Monday, March 27, 2017

Uniekaas Gouda Truffle

I have a new addiction. Actually, it's an old one, but when I started this post, it was fairly new. I took a break from writing cheese reviews and only recently started up again, but I didn't stop sampling great cheeses. I kept telling myself I would write a review of the Uniekaas Gouda Truffle cheese, but I got too lost in the sampling part to bother writing anything. This is a cheese with that WOW factor, and sometimes writing about these kinds of impressive products can be intimidating. It's a sign of a good cheese, though. I wanted to do it justice.

It's true that I occasionally get stuck in a pleasant rut buying the same cheese time after time if it's good enough, but I took this one a bit far and refused to buy anything else for months. Conveniently forgetting to write up a review worked as a great excuse to continue buying more and more of this particular, delightful cheese, though I was limited by my finances, of course. The intention to write was there, but I didn't follow through until now. I think there was a part of me that wanted to keep buying this and only this cheese, but the spell was broken recently when I stumbled upon Cypress Grove's Purple Haze, which I reviewed here.


Truffles are among the best gourmet foods in the world. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the famed French epicure and gastronome, is quoted as saying: “Truffle. As soon as the word is spoken, it awakens lustful and erotic memories among the skirt-wearing sex and erotic and lustful memories among the beard-wearing sex. This honorable parallelism comes not only from the fact that this esteemed tuber is delicious, but also because it is still believed to bring about potency, the exercise of which brings sweet pleasure.”  Unfortunately, many cheeses with added truffles also have an overpowering flavored truffle oil mixed in, making the final taste shockingly garlicky. Others don't add nearly enough truffle, making the flavor too subtle. Fortunately, with this Gouda truffle cheese, there is a nice but faint garlic flavor, and the true flavor of the actual truffle shines. This is how truffles done right taste. 

I often think of Peter Mayle and his description of pigs finding truffles in the woods in France, a scene in his book "Toujours Provence". He explains that the scent of truffles to a pig is sexual, and the animal sometimes has trouble containing itself. It gets excited and roots around more vigorously when the truffle aroma is unearthed. That's why some truffle searchers have taught dogs how to sniff out the treasured fungus. Truffles are known to be an aphrodisiac to humans as well, though few people have to be held back upon seeing or smelling the sacred mushroom. Dogs, on the other hand, wait patiently after pointing out the truffle. A canine's lack of enthusiasm regarding mushrooms is why it's perfect for the job: no destroyed truffles on this four-legged friend's shift. Now pair this beautiful black treasure with a fine Gouda, and you have yourself one hell of a cheese.

Uniekaas Gouda Truffle
Uniekaas Gouda Truffle cheese can stand on its own.

Uniekaas Gouda Truffle cheese is rich and buttery with hints of walnuts and a very slight tang that's true of all Goudas. It's not sweet but there are very subtle notes of butterscotch. It's the Italian black truffle flavor that stands out. The sharpness of the semi-soft, pliant but not sticky Gouda is matched by the truffles, and the whole cheese becomes balanced while still retaining its character. This is a showstopper, something that will grab people's attention. 

From the Uniekaas website:

Made on small farms using raw milk from the farm's herd of cows, Uniekaas Raw Milk Farmer Gouda with Truffles starts as a traditional "Boerenkaas" or Farmer Cheese. However, just prior to pressing and shaping of the cheese, shavings of Italian Black Truffles are generously sprinkled throughout the curd.
Considered "black gold" in Italy, black truffles are a rare delicacy with a strong earthy aroma and umami flavor — or the "fifth taste." After nine weeks of aging, these flavors are infused throughout the cheese along with notes of walnuts. (from Uniekaas)
The Uniekaas Gouda Truffle is a cheese you can eat by itself. It also pairs well with tart apples or light rye crackers. Add it with a blend of cheeses into some mac and cheese or make fancy cheese sandwiches with it. Because of its robust flavor, Truffle Gouda doesn't require any accessories, just the cheese by itself piled into some crusty bread and sauteed in a pan with some butter or oil makes an outstanding grilled cheese sandwich. Simple perfection.

Serve this outstanding cheese with Janasse Chateauneuf-du-pape, Chardonnay, Montepulciano D'abruzzo, Pino Gris, Sangiovese, Riesling or Jurancon. 

Montepulciano D'abruzzo pairs well with this gouda truffle cheese.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Red Hawk

Red Hawk cheese is the legitimate (it plays too much by the rules to be illegitimate) lovechild of a triple-cream Brie and Taleggio. In the same way a pony is not quite a horse but everyone knows they are both in the equine family, Red Hawk is technically a washed-rind cheese. It's just a very mild wash rind, a less hardcore stinky cheese. It's like when Metallica decided to throw everyone a curve ball and release Nothing Else Matters. Is it heavy metal if it's soft? Possibly not, but everyone still loved the song. Such is the case with Red Hawk. It doesn't quite fit in with traditional heavy-hitting washed-rind cheeses, but it's a fun little cheese that people can't resist.

Cowgirl Creamery is responsible for making and aging Red Hawk and several other cheeses. One thing to note is that the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses are Marin Organic Certified. It's not surprising that Red Hawk won Best-In-Show in 2003 at the American Cheese Society's annual conference. It also nabbed a 2nd place award in the Best-In-Show category six years later. Those aren't the only awards this stellar cheese has won, though. It took gold at the 2014 and 2013 State Fair and secured a second place at the American Cheese Society in 2012. Be sure to check out the entire "about us" section on the Cowgirl Creamery website. You will learn not only about Red Hawk and its many awards but about how the company started and even how cheese is made. It's worth it to explore each category, from the cheeses to the recipes.

What struck me most about Red Hawk is the fresh smell that rose up when I opened the package. It was almost like sticking my nose into a container of beautifully prepared cottage cheese, buttermilky and mild with just a hint of yeasty stink if you get your nose up close. This is the perfect cheese to use if you want to introduce someone to the world of washed-rind cheeses but don't want to traumatize anyone. This wash rind is sticky to the touch but not so much that it gets embedded and lingers on your fingers the entire day, though the smell will stick with you somewhat.

Everything is mild with this cheese. Even the color isn't as robust an orange as most other washed-rind cheeses. It's pale with just a hint of an orange hue.

The interior is a paste you can cut into, not something you want to eat with a spoon like Epoisse; it's a semi-firm consistency. Despite a bit of a funky aroma, the flavor is mild with hints of milk and cashews. An unexpected, slightly sweet, fruity tang that's reminiscent of a goat milk cheese hits your palate as an afterthought. It makes this little treasure intriguing and more complex that the traditional mild, nutty-flavored wash rinds. Heated, the flavor evens out nicely. Can you imagine this in a mac and cheese dish? Swoon! I love this kind of cheese with corn chips or crackers with some texture, but it pairs well with a crusty baguette, of course. Try it with quince paste or serve it with slices of tart apples for dessert.

Red Hawk
Red Hawk cheese, side and rind view.

Red Hawk cheese up close. Too bad the aroma can't be sensed in this image.

As far as the details, they are as follows:

Farm / Company: Cowgirl Creamery
Cheesemaker: Point Reyes Team
Proprietor: Sue Conley & Peggy Smith
City, State: Pt Reyes Station, CA
Region: West
Country: USA
Milk Type: Cow
Milk Treatment: Pasteurized
Rennet: Vegetarian  (Vegetarians rejoice!) 
Rind: Washed
Texture: Soft
Aging: 4 weeks

For wine pairings, I suggest Chardonnay, Torrontes, Pinot Blanc or Chenin Blanc for the white wines. A Tempranillo Blends, Sangiovese, Malbec or Lagrein would do well, too. For dessert, try either a Jurancon dessert wine or a Blanc de Noir sparkling wine.