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Archive for the ‘Artisanal Cheese’ Category

Grand Cheese Tasting

Posted by fromagebob on November 18, 2010

The Tasting Table

I visited New York over the weekend of November 5th, and attended my third Murray’s Cheese Boot Camp. This time I went to work – I signed on as an intern to get a better idea of how behind the scenes of an intensive cheese class would go. I did get educated! More on that in another post.

As always, I hauled back a bunch of cheeses – 13 of them, this time, and gathered fellow wine-and-cheese lovers at the house for a grand cheese tasting.

Organizing a cheese tasting is a lot of fun, especially when you’re loaded with cheeses that no one has tried before, that you love, and that you think will be interesting. It’s a great way to get people together, and – when you bring in  the wine – to start some rather interesting debates about the merits of the cheese, the wine, and the pairing.

I should not have been surprised, but my plethora of palates armed themselves with multiple glasses to try multiples of wines with the cheeses. I did make sure they knew they had to put a glass down to pick up a cheese – no teeth allowed. I labeled each plate with the specifics of the cheeses, and arranged them in order from mildest (upper left of the photo) around the table to the strongest. For the most part, everyone followed the flow, and (from what I could tell) had a great time!

Featured (in the order of presentation) were:

  • Oma, a raw, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Von Trapp, in the hills of Vermont
  • Pawlett, a raw washed rind Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farms, in Vermont
  • Landaff, a raw cow’s milk riff on Cornish Yarg, from New Hampshire
  • Capello del Mago, a raw, natural rind goat’s milk from the town of Fobello, in Piemonte,  Italy
  • Noble Road, a raw, bloomy rind cow’s milk cheese from Calkins Creamery, in Pennsylvania
  • La Beola, a natural rind, raw cow’s milk cheese, from the town of Fobellow, in Piemonte, Italy
  • Amanteigado, a washed rind, raw sheeps milk cheese from Lisboa, Portugal
  • Puits d’Astier, a natural rind sheep’s milk cheese from the Auvergene region of France
  • Ascutney Mountain, a natural rind Jersey cow’s milk cheese, from Vermont
  • Comte d’Alpage,  a raw cow’s milk cheese, aged for 18 months, from France
  • An Aged Goat Gouda, from Holland
  • St. Pete’s Blue, a delicious blue cheese from Minnesota
  • Colston Basset Stilton, from England

The most popular cheese was the Noble Road. It had a wonderful, mush-roomy, beefy, creamy flavor that knocked everyone’s socks off. It was the only cheese that disappeared (not that a serious dent wasn’t made in the rest of the selections!).

The surprise of the tasting was one of the wine pairings. We had a variety of wines, from a Susana Balbo Torrontes, to a Masi Amarone, with quite a mix in between. The surprise was that the Torrontes went with almost every cheese! Even those that it did not work well with, it was more along the lines of the cheese overwhelming the wine (like the blues) as opposed to the wine and cheese fighting it out in your mouth.

My favorite pairing was the Colston Basset Stilton with some 1979 PX Sherry. The ports we had couldn’t stand up. The Amarone did OK, but the PX was just wonderful. Unfortunately, we only had a little to go around, so I will be looking for another bottle, and another chunk of cheese, to test this out further!

Stay tuned – over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting tasting notes for all the cheeses. None are currently available in Miami, but they are all available from either Murray’s Cheese or Saxelby Cheese, in New York. Worth the trip to try, worth the expense to buy – trust me on that!

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Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese tasting, French Cheese, Italian Cheese, Portuguese Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | 2 Comments »

Cornish Yarg Cheese – Delight from the UK

Posted by fromagebob on January 18, 2010

Cornish Yarg is a pasteurized, grass-fed cow’s milk cheese from Cornwall, in the UK. The cheese is based on a recipe dating back to the 13th century. Some cheese references have this as the 17th century, but I verified it with the producer, Lynher Daries. The name “Yarg” is the name of the original cheese maker (in 1983, not 1483) – Mr. Gray, spelled backwards.

The cheese is a cross between Caerphilly and Wensleydale.  After coagulation, the curd is cut and placed into molds, and pressed overnight. The cheeses are brined in a salt bath for 24 hours, left to dry for 48 hours, then wrapped in nettle leaves and set to age for three weeks. The nettles attract various molds which help the cheese ripen, and add to its flavor. The dairy has a nice presentation with photos of the cheese making process.

Cornish Yarg has a distinct aroma of fresh milk and grassy notes, with earthy, mushroomy undertones. The flavor is creamy, buttery, and slightly herbal. The finish starts sweet, then gets slightly bitter and vegetal. Near the center, the creaminess is more pronounced; near the edges of the cheese where the nettle leaves are, the flavor is more sharp and bitter. The cheese is suitable for vegetarians.

I’ve paired this cheese with a number of wines; this evening, we had it with Bonny Doon’s Ca’Del Solo Sangiovese, and Cartlidge and Browne’s Chardonnay – both worked quite nicely. For entertaining, it’s a very nice cheese, as the nettle rind is very pretty, and the taste very pleasant.

This cheese is available locally from Sunset Corner’s Wine Shop.

Freshly Picked Nettle Leaves

Wheel of Cornish Yarg

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Cazelle de St. Affrique Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Posted by fromagebob on December 14, 2009

I found a new cheese at our local Whole Foods this past weekend. It’s called Cazelle de St. Affrique. It’s a delicious sheep’s milk cheese from Aveyron, in the Midi-Pyrénées region of France. The cheese is a traditional “cabecous” style (small-format) soft-ripened cheese; it’s very similar in shape to Crottin de Chavignol. The term “cazelle” refers to the stone shepherds huts found throughout the countryside. The cheese is a cylindrical shape with a wrinkly rind reminiscent of the huts – quite a pretty sight.

The cheese itself has a herbal aroma, with a very slight hint of sheepy-ness, and a touch of freshly-laid straw. The taste is very nice; it’s a little tangy, but has a herbal, creamy, earthy taste that I really enjoyed. The finish is medium, evolving to a slight “fatty acid burn” that was pleasant, with some floral and straw notes on the tongue.

The texture was interesting; cutting a slice and popping it into my mouth, the sensation was almost like a cheese puff – kind of gelatinous, airy, and slightly chewy that melted into a pleasant, cheesy experience after just a few moments.

I was drinking a 2006 Cesari Mara Ripasso that went rather well with the cheese.

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, French Cheese, Sheep Cheese | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Mona Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 9, 2009

Mona is a mixed milk cheese from the same cheesemaker that produces Dante. It’s a blend of sheep and cow’s milk that’s aged for a minimum of 6 months. It’s a semi-firm cheese with a nice flavor. Like Dante, Mona is produced by the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. Between 100 and 400 East Friesian or Lacaune ewes are milked between February and September. The sheep are pasture-fed during the spring and summer. The cheeses themselves are produced by Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wisconsin.

The aroma is very mild, with a hint of toasted nuts, lanolin, and brown butter. The flavor has a salty, buttery taste with some grassy notes, and a rich mouthfeel. Near the rind, the nutty taste is more pronounced, with a more earthy flavor. It would be a nice cheese for a party or cheese plate in one of the milder positions. In parings, it went quite nicely with the Clif Family Climber White Blend, and with Santa Carolina Carminere. It was OK with a Mattabella Chardonnay and the Clif Family Syrah, but wasn’t that great with the Buhler Char or the Santa Carolina Cab.

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Mixed Milk Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Saxony Cheese from Wisconsin

Posted by fromagebob on July 6, 2009

This is another nice cheese that Myriam brought back from her recent trip to Wisconsin. It’s a new cheese – commercial release is in the 3rd quarter of this year, which is a few months away. Saxony is a raw cow’s milk cheese made from cooked, pressed curds. It is a washed rind cheese that I would classify as semi-firm. For some reason, my photo of the cheese has disappeared, so I found on their site.

It’s a pretty cheese, with a nice looking rind and a pleasant taste. The cheese is ripened for at least 90 days. It peaks at 150 days, and has a shelf life of 9 months. I found the aroma to be quite nice. It reminds me of pecans sautéed in a little butter. There is a definite buttery note to the cheese as it warms up, and a faint herbal note as well. The flavor is rich and buttery. There’s there is the tiniest hint of caramel, and as it melts on the tongue, you get just a touch of brown butter flavor. Near the rind, the flavor flattens out a little bit on first bite, but then delivers a stronger, more nutty taste than towards the center.

I tried this with a Norton Malbec. Initially, they both kind of neutralized each other, but then the cheese got a little fruity. Interesting. During the recent tasting panel I also tried it with several wines, results listed below.

Wine Score
Norton Malbec 0
Clif Family Climber White 0
Mattabella Chardonnay 0
Buehler Russian River Chard 0
Clif Gary’s Improv (Syrah) 0
Santa Carolina Carminere +1
Santa Carolina Cab -1
Kit’s Killer Kab 0
Pinord Moscatel 0

According to the website, the cheese would pair with a fruity white wine, dessert wine, or beer. The 0 scores aren’t bad. Basically, the wine and cheese really didn’t do much for each other, but they didn’t hurt each other either. I’ll have to keep on the lookout for some more to try with more wines.

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Dante – Wisconsin Sheep’s Milk Cheese

Posted by fromagebob on June 29, 2009

Dante is a seasonal sheep’s milk cheese, made by the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative. The cheese is made between February and September. The milk comes from flocks located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. The ewes are pasture fed for most of the year. The cheese is aged for at least six months. An extended aging process develops toasted nut and brown butter aromas, and gives a sweetness to the cheese. I find that it has a nice, rich, flavor.

The paste is a gold-ivory color, shifting to light brown near the rind. The color is probably from the carotene in the pasture diet of the animals. The cheese is coated with an edible plastic rind, which I’m not particularly fond of – it gives the cheese a strange texture – but it’s easily peeled off. The flavor is quite nice. Near the center, I find a slightly salty-sweet flavor with grassy notes and a touch of butter. Near the rind, the flavor deepens, giving a hint of pecans and brown butter. Allowing the paste to linger and dissolve in the mouth gives a more intense buttery flavor, with a little lemony taste at the end. The finish is nice, and lingers pleasantly for a while.

I tried this cheese with some Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin. This is a value wine that I quite enjoy. It’s not the greatest zin, but it’s a pleasant drink, and a nice day-to-day wine. It has a nose of chocolate and berries, with spicy undertones. There’s a hint of white pepper, vanilla, and a little tobacco. The flavor is a little tannic, with white pepper, chocolate, dark fruit, and berries. The finish is medium, and pleasant.

It’s a nice combo with the cheese. The cheese brings out the fruit in the wine quite a bit. The wine makes the cheese taste a little sweeter, especially on the finish. At the first hit, the cheese feels saltier, but that dissipates into a pleasant combo. I wouldn’t say that either elevates, but I would certainly give this a +1 as a paring.

Other scores for this cheese with some recent parings:

Wine Score Comment
The Clif Family Climber White Blend: -1 Developed a metallic taste. Not pleasant
Mattebella Chardonnay: 0 Not bad, not great, but it worked. Nice for a party
Buehler Russian River Chardonnay: -1 Sour taste, not pleasant at all.
Clif Gary’s Improv (Syrah): +1 Nice. The wine made the cheese better, the cheese didn’t hurt the wine
Santa Carolina Carminere: 0 OK, neither was hurt, neither was improved.
Dracula’s Blood: -1 Sucked <g>
Santa Carolina Cab: -1 The cheese killed the wine
Kits Killer Cab: 0 Was OK. I almost gave this a -1, but the finish wasn’t bad

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese, Sheep Cheese, US Cheese, Wine & Cheese Paring | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Abbaye De Belloc

Posted by fromagebob on May 27, 2009

(ah-BAY duh Bell-OCK)

Abbaye de Belloc is a Pyrénées cheese made by the Benedictine monks at the Abbaye de Notre Dame de Belloc in the Pays Basque region of Aquitaine, France. It’s based on an ancient recipe for Pyrénées cheeses that dates back about 3,000 years. Several sources indicate that this cheese started in 1875, but it could be older. It is a fermier sheep’s-milk cheese made from the milk of red-nosed Manech ewes brought in from local farms. Most Pyrénées cheeses (Beaufort, Comté) are made from the same recipe; the differences in the cheeses are due to terroir and the manner in which the cheese is ripened.

Abbaye de Belloc

The only additive to this particular cheese is salt. It has a fine, dense paste that is rich in fat (minimum 60%). The cheese is aged for a minimum of 6 months. The sample I brought back from France had a very nice almost sugary aroma with lanolin and herbal notes; it was mild and pleasant. The taste was buttery and smooth, with a rich feeling and a nice coating that faded gradually into a pleasant salty-sweet lactic flavor. It had nutty nuances near the rind, and kind of a toasty taste in the background. It’s quite good. The finish is slightly salty, but nice and rather long.

We paired this cheese with a Grenache which worked nicely. I tried it with some Catena Malbec, and found it to work as well. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Marlboro) was OK at the start, but ended with a metallic note. I’d like to try it with the French version to see the difference. I happened to have some Pedro Ximenez on hand, and liked that paring – be nice for a dessert course. According to my references, the cheese should also pair with a number of different wines, including White Bordeaux (Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc), white Burgundy (Chardonnay), German Riesling Kabinett, California Sauvignon Blanc. For reds, it pairs well with Carignan, Sancerre Rouge (Pinot Noir), and California Zin. It also goes well with Pedro Ximenez, a dessert sherry.

As a closing note, in my research for this posting, I came across this description on the site http://gourmeton.com/semisoft/10.html. I thought it was interesting enough to allow it to stand on it’s own. I cannot wait to find out how you geld a cheese!

“This cheese hails from the Pays Basque neighborhood of Aquitaine (French Pyrenees). It is made from the milk river of red-nosed Manech ewes that ar elevated on farms contiguous to the Abbaye de Notre Dame de Belloc. It is in the “Abbaye” (abbey) to what this milk river becomes a wild cheese. The nunnery was founded in 1875 on a little landed estate named Bellicq, eventually Belloc. The convent has profited from a milder mood and the lift of a rustic civilisation. Monks in the Benedictine Abbey feature strained and persist in to instruct the artistry of producing a topical cheese (ardi-gasna, significant topical sheeps milk river cheese) to shepherds. The tomme is a monotonous wheel around by the agency of a instinctive, curmudgeonly, grey-headed skin in contrast with patches of reddish, orangish, and yellowed instinctive molds. This voluptuous cheese has a mulct, impenetrable grain that is costly in butterfat. The warm prolonged flavour, same caramelized chocolate-brown saccharify, is the ensue of half dozen months homogeneous to senescent a amercement vino. A young favourite at igourmet! Made from unpasteurised sheep’s milk river. Photo depicts unit 10 lb. take form of cheese. We gelded and wrap up this point by the 1/2 pound off. Please middleman us if you would same to buy the unit take shape.”

Posted in Artisanal Cheese, Cheese, French Cheese | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »