As noted in the article, they are getting ready to move across the street into some swank new digs, and I can’t wait. Erik and his staff do an outstanding job bringing in cheeses from Midwest artisans and run a first-class cheese shop right in little ol’ Oak Park. If you’re ever in the Chicago area, I highly recommend stopping in!
Piper’s Pyramide is modeled after the French Valencay, and is a bloomy rind cheese, which is dusted with paprika. The name for Capriole’s version comes from Schad’s “red-haired granddaughter, Piper” and of course, the shape. Her grand-daughter should be honored, because this is one stellar cheese. My cheesemonger said they can’t keep it in stock, and it is not hard to see why!
Underneath the bloomy rind is a soft, velvety interior that is light and buttery. If you let the cheese age, it will start to get runny (which isn’t bad!!) but I don’t know if I would ever last long enough to age in my house. The charactaristic flavors of a goat’s cheese are there–slight citrus notes–but the difference between the Piper’s Pyramide and a more in-your-face goat cheese is the degree… the Pyramide is all about subtlety. I think this cheese would make an amazing addition to any cheese board, and although Capriole recommend pairing it with a crisp, light sauvignon blanc, I don’t think it needs to be paired with _anything_. Talk about a cheese that stands alone!
I was at Whole Foods the other day with my wife, and while she was buying the food we actually needed for the week, I was hanging out at the cheese counter. (I always say support your local cheese monger, but if you’re in a grocery store with time to kill, the cheese section is better than anywhere else!) While there I spotted this tiny little tube-like cheese called Cimonino Semistagionato Valsassina. I’d never had it. It was cheap. I was hungry. I think you see where this is going.
The Cimonino comes in a cylindrical shape, pretty small, and is a cow’s milk cheese with a moldy rind. It’s quite soft, and to me, slightly reminiscent of a Gorgonzola. Now, I am a salt nut, so salty doesn’t bother me–but let me warn you, this is an extraordinarily salty cheese. It’s balanced with a slight sweetness when it first hits your tongue, but then, wham! Piquant. That’s the polite way of saying it’s got some bite. It’s a peppery, almost astringent, taste, but without the citrus notes you would usually expect with a tart cheese.
I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I think it would go really well with a big, in your face red wine. If you like piquant cheeses, or if you like moldy cheese in general, give it a shot. It’s pretty inexpensive and would make a nice addition to a cheese plate or paired with wine.
I enjoy all kinds of cheese. I love queso fresco and queso oxaca. But under no circumstances would I advocate, let alone eat, bathtub cheese.
This year, for my birthday, my friend Amy gave the gift of cheese! The first cheese I got to sample was Livarot is a washed rind cheese that hails from Normandy. It’s made from cow’s milk, and is shipped in a wood box, wrapped with strips of paper (or bullrush leaves) in a five-band pattern, which gives rise to the knickname The Colonel. The particular cheese I had was a Petit Livarot de la Perelle.
The cheese has an orange-reddish rind, which results from the washing, which promotes the bacterim Brevibacterium linens, the rind is slightly sticky, and pungent. And when I say pungent, I mean, my wife wouldn’t let me keep it in the fridge more than a day pungent!
If you can get past the smell–and I highly recommend that you do! You will find a cheese that is very, very delicious and not nearly as strong as the smell would indicate. The interior ranges from slightly runny to more firm, with a few small holes and a light, straw yellow color.
The taste is milder, with a very slight gaminess–mostly a hold-over from the rind smell. Getting away from the area closer to the rind, it is a very pleasant, mild taste with a little bit of spice and a slight hint of pepper. It’s a complex cheese that doesn’t really need any accompaniment, I just enjoyed it straight up, by itself.
The washed rind cheeses aren’t for everyone, it takes a lot of people a while to get past the pungent smell. But I invite you to be adventurous and give it a try, you might be surprised that something that smells so strong could be so mild and delicious!
Another birthday cheese from Amy was Bonne Bouche (which means “good mouthful” or “delicious morsel”) which is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company.
Bonne Bouche is an American Cheese Society winner for aged goat cheese and one taste and it’s not hard to see why! It’s an ash-ripened cheese, with a mottled green-grey rind and a very soft, creamy texture–but not runny. You can eat Bonne Bouche as a young cheese or as an aged cheese, depending on your preference.
The taste is very characteristic of a great goat cheese–nice and creamy, wuth hints of citrus and a very lemony aftertaste. For a goat cheese lover like me, this was a fantastic hit. If you’ve enjoyed any of the other goat cheeses that I’ve recommended (such as Humboldt Fog) you should definitely give Bonne Bouche a try!
A friend of mine recently said, “What cheese should I buy if I’m not at la fromagerie? What if I’m just at [gigantor supermarket] and want some normal cheese to eat? What should I buy then?”
Well, without digressing into what exactly a “normal” cheese is supposed to be, or why it’s so worth the extra trip to a well-stocked cheese monger, I thought, “okay… what would I buy?”
I can tell you what I would not buy. I would not buy a cheese that was labeled “cheese product” or “cheese food”. Nor would I buy a “brie” that comes in a plastic container. Why not just spread paste on your baguette?
But there are some decent mass-market cheeses that are pretty tasty and easy to find in many major chain groceries. Today I give you one such cheese: Dubliner.
Dubliner is marketed under the Kerrygold brand but is actually made by a large dairy/food ingredients manufacturer in Cork called Carbery. Their website lists several varieties of Dubliner, but I’ve only encountered the “Vintage” and the “White”. Today, I’ll be tasting the “White” as it seems to be the most commonly available.
Dubliner is an aged cheese, similar to a cheddar. (The Kerrygold website calls it “not unlike a cheddar…”) Well, if you like aged cheddar, you will probably like Dubliner. It’s not a sharp as some aged cheddars I’ve had, but it is pleasantly sharp and nutty. It has a nice, tight curd and is dry–slightly flakey, but melts nicely in your mouth.
Those Carbery folks do have a good sense of “mouthfeel”. Even the white, which I gather is not aged as long as the “vintage” has a few calcium lactate crystals, which I just love encountering in an aged cheese.
Overall, Dubliner is a very nice mass-market cheese and a great snack cheese. This recipe for Guinness Dubliner cheese soup also sounds pretty good. So if you are in the local mega-mart and you want to grab some cheese without making a special trip to a cheese shop, I’d say Dubliner isn’t a bad way to go at all!
Happy New Year!
What better way to ring in the New Year, than with some cheese! Today, I came across some Morbier, and it’s been a while since I’ve done a cow’s milk cheese, so I thought, “Why not?!”
Morbier is a French cheese, made from raw (unpasteurized) cow’s milk. It has a pungent aroma, but a milder taste that it’s odor might suggest. Morbier also enjoys AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée) protection, which means if you see Morbier on-sale with a label that says “AOC” and”au lait cru” you are getting the real deal.
Morbier started off as a left-over cheese that cheesemakers basically made for themselves. Cheesemakers who were making Comté (another wonderful cheese–but that’s another review) would save the left-over curd and make a pale straw colored, semi-soft cheese for their own personal enjoyment. Because Morbier was made from leftovers, they would cover the morning curds in ash to prevent them from forming a rind, and then add the afternoon milk on top. The result was a cheese with two halves and a distinctive line of ash in the middle.
I’ve seen various sites today that say this morning/afternoon tradition is carried out, and others that say the ash is now ornamental. The later seems more likely to me, and I couldn’t taste the difference between the two halves on this round.
If you’re like many people, the idea of a stinky cheese isn’t your thing. I will caution that Morbier does have a distinct, strong odor. To me, it smells very earthy and farm-like. You can definitely smell “yeast” as well. However, I think the flavor is much more mild than the smell.
Texture wise, it’s a softer cheese, but not runny. It’s kind of squishy, in a good way. It melts in your mouth, with caramel notes and a slight nuttiness, and a distinctive “hay” or “straw” taste. It really does taste like a cheese you would be served at a farmhouse after coming in for lunch from the field.
If you see this one at your local cheese shop or grocery, I recommend picking it up as a good sampling of a raw cow milk that comes on a little strong, but lands you softly in the hay.
This weekend was an extraordinarily good cheese weekend. I wandered into my local cheese shop, Marion Street Cheese Market and asked my cheese monger, “What have you got that you really like?”
Well, he was quite excited to be carrying cheeses by a cheesemaker from Wisconsin, Felix Thalhammer. Apparently, Marion St. is the first shop outside Wisconsin to carry Felix’s aged cheeses. Now that I’ve sampled them, I can see why Eric was so excited!
Felix owns Capri Creamery specializing in artisan goat cheeses. The first cheese I tried and purchased is Saint Felix.
St. Felix is an aged, washed rind goat cheese, which take 2-3 years to prepare. The St. Felix is apparently the first of these cheeses, and let me assure you, it’s fantastic.
The cheese has a good, strong smell, you just know it’s going to be good! It has a nice, firm texture, with a larger crumble, so it has a nice bite to it, but it still feels great in your mouth, maybe even a little “fatter” than most goat’s milk cheese feel. It’s a washed rind cheese, so it’s nice and salty, with a slightly gritty, nutty finish that will remind you slightly of Parmesan.
Since Felix’s cheeses are made by hand by him alone, they’re probably going to be hard to find outside of the Midwest, or even Wisconsin for that matter! But I did notice you can order on his website. You should do yourself a favor and order some. If the St. Felix is any indication of Felix’s talent for cheese, we should have some really stunning cheeses down the road!
Coming soon, Govarti…
I have to hand it to the folks at Cyrpress Grove Chevre, they know their goat cheeses!
As you may already know, Cypress makes one of my favorite cheeses, Humboldt Fog so it wasn’t hard to get me to try Midnight Moon, which is an aged goat cheese, very Gouda like in style, taste and appearance.
This one isn’t actually made by Cypress Grove, it’s made for them by a Dutch company (hence the Gouda style, I presume). It’s aged just right, with a few crunchy crystals and a nice, firm texture. It’s got a little bit of that goat tang, but it’s still pretty rich in buttery, caramel goodness. It’s a very, very tasty cheese and makes a delightful snack.