StatCounter

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Bijou

Bijou
Bijou goat milk cheese is quite cute.

Some time ago, I reviewed an interesting cheese from Vermont Creamery called Bonne Bouche, an aged goat's milk cheese with ash on its surface. In sharp contrast to the intimidating look of a deeply wrinkly cheese covered in black soot that accentuates the crevasses, Bijou is an angelic petit white button that's sold in pairs, two perfect twins sitting side-by-side nestled in a small carton. It's only with an up-close viewing that the small wrinkles on the surface of this cheese are apparent. From afar, the fromage is inviting, pretty even. It's not surprising that a cheese this good-looking was born in the beautiful state of Vermont. 

Here in Colorado with over 50 mountains exceeding 14,000 feet, we look at 4,000-foot formations, as beautiful as they are, more as hills than mountains, but Vermont Creamery sits in what's called the Green Mountains, which really are green or look so, even in the winter. Founded in 1984 by Allison Hooper and Bob Reese, the creamery became B Corp certified in 2014. Not only is it considered one of the best places to work in the state, voted by Vermont Business Magazine, it supports family farms in the area and promotes sustainability.  The company has won over 100 awards for its cheese-making skills, and in 2019, Bijou took top honors at the American Cheese Society Competition where Vermont Creamery took home a total of six awards. 

 From their website:

Allison learned how to make cheese during an internship on a farm in Brittany, France. Bob was working for the Vermont Department of Agriculture and charged with organizing a dinner featuring all Vermont-made products. When a French chef requested fresh goat cheese, Bob scrambled to find a local producer. He asked Allison, who was working in a dairy lab and milking goats in Brookfield, to make the cheese. The dinner was a success and the cheese was a hit; Vermont Creamery was born that night.

In the 34 years since the improbable business partners made their first goat cheese, a lot has changed. But the more things change at Vermont Creamery, the more they stay the same.

We’re still here in Vermont, making consciously-crafted, delicious dairy that reflects who we are and what we care about; we’ve taken the time to perfect every detail of what we make. Our cheeses and butter have won hundreds of national and international awards, our team remains our most valuable resource, and we still put taste above all. You’ll never eat anything we don’t believe in.

Bijou
The surface of Bijou is wrinkly.


Bijou means "jewel" in French but has come to mean "small and elegant" in English. Each two-ounce button is made using fresh pasteurized goat's milk and microbial rennet. Once the curds have separated from the whey, they are ladled by hand and allowed to coagulate and slowly drain overnight in cheesecloth, a traditional method of cheese making. This Crottin-style cheese is then aged. What so many reviews leave out regarding Bijou is that this is a Geotrichum-rinded cheese. The wrinkles that develop during the aging process are due to the addition of Geotrichum Candidum, which usually comes in a mold powder. Geotrichum is a genus of fungi that includes over 100 species, many of which I'm sure you would rather not hear about and should probably avoid. It was recently discovered that Geotrichum Candidum always clusters with yeasts, but when it comes to cheese, Geotrichum Candidum behaves more like a mold, producing lipases, enzymes that bind to fat globules and then break them down, releasing fatty acids. This reaction is what causes all the fun stuff to happen in cheese. It's associated with the aroma that people either love or hate, the interesting texture, and, of course, the taste of the cheese. Geotrichum-rinded cheeses are distinct because they have a wrinkly surface. 

Bijou


While this button of cheese is tres petit and doesn't give off any overly strong aromas, it packs a good flavor without knocking you out with the tang of the goat's milk. This soft-ripened cheese is mild with definite milky notes. Early in the aging process, it tastes sweet, very slightly nutty, yeasty, and tangy. Under the thin, wrinkly rind, the center is firm and has a pasty mouthfeel. As the product ages, the flavors intensify, and hints of hay and wild mushrooms emerge. There's a noticeable dash of salt that's not unpleasant. Overall, it's well balanced and intriguing. Past its prime, like most soft-ripened cheese, it will develop a slight ammonia flavor. 

It's very tempting to eat this cheese in one or two bites, but it's soft enough that it can be spread on a warm crusty baguette or served on Raincoast rosemary and pecan crackers. It's versatile enough to pair well with either sweet or savory accompaniments. Try it cut into wedges in a green salad or serve it on a cheese board with fresh fruits and roasted nuts. Though it takes away from the cuteness factor, it's a great cheese on grilled sandwiches and can be used in other baked dishes. A way to keep the cheese looking adorable is to bake it in a mini crust and serve it with cherry preserves or fig jam. 

Pair Bijou with Chardonnay, Viognier, Sangiovese, Syrah, Rose, Blanc de Blanc Champagne, Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc, or a not too sweet ruby Port. Vermont Creamery suggests an apple cider beer, which sounds perfect, but you can also try it with an IPA or wheat beer. 

Try Bijou with Cabernet Franc.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Wood River Creamery Black Truffle



Gruyere Cheddar with back truffles is full of flavor.

Right from the first bite, this cheese is intriguing. There are a lot of flavors present all at once, but after the initial confusion passes and with a second nibble, more distinct flavors begin to emerge: nuts, lightly sauteed garlic, button mushrooms cooked in butter, and a familiar tang of cheddar cheese. Initially, this unusual product is interesting, but it can easily and very quickly go from a little bit odd but pleasant to very tasty and downright addicting. 

This was the first time I had ever heard of a Gruyere Cheddar cheese. I'm not talking about combining cheeses in cooking, on a four-cheese pizza, in a blend in mac & cheese, or shredded to use on tacos or sandwiches, for example. This was my first experience with a marriage of two kinds of cheese in one solid block. It's a bold move to merge two classic cheeses. Until you try it, you wonder who the heck would do that and why. Swiss or Alpine cheese and Cheddar are two completely different animals. It's like pairing white and dark chocolate, only instead of melting or mixing two separate products into one, this cheese is made using specific bacteria that produce enzymes that allow all the magic in cheese to occur, and with a bit of magic, the final product comes together quite nicely. As far as taste, it all makes sense. You get the robust sharp tang of Cheddar cheese paired with the mild nutty, earthy flavors associated with Gruyere. And then there are the black truffles. Oh, those truffles! 

Wood River Creamery is part of the Burnett Dairy Cooperative in Wisconsin, located in the north-western part of the state. Some might remember the terrible fire that destroyed part of the over 100-year old building in the summer of 2020. Fortunately, with some heart-warming community support, the dairy was back up and running to almost full capacity by the fall of that same year. The Wood River Creamery is one of the oldest in the state, dating all the way back to 1896! With such a rich and long history, it's not surprising that Burnett Dairy Cooperative has received top honors and awards on the world stage over the many years they have been in operation. 

From their website:

Burnett Dairy Cooperative is a farmer-owned cooperative based near Grantsburg, Wisconsin. Founded in 1896, we are one of the few remaining full-service cooperatives producing cheese today. With the guidance of our Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker®, our award-winning cheeses are Masterfully Made™ with inventive flavors and inspired quality for retail, deli, foodservice and private-label customers.

Many of our retail cheese products are sold in grocery stores throughout the United States, online at burnettdairyshop.com, and at our retail Cheese Store & Bistro in Grantsburg, Wis., and Cady Cheese in Wilson, Wis.

Burnett Dairy Cooperative provides farmers with a full range of agricultural services needed for farm management. We provide agronomy services, fuels, grain, feed, animal health and nutrition services, and a General Store with farm supplies.

A great gift idea is a box of assorted cheeses!

Made in small batches, Wood River Creamery cheeses are distinctive in both how they are made and aged but also because of the unique flavors added to their beautifully crafted cheeses, especially the Cheddar Gruyere varieties. The Creamy Black Truffle cow's milk cheese is aromatic, nutty, tangy, and earthy. It's both slightly sweet and savory, a product of the two different styles of cheese in one. With the added truffles, garlicky notes are prominent. Despite what might seem like a mess of conflicting flavors, everything comes together perfectly. The very next day after I first sampled this cheese, I actually craved it and thought about it, that next lovely bite, as I was making my way home from work, excited to dive in when I got the chance.  

Wood River Creamery Black Truffle
Wood River Creamery Black Truffle is excellent on its own or in cooked dishes.

This is a great cheese to eat on its own, but it is fantastic in baked noodle dishes, mac and cheese, for example. Cooking softens the sharper flavors. It's wonderful on grilled or cold sandwiches. You can serve it with crackers, on a baguette, or in a fondue. Winter fruits, dried or fresh, are also a nice accompaniment to this truffle cheese.  

If you're looking for a good wine pairing, try Wood River Creamy Black Truffle with a sparkling  Lambrusco. It also goes well with Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling, or a blanc de noir or rose Champagne. For a beer selection, try it with a Pilsner or wheat beer. 

Lambrusco Wine
Lambrusco wine pairs well with truffle cheeses.



Friday, February 12, 2021

Dirt Lover

 

Dirt Lover
Dirt Lover cheese in its cute wrapper.

Dirt Lover sheep's milk cheese is a curious little nugget of tastiness. I found it difficult to review this product immediately after having sampled Kinderhook Mini. I kept comparing the two instead of simply enjoying what was on my plate. Both are made from sheep's milk, and both have a bloomy rind. That said, compared to Kinderhook Mini, Dirt Lover is drier and sharper with a more pronounced tang. It's also a tiny bit saltier, but not in a bad way. 

I was trying to find the word to describe the cute little shape of this cheese. In more popular terms, it's known as a cylinder, but I kept thinking there was another word like crottin or crotte that described the extra petite barrel. Crottin is actually a different cheese, similar in shape to Chabicou and le Chevrot. All of these cheeses have a similar form that's small, round, and not too tall. When I learned that crotte is French for poop, usually of the horse or farm animal variety, I couldn't help but laugh. I'm not going to show images, but, regarding shape only, sometimes the little nuggets of cheese sort of do look like something you might accidentally step in at the barn. Try not to think of manure when sampling this cheese because, when it comes to taste, they have nothing in common. 

Dirt Lover
The little nugget of cheese is intriguing.

 

There's so much to love about the birthplace of this cheese, Green Dirt Farm, founded by Sarah Hoffmann, a woman who wanted to raise her children on a farm where they could enjoy spending time outdoors in the fresh air. But Sarah wasn't moving to the country in Missouri just for herself and her family. She had an idea to create an environmentally sustainable sheep dairy where the animals would be treated humanely. From there, it took a few years before she was ready to begin selling cheese. She had to learn the cheese-making process and then think about the production end of the business first, but after six years, everything fell into place. Once the cheeses landed on the market, it's no surprise that Green Dirt Farm products started winning a variety of awards. These days, Sara and her daughter, Eliza, work with a small team to keep the business running smoothly and ethically. 

From the Green Dirt website: 

As the ewes munch on this rich smorgasbord of grasses throughout the seasons, the flavors in the milk changes, and so do the flavors in the cheeses. We celebrate these unique flavors as they reflect what the sheep are eating in the moment and remind us of the seasonality of life on the farm.

In addition, the milk of grass-fed ruminants naturally contains more omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid, beta-carotene, and vitamins E & A. This enriched nutritional profile means our grass-fed sheep’s milk products are both healthier and more flavorful.

But you don’t have to take our word for it, we are proud to be Animal Welfare Approved. This means that we raise our animals humanely, outdoors on pasture, allowing them to behave naturally and socialize freely. We are audited yearly to ensure that we are maintaining Animal Welfare Approved’s strict standards.

Similar to Selles Sur Cher but not as dark, Dirt Lover is coated with ash. Selles Sur Cher is coated with wood ash whereas Dirt Lover is covered in a light coating of vegetable ash. Vegetable ash is exactly what it sounds like, vegetable matter that has been dried and charred until it's turned into ash. Ash doesn't typically have much flavor and is sometimes added simply for show, but it is also used in cheese making for several functional reasons. Folklore claims that a light dusting of ash on the evening curd kept the flies from sampling the goodies when folks were making cheese, and then more curd was simply added on top of the ash the next day. These days, increased production is such that most cheeses are made from one milking, and the reality is that ash was probably added because it keeps the curds from spoiling by soaking up excess moisture without adding much flavor. Whether of the wood or vegetable variety, ash is mostly carbon, and it neutralizes the acidic surface of developing cheeses. A lower PH encourages the right kind of mold, specifically penicillium candidum and geotrichum in bloomy rinds, to develop while keeping unwanted mold, especially blue, black, green, or red, from forming. 

With added ash on its surface, Dirt Lover more easily forms a thin rind as the 100-percent pasteurized sheep's milk cheese ripens for about two weeks. As with other "live rind" cheeses, fats and proteins break down over time and create a gooey texture just inside the rind of Dirt Lover, but the majority of the cheese is a wonderful firm texture. In the same way that wines can be dry and wet at the same time, so is this fromage. The dryness is no mistake, and don't worry because the finish is creamy on the palate. The paste itself isn't as creamy as most Brie-like cheeses, but the overall mouthfeel is smooth. It's the kind of cheese that makes you smack your lips with a great flavor that's balanced nicely. 

The Dirt Lover interior is white.

 

Despite a lack of any strong mushroom smell, Dirt Lover has a lovely earthy flavor that's rich, nutty, and buttery. The obvious tang from the sheep's milk isn't overwhelming or overly sour and makes this more interesting than other more traditional bloomy rind cheeses. In the early stages of aging, this little appetizing button has hints of citrus as the paste lingers on your tongue. In the later stages, notes of hay and the barnyard stand out. I can see why the cheesemonger who sold me this little gem was excited about it.

It was hard for me to pair this cheese with anything. I wanted to just keep eating it plain and savor the wonderful complexities of this intriguing dairy product, however, it does go exceptionally well with crusty French bread, which is no surprise since it's modeled after some of the old European cheeses that made the use of ash in cheese making popular. It looks and tastes great in salads, on cheese boards, and with fruit platters. Although it takes away from the attractive look of the cheese, it can also be used in cooked dishes or baked in a crust like Brie. 

As far as wines, you can be daring and try this with a Sangiovese blend that will draw out the complexities of this cheese. It's also great with rose, Merlot, an unoaked Chardonnay, Sancerre, Chenin Blanc, Prosecco, and even tawny port. If it's beer you're into, go with a pale ale, wheat beer, or an IPA. 





Friday, January 1, 2021

Kinderhook Mini

A little while ago, I went to Whole Foods and mentioned to the very nice lady who asked if I needed assistance in the cheese department that I was looking for something different, a special cheese to review. It's always nice to see when a cheesemonger is eager to suggest a product, and she pointed out two cheeses made from sheep's milk. I couldn't decide which to purchase, so I bought both and wasn't disappointed. Both were notable, but one surpassed my expectations. 



Kinderhook Mini
Kinderhook Mini


Kinderhook Mini is a remarkable little sheep's milk cheese. Whereas some Brie-style cheeses made from goat milk knock you over the head with a powerful pungent tang, this sheep's milk cheese is beautifully subtle yet more intense and complex than a traditional cow's milk Brie. It's exciting but light, steering clear of stinky cheese territory and far less potent than any wash-rind varieties while still standing out in a crowd flavor-wise. This soft-ripened little round is made with 100 percent sheep's milk and aged up to three weeks, producing a beautiful pale ivory paste inside its snow-white, bloomy rind. 

The velvety rind emits a nice mushroom aroma that's typical of bloomy rind cheeses like Brie, Camembert, and Humbolt Fog and is made up of various molds -- usually some combination of Penicillium candidum, Penicillium camberti and/or Geotrichum candidum, the latter a mold I will discuss in more depth in an upcoming review -- that bring out a lovely earthy, mushroom flavor as well. Underneath the thin blanket of mold blooms is a very creamy interior filled with bright notes of hay and grasses, what you might imagine a beautiful, sunny meadow in the country would translate into if it could suddenly become a flavor.


Kinderhook Mini Cheese
            Kinderhook Mini


Born and raised in the Hudson Valley region in New York at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, this mini round is Brie-like but has a lightness and is more exciting. An odd but effective comparison would be to think of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Buffy is dependable, solid, and everyone knows and loves her. Then, her younger sister, Dawn, enters the picture, and she is a fresh face, buoyant, and light. She turns heads in a different way than her sister, both likable and intriguing but one just a little more exciting, lively, and new. That's the difference between Brie and Kinderhook Mini. OK, that might be a bad comparison for people who aren't big Buffy fans. Maybe it's more like the difference between a top-rated Chardonnay and an excellent Champaign. They both taste great, but one gives you a little thrill.  

Like with Brie, this soft-ripened cheese has a nutty, straw-like taste, but it's a little bit sweeter, fresher, and not as heavy as Brie. Its flavor is even and cohesive. Goat Brie cheeses can be uneven and smack you in the tastebuds with a pungent tang. Kinderhook Mini, on the other hand, has a nice pungency, but the sharpness is not obnoxious and blends well with the other flavors. A dash of salt is apparent without being a distraction. Instead, it enhances the overall lovely taste. 

A vegetarian rennet is used in milk that comes from East Fresian sheep milk sourced from Amish farms nearby and from Old Chatham's very own flock. The company has won many awards for their sheep milk products and has been making outstanding cheeses and yogurt for over 25 years. From their website:

Old Chatham has been making award-winning sheep milk cheeses and yogurt for 25 years. Sheep milk is sourced fresh from our farm, Shepherd’s Way, year-round, just down the hill from our state-of-the-art processing facility. Old Chatham is a fully integrated operation, combining sheep husbandry techniques that prioritize the robust health of our flock with cutting edge technology and handmade expertise from our team of artisan cheesemakers. The combination of these elements — size, vertical integration, farming values and artisanal expertise make Old Chatham unique in America. Old Chatham’s focus is producing American interpretations of classic European cheeses as well as a line of creamy sheep milk yogurt. 


Pair Kinderhook Creek Mini with crusty French bread, fruit and crackers, lower-sodium cured or uncured dried meats, and/or large green olives. Wines that go well with this 100 percent sheep milk cheese include Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo, Pinot Blanc, Shiraz, Rose, Gamay, and a few dessert wines such as Chenin Blanc or Muscato D'Asti. If beer is more to your liking, try this cheese with a farmhouse ale or a sour beer such as Gose. 


Verdejo pairs well with sheep's milk cheeses


Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Midnight Moon

Midnight Moon
Cypress Grove's Midnight Moon



Swoon!

I'm late posting this... by a few years. Sometimes I start a review and get stuck. Words fail when I'm completely blown away by a cheese, so I have to pull back and think about it for a while. Time passes, and then I sample the product again and have the same reaction and wonder how I can do the cheese justice with my writing. So much of eating, especially tasting, is an experience, indescribable. I'm going to do my best and start by saying it's another hit from the wonderful cheesemakers at Cypress Grove. Midnight Moon is a goat milk Gouda that's sophisticated and captivating. Imagine a late-night date that includes a couple, each dressed in elegant attire, slow dancing under the stars to set the tone of this review. 

There are goat Goudas and then there's Midnight Moon. The latter is smooth, rich, inviting, and tangy but not sour. The texture is smoother and more velvety than most Goudas. How the same ingredients can turn into such different products always intrigues me, but, when it comes to cheese, much of the flavor and texture depends on the quality of ingredients, how the cheese is made, and, of course, the aging process. Despite the beautiful ivory interior of Midnight Moon, the taste is darker, more intriguing, and sexier than any other goat Gouda I have tried. There's a certain Je ne sais quoi about it, something like umami but for dairy. It's the difference between carob and chocolate. One is OK, and the other gets you excited because it's deeply complex and maybe hints at being a little bit naughty without crossing any lines it shouldn't.

Gouda or Goudse Kaas, one of the most popular dairy products in the world, is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese from the southern regions of the Netherlands. Midnight Moon is made in Holland, a little tidbit I learned recently. Gouda is most often yellow with a distinctive flavors that some describe as caramelly and nutty. The more the cheese ages, the deeper and richer the flavor becomes. The texture also changes as the cheese matures with crystals forming. There are two types of cheese crystals. One, calcium lactate - a crystaline salt, that causes the consistency to be more crumbly, crunchy even, and the other type of crystals that can form are protein-based, usually from amino acids like Tyrosine that are released and then group together during the aging process, leaving little crystal deposits behind as petite gifts. The crystals that form in Midnight Moon tend to be finer, less obvious grains but add just a bit of texture, especially as the cheese ages, and because this cheese is made with goat milk, the flavor is distinctive without being shocking.  

Crystals in traditional Gouda



With traditional Gouda, the cheese-making process includes a step called "washing the curd" in which some of the whey is drained and replaced with hot water after the milk is curdled. The same process is done with Colby, Havarti, Fontina, and a few other cheeses as well. This step removes some of the lactic acid, which, in turn, results in a milder, sweeter cheese, even though some of the lactose (milk sugar) is also reduced. The finished product has a low PH compared to most other aged cheeses. After the curds have had a chance to hang out at the bottom of the vat and knit, think more fusing together and less making sweaters, they are pressed, soaked in brine, air dried, and then left to ripen.

Curds knitting


This goat Gouda is made with vegetarian rennet and aged six months or more in caves. The flavor is often described as nutty and buttery with a goat tang that's not overwhelming. As the cheese develops, the flavor intensifies, and the texture becomes drier. In the early stages, there's a nice fruity and sweet taste, even a hint of caramel notes, that diminishes as the cheese matures and becomes tangier and bold. As you can imagine, awards seem to rain down on this unique product. 

Midnight Moon can be eaten plain, served with crackers and jam, eaten with fresh or dried fruit, added to sandwiches or baked noodle dishes, or partially melted on crusty bread. You can also serve this cheese with oat biscuits, chocolate graham crackers, or Rain Coast Crisp crackers, especially the hazelnut cranberry flavor. On the Cypress Grove website, there are recipes for Thumbprint Cookies and Midnight Moon® Baked Penne.

Raincoast Crisps



A Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera D'Alba, or Pinot Blanc would pair nicely with Midnight Moon. This cheese also goes well with dessert or sweet wines such as Dubonnet Rouge (aperitif), Riesling, Sweet Sherry, and even a not too sweet Ruby Port. But I like interesting, not traditional pairings. If you're more into beer, the folks at Cypress Grove suggest a Belgian Dark, Stout, or Trippel. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Laura Chenel Goat Brie

 

Laura Chenel Goat Brie 
According to the Laura Chenel website, their 5-ounce creamy Brie is "an American twist on the traditional French cow's milk cheese." If one wants to get technical, no cheese outside of the region of Brie in France can be considered a true Brie, however, many cheeses are produced in a similar fashion resulting in a soft-ripened cheese with a white rind and a distinctive mushtoomy flavor. Brie-like goat cheeses have a long history in France. In fact, one of the more notable imported French goat Brie cheeses is Florette, a Brie-style cheese by Fromagerie Guilloteau, known for its extra smooth interior due to the ultrafiltration of the pasteurized goat mild before the curds are separated from the whey. This extra step does two things: 1. it removes some water from the milk. And 2. it causes clusters of fat to break down into smaller globules, which, in turn, leads to a smoother overall texture. Laura Chennel, touted as "America's first commercial producer of goat cheese," has certainly created a likable petite goat Brie, but I struggle to find the unique Brie flavor through the strong tang of the goat milk. The lovely aroma is there, though, and, for anyone considering it, I wouldn't pass up an opportunity to sample this aged goat cheese if offered.

While many goat Brie cheeses are milder in flavor than a ripe cow's milk Brie, this is not the case with the Laura Chenel version. In fact, the tang of the goat milk slightly overpowers the mushroom flavor, but there's a wonderful, subtle nutty flavor that's apparent if you let the paste linger on your tongue. As is the case with most soft-ripened goat cheeses, this adorable Brie-like product is firmer than its cow-milk counterpart. Inside the very thin bloomy rind is a smooth paste that's creamy and satisfying and slightly rubbery but not in a bad way. Overall, it's a nice texture. There are a noticeable salty flavor and a slight twist of lemon that's barely detectable but still uplifts this little cheese and gives it a general lightness. It might be a bit much for some, but I love the powerful goaty tang that surprises the taste buds. Despite the strong goaty notes, the finish is clean without any long lingering pungency. 

A notable difference between Brie and other soft-ripened cheeses in the United States is that the Brie in France is relatively young and is made with raw cow's milk. US laws require any raw-milk cheeses to be aged at least 60 days, nearly double the aging time of French Brie. To bypass the aging requirements, imported Brie from France or elsewhere often begins with pasteurized milk instead of raw milk, which changes the flavor. According to the Laura Chenel website, all of their cheeses are made with fresh pasteurized milk in beautiful Sonoma County in California where the creamery is located. Vegetarians will be happy to know that the rennet used is not animal-based. Because Laura Chenel uses pasteurized milk, the cheese doesn't have to be aged longer than usual, and, for this product, in particular, the process is 9-14 days.

If you've ever been curious about why goat's milk cheeses, especially fresh chevre, are beautifully snow-white, it's because goats have the unique ability to convert carotene found in the grasses and hay they eat into colorless vitamin A or retinol. Cows, on the other hand, have a low-enzyme activity for this kind of conversion and end up storing the carotene in their fat. The result of the fat globules that end up in milk, interestingly enough, is that the protein and membranes around the fat shield the color from view, making the milk look white. During the cheese-making process, though, the fat membranes dissolve and the protein clusters disperse or loosen, and the color, usually yellow or gray, is then exposed. AH HA! Orange cheese is another story and is most often colored with added anatto. 

 



It's no surprise that the Laura Chenel company has won many awards. Just this goat Brie alone has placed first or come in runner up in at least four major events. According to the Laura Chenel website, Laura Chenel's foray into cheese making began in the following way:

After spending 10 years working and studying in Europe, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, Laura Chenel returned home to Sonoma County, undecided about her life’s direction. She was eager to return to the land so that she could be self-sufficient. As she was particularly concerned about eating and cooking healthy, natural foods, and having always been intrigued by goats, she decided to buy her first goats. As the herd continued to grow, Laura became attached to them. As the quantity of milk increased, she felt responsible for the milk and wanted to transform it into something that would pay tribute to its makers; therefore, she found herself drawn to cheese-making.

Like other bloomy rind cheeses, this fun little find is best served on crusty French bread, crackers, or eaten with fresh or dry fruit. It can be used in both hot or cold sandwiches or in pasta dishes. It can also be prepared in a pastry crust with caramelized onions, apricot jam, or chopped toasted pecans on top. 

Goat Bries in general pair well with white wines such as Sauvignon blanc, Chablis, pinot grigio, or Cotes de Gascognelavor. Because of the tanginess of this cheese, I would add a Beaujolais to this list, and if you're a beer lover, try it with a Belgian-style ale.

Get ready for more soft-ripened cheese reviews. I'm on a roll and have a few on the menu, so stay tuned! 



Monday, October 2, 2017

Buying Things For the Cuteness Factor

I have a hard time resisting cute items in small packages. I once bought a container of three baby cauliflower heads, one purple, one white, and one yellow, for five times what they should have cost simply because they were so little and adorable. They tasted exactly the same as adult cauliflower, which I knew would be the case, but they were so darn cute. I couldn't resist. The same urge to buy overcame me when I saw the mini Ile de France Brie cheese in the to-go case at Lucky's Market. Fortunately, this little fromage won't drain your pocketbook.

Ile de France mini Brie
Ile de France Brie comes in a colorful package.

Ile de France mini brie comes in a 25-gram serving in a plastic container. That's just under one ounce, and it's just about the cutest round of cheese you can imagine. Unlike many individually wrapped cheeses, this is real cheese. It's truly a scaled-down version of Brie, not a cheese-like product. That said, the flavor and texture aren't exactly like a classic, normal-sized Brie.


Ile de France mini Brie
Even a mini Brie has a bloomy rind.

Ile de France
Ile de France Brie has a nice thickness.

This mini Brie has a soft interior, much softer than one would expect. You won't find a firm paste with a creamline under the bloomy rind that's not as moldy as the larger version. In fact, the interior is a lot like the creamline of a regular Brie, only a bit firmer. The flavor is not as intense, but there are a slight earthy note and the typical mushroomy flavor of the rind that emerges once you bite into the tiny wheel.

Don't buy Ile de France mini Brie expecting a brilliant cheese; buy it because it's charming and easy to pack in your lunch box. Serve this little gem with a French roll or any way you would normally serve Brie. It pairs well with fruit, chutney, crackers, figs, or toasted nuts. 

Chardonnay is probably the more sensible wine choice when it comes to pairing Ile de France mini Brie cheese. Reisling, Viognier or Marsanne also go well with this cheese. For reds, try a Pinot Noir or other fruity selection. If you prefer beer, go with a Pilsner or a light beer.