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. 

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