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.

pata_cabra_cheese_by_cheesechatter_march_2011The 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.

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_cheese_by_cheesechatter_march_2011Dallenwiler 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.

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.

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).

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).

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).