. While its jet black coat and ivory interior give it a black-tie-formal look, this cheese is more outdoor-casual. Montcabrer is a goat cheese that is easy to enjoy.
Montcabrer is a firm cheese from the Catalonia area of Spain. Josep Cuixart uses pasteurized goat’s milk to make Montcabrer. The cheese is finished with a vegetable oil bath and charcoal. Montcabrer is aged for 2-3 months before market.
Montcabrer has beautiful contrasting color. A deep black rind surrounds its cream interior. The rind has bright dashes of white surface molds. The rind is smooth to the touch but leaves a fine dust like dry ink on the fingers.
We anticipated Montcabrer to smell like a campfire, but its rind had familiar cheese scents of soil and mushrooms. The interior paste has a buttery aroma.
Montcabrer’s flavor is initially buttery and sweet, but it finishes sharply tangy. The cheese has a brief tangy after-taste and a chewy texture. The rind adds a strong mushroom flavor that we thought unappealing, so we ate around it.
We all liked Montcabrer. It held greater favor with those partial to goat’s milk cheeses, but its buttery creaminess made for an all-around appealing cheese. Montcabrer makes a nice cheese for snacking or to accompany a casual meal.
Although Montcabrer provides lovely visual contrast, we struggled to keep the rind’s black dust from smudging the cheese paste. Pre-cut portions would ensure the cheese is not overly handled and devoid of fingerprints.
Purchase Notes: We purchased Montcabrer at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).
October 11, 2010
Leonora is a tart goat cheese with an over-bearing rind. Without its rind, Leonora is a nice goat cheese with a lemon twist. Its rind adds flavor to the cheese that we found over-whelming and unappealing.
Leonora is a soft goat’s milk cheese made in Leon, Spain. It has a mold-ripened, bloomy rind that adds distinct character to the cheese. It is produced in a fat cylindrical shape; the whole cheese looks more like a small loaf of bread than a cheese.
Our sample of Leonora shows a cross-section slice of the whole cheese. The rind and the interior paste of the cheese are both snowy white, with a layer of gooey translucent paste separating the two. The paste has a delicate aroma like cottage cheese; the rind smells like juniper and minerals.
Leonora’s paste is pleasantly tart with an almost lemony flavor. The paste has a dense creamy consistency similar to chevre; it is creamy, smooth and easy to spread.
The rind adds a lot of flavor to the paste. The rind and translucent paste taste like raw wheat germ and herbal soap. These flavors overwhelm the lemony tartness of the paste and become dominant. A soapy gin flavor lasts on the tongue.
Without its rind, Leonora is a tart and clean goat cheese. We would not mind eating this cheese again without the rind. Yet, the rind is the most flavorful part of the cheese and gives Leonora character. We wish we liked the rind better; during our tasting, we found it too over-bearing.
Purchasing Notes: We purchased our Leonora at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco). Leonora continues to ripen as it ages, with the paste just under the rind becoming more gooey. My reference books on this cheese suggest that if the gooey part has reached a 1″ depth, the cheese is over-ripe.
September 22, 2010
Urgelia is a cheese that I had not heard of before our purchase, yet it seemed wholly familiar at the cheese counter. This cheese has the everyday appeal of Monterey Jack, with an appearance closer to Havarti. This Spanish cheese offers more interesting flavor than either of those American standards.
Urgelia is a washed rind, semi-soft cheese from the Catalan area of Northern Spain. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk. It is also sold as L’Alt Urgell or Urgell.
Urgelia has a hard, orange-brown rind that looks as if it has been coated in flour. The interior paste is butter yellow and has uneven holes. The rind smells sweet and peanutty. The paste’s aroma is milky. To the touch, Urgelia is spongy and a bit greasy.
Urgelia has a nice combination of flavors. It is nutty, yet also has a sour, bitter fruit flavor similar to grapefruit. The cheese finishes with a bitter fruit flavor that lingers lightly in the mouth. This cheese is smooth and creamy.
We all liked this cheese and would purchase it again. One of my juvenile tasters asked for the remainder of Urgelia for his lunchbox the next day. Urgelia would make a nice everyday cheese, or one for a picnic or a casual meal. There is nothing fancy about this cheese, but it is quite tasty and is relatively inexpensive.
Notes on purchasing: We purchased Urgelia at Whole Foods (San Francisco).
September 20, 2010
Iberico is an easy eater that practically screams everyday cheese. This popular Spanish cheese is the second mixed-milk cheese we have tasted. Iberico is not a splashy cheese, yet its nutty flavor and chewy texture make it an appealing go-to cheese for many occasions.
Iberico is a firm cheese made from a combination of raw cow, goat and sheep milks. The rind of Iberico is black, hard and patterned with herringbone. The interior paste is a pale creamy yellow with tiny irregular holes. The cheese has fresh aromas of meadow grass and butter.
Iberico has a mild nutty flavor. It also has the buttery richness found in sheep’s milk cheeses. It does not have a strong finish, but its nutty flavor lingers long in the mouth. Iberico has a chewy texture.
We all liked this cheese. I purchased a large chunk for our tasting and we ate all but a tiny sliver. Iberico does not overwhelm the senses, nor is it the kind of cheese that creates long memories. Yet its flavor and texture make it a versatile cheese. Iberico would make a nice cheese for everyday, a picnic, day-hikes, kid’s meals, and casual entertaining. This cheese can sit out of refrigeration without degradation for a long time.
Notes on purchasing: Our purchase source was Country Cheese Co. (San Francisco).
August 12, 2010
Manchego. Ho-hum, was my initial thought at the cheese shop. Too popular. Too available. Too boring. Yet, we wanted “something sweet” and Manchego fit the bill.
Manchego is widely produced in Spain with production in both pasteurized and raw milks. Our sample was made from raw milk.
Manchego is a light golden yellow, riddled with holes. The hard rind is embedded with a herringbone pattern. The interior surface is dimpled and firm to the touch.
This cheese smells slightly stinky, like a handful of daisies.
Manchego is a fruity cheese, tasting a bit like a dried plum or grape jam. It finishes with a soft nutty flavor. It leaves a mild nutty aftertaste. The texture of Manchego is creamy and slightly grainy (similar to, but not as grainy as, Piedmont).
We all liked Manchego. It’s a solid and satisfying sheep’s milk cheese. Perhaps it is a little boring, yet I would buy a raw milk version again. This cheese was similar in style to Piedmont, yet I found Piedmont more memorable in flavor and a cheese I would be more likely to return to versus Manchego.
July 15, 2010
Monte Enebro is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Spain. It is hand-made, formed into logs of about 12-16″ long, then covered in ash. Also in the rind is penicillium roqueforti, the cheese culture used in Roquefort production. The cheese is aged for 1-2 months.
Monte Enebro is a cheese of contrasts. For such a young cheese, it looks like an ancient stone. The interior of the cheese is snowy white and it darkens to beige near the rind. The exterior rind of the cheese is mottled, ashy, and shows colors of gray, black and brown.
Monte Enebro’s has an array of scents. Its rind smells moldy and musty like an attic. The ash rind also gives off a scent similar to post-campfire perfume.
The uneven surface texture of Monte Enebro contrasts with a smooth and soft interior. To the touch, Monte Enebro is a bit squishy. It holds up well under the knife, slicing neatly, and does not degrade out of refrigeration.
Monte Enebro should be eaten with the interior and the rind together. Without the rind, the interior of the cheese is extremely salty. The rind has a light blue cheese flavor that counters the saltiness of Monte Enebro’s interior, but does not completely balance the cheese. The consistency of the interior is creamy and smooth and has a nice mouth feel.
This is a cheese for those who appreciate complex flavors. Adults will enjoy the interesting contrasts in color, texture, aroma and flavor this cheese offers. The rind’s blue cheese flavor enhances the cheese and should not be avoided. Our adolescent tasters ignored the rind until encouraged to try it with the cheese’s interior; after his try, Jacob simulated death. He recovered to proclaim his immense dislike for the cheese.
Monte Enebro is an intriguing cheese that should not be treated casually. The cheese is so salty that it should be balanced by something sweet on the plate (perhaps fruit), or a sweet beverage. This is the kind of cheese that I would introduce to adult family and friends who appreciate complex flavors. Monte Enebro is not likely to appeal to everyone and definitely not to kids.