Owning and running a cheese shop is a pretty good job. We are surrounded by amazingly delicious cheeses. We get to help our guests explore new flavors and we love telling them the stories about the artisans behind them. And our “homework” typically involves tasting a half dozen new products to decide whether or not to stock them. Yeah, it’s hard to call this work!
One of our favorite tasks each month is picking the cheeses for our monthly Cheese Club. Actually, it’s harder than we thought it would be because it’s a little like choosing favorites among our children. But pick we must. So these are three of our favorites this month.
Beatje Farms Amoureux
Pasteurized Goat Milk, Vegetable Rennet
“A Mennonite woman with a used 2001 Porsche Boxster and a Hello Kitty collection is making some of the most delicious French-style goat cheese in America.” That’s how the New York Times started a two-page article on Veronica Baetje (pronounced BAY-jee) and her creamery Baetje Farms. (Read it here: http://nyti.ms/1pk35Ml) We totally agree with them that she is a “curd whisperer.”
Baetje doesn’t use distributors so we work directly with her to get her chese into our case. And since we started stocking her a month ago, we can’t keep it in stock! We really wanted to share this special and hard-to-get cheese with our Monthly Cheese Club subscribers.
It’s hard to choose our favorite cheese of hers, but Amoureaux is definitely high on our list. It’s a unique mixed goat-sheep milk Morbier-inspired cheese. What’s a Morbier? True Morbier is a name-protected cheese which hails from its small namesake village in the Franche-Comté region. In the evening, after the cheesemakers finished making the day’s Comte, there would often be a small quantity of curd left over. A layer of ash (often from burned grape vines) was sprinkled on top to prevent a rind from forming and keep flies away until more curds could be added the next day to “complete” the cheese. Now, the ash is added for visual appeal rather than necessity.
Amoureux is aged about four months and is smooth & satiny with buttery, grassy notes and finishes slightly sharp. This is a great cheese to add to a cheeseboard or top a grilled burger to take it up a notch!
Delicious with Gewurztraminer or Pinot Noir.
Consider Bardwell’s Pawlet
Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese. Vegetable Rennet
We spent a great day at Consider Bardwell’s farm and creamery last summer and fell in love. Their beautiful old barns are situated on a site that has been making cheese since the 18th century. We played with their goats, fed whey to their piglets, but the coolest part was meeting their 25-year old (girl) phenom and award-winning cheesemaker. She started working part-time at the creamery as a student, getting up before dawn to help feed and milk the goats. She got hooked by the experience, and now she’s running the creamery and winning major awards!
As for the cheese, the Consider Bardwell team handcrafts each wheel from raw Jersey milk and produces a buttery and creamy cheese with a nutty and mushroomy taste that has earned numerous awards. We certainly agree- mushroomy, meaty Pawlet deserves every accolade it’s earned. This very versatile, perfect-for-melting cheese goes perfect with grilled sandwiches and burgers.
This one is easy. Try it with a Merlot, old world or new world Chardonnay, or a nice hard cider. If you want to go with beer, we suggest a lager, dunkel schwarz, pilsner or kolsch.
- American Cheese Society Winner (2012)
- World Cheese Championship Winner (2010)
- American Cheese Society Winner (2009)
- American Cheese Society Winner (2008)
Parish Hill’s West West Blue
Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese. Animal Rennet
Parish Hill has a special place in our hearts. We visited them last summer on our Vermont cheese tour, and it was the highlight of our trip. The force behind Parish Hill is Peter Dixon, the godfather of Vermont cheese. Peter spent 30 years working as a cheesemaker and consultant, training many of the famous Vermont cheesemakers you might know. He even learned some fabulous new recipes while teaching cheesemaking in the Balkans as part of a USAID mission. They jokingly say that Peter finds the hardest way to do things and then does it that way. But they are right – Peter clears the weeds on his farm with a scythe, not a weedeater, because it’s more environmentally friendly.
Most of our day was spent at the creamery with his incredibly friendly and funny wife, Rachel Fritz Schaal, and her equally enjoyable sister Alex. We got invited into the inner sanctum to watch them make cheese (most creameries make you watch from a distance.) The bubbly dynamo generously showed us the ins and outs of a tiny, old-world, craftsman operation where everything is done by hand.
This family is serious about artisan and handmade, and it shows in their cheeses. West West Blue is made in the style of a “two-curd” Gorgonzola, meaning that it’s made from two separate cheeses made over two days. The first day’s curd rests overnight, and at the end of the second day’s make, these colder, more acidic curds are mixed with the freshly made, warm curds. It’s a more traditional method of production that is rarely used due to the long and labor-intensive process. “In our case,” says Rachel, “we think it is well worth the effort.” Wheels of the cheese are aged between three and six months.
The edible rind surrounds a dense paste with streaks of blue mold. It has a strong, yet balanced salty and sweet flavor, with additional notes of grass, barnyard and burnt sugar. But honestly, if you don’t want to go there with all the “tasting notes,” just enjoy it! We suggest pairing it with a nice drizzle of honey!
Pair West West Blue with a barley wine, a big fat California Zinfandel, or a Vermouth such as Lacuesta Reserve.