Stinking Bishop is an unforgettable cheese.  Long after eating, its robust flavors linger in the mouth and its stinky perfume clings to one’s fingers.  Stinking Bishop is a delicious stinker, but one has to ignore its odor to enjoy this fine cheese.

Stinking Bishop is a soft cow’s milk cheese produced by Laurel Farm in Gloucestershire, England.  During its production, Stinking Bishop’s curds are washed with a locally produced pear cider (called perry) before the cheese is placed into molds.  As they mature, whole cheeses are dipped in perry every few weeks.  The cheese is aged for up to 2 months before market.

stinking-bishop-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Stinking Bishop has the soft pastel colors of Spring.  The exterior rind is melon orange with tints of rose and yellow.  The rind has a tight grid pattern and is tacky to the touch.  The interior paste is creamy and the color of banana cream pie.  The paste has many irregular shaped holes; it is pliable and gluey.

Stinking Bishop has a reputation as a super stinker: it is much deserved.  Stinking Bishop has a pungent odor that is off-putting.  My kids likened the rind’s aroma to a cow’s posterior.  The interior paste smells wheaty, like freshly baked bread.

Stinking Bishop is distinctly savory, but is surprisingly sweet and nutty.  Its has a long sour flavor, but this is given balance by a light nuttiness and fruity sweetness.  Stinking Bishop leaves a long smoky sour after-taste that encourages more eating.  The cheese has a creamy rich texture and excellent mouth feel.

Stinking Bishop split out tasters generationally.  The adults appreciated Stinking Bishop’s robust flavors, while the juvenile tasters struggled with its pungent odor and strong flavors.  Although we all liked this cheese, Stinking Bishop held more appeal with the adults.

Stinking Bishop is a good cheese for a special occasion or to share with family and friends; it is not a cheese to spring on an unsuspecting guest.  Its aroma may deter eating.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Stinking Bishop at Say Cheese (San Francisco).


Chimay: A Bitter Rejection

February 3, 2011

Chimay is an obnoxious cheese.  It is pungent and robust with a pasty thick texture that coats the tongue.  There is nothing subtle or nuanced about Chimay.  Our tasters are generally forgiving, but Chimay found no fans at our table.

Chimay is a semi-soft, beer-washed cheese made in Belgium at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont.  It is considered a classic example of a monastic washed rind cheese.  The monastery produces both beer and cheese under the Chimay name.  Once produced, the cheese is regularly washed with Chimay beer.  The cheese is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and produced in a wide, flat disk format.

chimay-cheese-by-cheesechatter-february-2011Chimay looks simple and rustic.  It has a crusty thick rind that is bright orange and tacky to the touch.  The interior paste is a deep lemon curd yellow.  The paste is springy and has small flat holes.

The cheese rind smells a bit like a brewery: its aroma is yeasty and smells of damp hops.  The rind also has a distinct ammonia scent.  The interior paste smells of baked crackers and toasted grain.

Chimay’s flavor is robust and lingers long after eating.  It has a brief sweet start, but this flavor is quickly overwhelmed by a smoky sourness.  The sour flavor is grapefruit-like and bitter; it is quite intense and lingers long in the mouth.  Chimay has a rich and thick texture that coats the tongue like peanut butter.

Chimay earned no fans during our tasting.  My kids rejected the cheese  as too bitter and sour.  One likened Chimay to a swallow of chlorine.  The grapefruit-like bitterness is intense and I achieved balance only by eating a super sweet pear.

The flavors of Chimay are more likely to appeal to adults than kids, yet even for adults, the bitter flavors of this cheese require off-plate management.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Chimay at The Cheese Board (Berkeley, CA).

Ocooch Mountain is a big cheese.  It is pungent, rich, fruity and intensely nutty.  Ocooch Mountain is not subtle and is not recommended for beginners.  Yet for the willing and adventurous, Ocooch Mountain is memorable.

Ocooch Mountain is a raw sheep’s milk cheese, farmstead produced by Hidden Springs Creamery of Wisconsin.  It is a firm cheese and has a washed rind.  The cheese is produced in small, 2-pound rounds and is aged for 3-4 months before market.

ocooch-mountain-cheese-by-cheesechatter-january-2011Ocooch Mountain looks calm enough.  It has a natural, orange-brown rind that shows some surface scars.  Its dull blonde paste deepens to golden brown near the rind.  The interior paste is riddled with holes of varying sizes.  To the touch, the paste is smooth and greasy.  When left out of refrigeration, the rind’s surface becomes tacky.

Ocooch Mountain has a strong perfume.  On the rind, there are scents of  hot rubber, musty old books, decayed flowers, and sweaty socks.  The cheese paste smells like beeswax, daisies, cheese and berries.

Ocooch Mountain has rich flavor.  It is very fruity and intensely nutty.  There is an underlying smokiness that helps to provide balance.  Its natural rind also mellows the cheese’s intense nuttiness.  Its fruity rich flavors and nuttiness linger long in the mouth after eating.  Ocooch Mountain has a chewy texture.

Ocooch Mountain’s fruity rich flavor reminded us of  Serra da Estrela, the soft sheep’s milk cheese from the Portugese mountains. We all liked this cheese, but its nutty tanginess was too intense for one of my juvenile tasters.

Ocooch Mountain is a sensational cheese.  Its flavors are distinctive and memorable.  Although this cheese may not appeal to everyone, it would be fun to share it with adventurous family and friends.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased Ocooch Mountain at Cowgirl Creamery (San Francisco).

Edwin’s Munster is a cheese for those who like their cheeses robust and pungent.  I loved this cheese and once again, regretted purchasing only half of a whole cheese.  Edwin’s Munster is a memorable cheese and one I would enjoy sharing with family and friends.

Edwin’s Munster is a soft cow’s milk cheese with a washed rind.  Most people associate Munster with the Alsace region of France, but this version is produced in Austria by Edwin Berchtold.  Edwin’s Munster is produced in a flat cylindrical format; a whole cheese is a bit larger than a standard camembert (our photo shows half of a whole cheese).

edwins-munster-cheese-december-2010-by-cheesechatterEdwin’s Munster has a thin pale apricot rind.  The rind has light scoring across its surface and some white surface molds.  The interior paste is light golden yellow, with small compressed holes.

When first unwrapped, Edwin’s Munster has a cooked cauliflower scent.  However, its aroma opens up out of refrigeration and changes into old sour milk then foot odor.  When held under the nose, the rind has a mild ammonia odor.

To the touch, Edwin’s Munster is springy and sticky.

Edwin’s Munster has a robust flavor that is smoky and sour.  The sourness dominates and is similar to a grapefruit.  A salty sourness remains in the mouth long after eating.  Edwin’s Munster has rich mouth feel, with a thick and pasty texture.  One of our juvenile tasters aptly described its flavor as “smoky Taleggio.”

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Gabietou generated a lot of passion at our table, but not all of it was positive.  Gabietou is not for the wishy-washy: one either likes it or one does not.  We are usually pretty forgiving about cheese, but Gabietou was divisive.

Gabietou comes from Pau in the Pyrenees region of France.  It is a semi-soft cheese made with a blend of raw cow and sheep milks.  The cheese is aged for 3-5 months, during which time the rind is washed with a water and salt brine.  Gabietou has slightly different maturation processes, depending on its affineur (Gabietou may also carry the names of affineurs Herve Mons or Jean d’Alos).

Gabietou has a light orange-tan rind that is smooth and tacky.  The rind has flecks of gray and white surface molds.  The interior paste is pale yellow and populated with small flat holes.   To the touch, the paste is smooth and springy.

Gabietou has an offensive odor that is detectable when it is held close to the nose.   The rind’s perfume calls to mind cigar smoke, week-old socks and our dog’s breath after she has munched another animal’s feces.  The paste smells like daises.

Gabietou has robust flavor that is balanced by an underlying sour fruitiness.  Gabietou has smokey, sour and sweet peanut flavors.   The sweet nutty flavor intensifies in the paste nearer the rind.  After eating, a nutty sourness lingers on the tongue.  Gabietou’s texture is rich and thick in the mouth.

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Epoisses: A Cheese for Kings

November 18, 2010

Epoisses is a traditional French cheese that is said to have been loved by kings and Napoleon.  We, too, fell in love with this cheese’s flavor during our tasting.  However, its soupy consistency created a serving nightmare.

Epoisses is a soft, washed rind cheese from the Burgundy region of France.    There are several producers of Epoisses, with some using raw cow’s milk for production.  Our sample was produced by Berthaut.  The cheese’s finishing process occurs over several weeks: it receives repeated dips in a brine bath and a brandy called “marc de bourgogne.”  Epoisses comes to market pre-packaged in a wooden box.

EpoissesEpoisses is a flat disc the size of camembert.  It has a rusty orange rind that is grooved with lines and wrinkles; the rind is soft and gummy to the touch.  The interior paste is pale yellow and runny.  Jacob compared the texture of Epoisses to “ooblek,” a sticky goo kids make at summer camps.

Epoisses has a reputation as a super stinker, but our cheese was not foul.  Epoisses has an aroma that is close to a light foot odor, but there are also ammonia and wheat germ scents.  The paste smells like sweet butter and cream.

The dominant flavors are sour and tangy.  There is also a little nuttiness and an underlying sweet butter flavor.  In the mouth, the paste is thick, rich and creamy.  The flavors and texture are enticing.  Epoisses leaves a sour and tangy after-taste in the mouth.

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St. Maure de Touraine is a cheese with bones.  This cheese has been in produced in the Loire Valley of France for over a thousand years.  St. Maure is still made using traditional methods and is one of the region’s “classic” chevre cheeses.  St. Maure is an easy cheese to fall in love with, even if one is not partial to chevre-style cheeses.

St. Maure is a semi-soft goat’s milk cheese.  It has an unusual appearance: St. Maure is produced in small logs about 6″ long and is covered in ash.  A narrow damp straw runs the length of the log through its center.  The straw helps to keep the cheese together and also aids the ripening process.

St.Maure de Touraine St. Maure looks like a charred marshmallow.  It has a cloud white interior, with an ash-gray rind.  The rind is more a thin skin–like a roasted marshmallow’s skin–that is easily separated from the interior’s denser paste.  St. Maure has a creamy layer just beneath the rind.   The central straw is easy to remove and leaves a small piercing.  To the touch, the rind feels delicate and dry; the paste feels like damp clay.

When St. Maure is first unwrapped, it has a strong odor of animals and barns.  This odor dissipates after a bit and is not offensive unless the cheese is held under the nose.

St. Maure has lightly sweet and tart flavors.  The paste is salty, but its overall profile is tart and tangy.  On the tongue, the paste is dense and creamy.

We loved this cheese.  My kids really enjoyed this cheese and fondly named it the “Lincoln log.”  This cheese is delicious.  St. Maure offers great flavor, an unusual appearance, and an interesting story.  This cheese is perfect for a party or dinner.

Purchase Notes:  We purchased St. Maure from Cheese Plus (San Francisco); it had just arrived in the store this week.  Our cheese sample may have been on the younger side of its ripeness; peak ripeness is between 4-6 weeks.  As the cheese ages, it becomes firmer.