Cheese 111-Rathtrevor

If you have been reading this blog for any amount of time you may have noticed that I sometimes struggle with an existential cheese angst.  It’s true, there are almost infinite varieties of cheese to write about, but to what end?  Now that I can confidently wander through any cheese counter in any country perhaps that’s enough. But perhaps not.  You see, maybe there’s “that cheese”out there still waiting for me, that mythic, amazing cheese that will transport me to another world.  Thus, I continue to look and snack.  My teenaged French exchange student is bemused by my obsession with cheese.  It seems as though I live in the wrong country. She can’t believe that I do not have a dedicated cheese fridge, similar to a beer fridge.  Apparently this is how it is done in France. Maybe this is proof that I still have more to learn.

At this point, I am waiting for cheese to speak too me, and this one-Rathtrevor- has been calling my name for a while.  I previously reviewed this company, Little Qualicum Cheeseworks from Vancouver Island, and discussed their charming farm-Morningstar at as well as their Brie cheese, but Rathtrevor, keeps trying to get my attention.  A friend of mine questioned my choice of  Island Brie to review, which was just another brie to herwhereas their Rathrevor: “freaking heaven.” Then last week, I was at the Winter Farmer’s Market at Nat Bailey stadium in Vancouver with my French student and daughter-when a lovely man stopped the three of us and took a photo of us with his iPad.  When I looked down from smiling I saw a stack of cheese…Little Qualicum cheese…Rathtrevor cheese.  If this wasn’t a sign that this was meant to be, I don’t know what is, so cheese Gods, I am listening.

I shan’t reiterate my review of their farm and fromagerie, follow the link above if you want to know more, but in a nutshell… this is a groovy family who lived in Switzerland, learned how to make cheese, moved to Vancouver Island and made awesome cheese there which is certified by the SPCA.  This means it has good cheese Karma on top of everything else. Unlike their Island Brie, Rathrevor is made from raw milk, which I do appreciate, being a raw milk girl. It’s named after a local beach in Parksville, Rathtrevor, where I have frolicked with my children-so just more proof this cheese needed me to eat it.

Rathtrevor is a Gruyere-type cheese, I appreciate that they don’t call it Gruyère, but instead give it their own local name and twist which is, I feel a respectful homage to a great cheese.  Rathtrevor is aged for about a year and is made using milk from their own herd of Holstein, Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and Canadienne dairy cows. Rathtrevor is a raw milk firm, aged, washed-rind cheese.  I really do love me some Gruyère, months ago a cave aged Gruyère nearly sent me over the edge of cheese joy, so Rathtrevor has some big cheese shoes to fill!

My block of Rathrevor, which is also available in many stores, but much more fun to purchase from the family-is a firm, buttery looking cheese.  Although it claims to be “washed rind” I see no evidence of rind, washed or otherwise, and this saddens me a little.  I understand that we are not accustomed to rind here in Canada-land, but that’s only because people keep treating us like babies.  It’s like cutting crust off toast, don’t do it!  That’s the yummy part, sigh.  I digress.  It’s a handsome Mountain cheese with the tiniest little eyes running through the interior in spots.  Although it’s an aged Gruyere-type cheese I do not see evidence of tyrosine crystals which often look like little white dots in the cheese, alas. This cheese smells very mild and nutty, quite safe-a cheese wimp would not be frightened of by this benign looking and smelling cheese in the least, I might even be able to give it to a child!

Here goes…

Much less benign tasting! Mmmm, I actually really dig this cheese!  It’s quite an intense mushroomy, nutty cheese.  Yes, it’s similar to Gruyère,, but this
 isn’t Gruyere, it’s much softer with a more tensile chew to it, not crumbly at all.  It’s just mmmm, I don’t really know what it is, but I seriously dig this cheese, it has that balance that I always look for but I rarely find: sweet, salt and underarm. There’s also that unmistakable Mountain cheese faint alcohol note in this cheese, but I don’t mind it here, no not at all.  You could use this cheese in just about anything, but as for me, it’s going into my personal snacking stash…you know why?  It’s because Rathtrevor is definitely my slice of cheese.

Cheese 110-Tomme de Savoie


I almost feel as though my cheese journey has come full circle.  My interest in cheese was first piqued by my daughter’s trip to France and subsequent interest in French cheese.  In reciprocity for her stay in France, we recently became hosts to our very own French exchange student, a charming and bright 17 year old girl.  This girl is so bright and charming that she brought her new Canadian mommy FOUR cheeses from France, yes, that’s right, four.  This clearly illustrates to me that this young lady knows the way to my heart.  It’s simple people, just bring me cheese.  While I have actually previously sampled and adored two of her cheese gifts, Beaufort (mmmmmm) and Abondance (oh yahhhhhhhhh) she also brought the next two beauties I shall review for me-neither of which I have seen in Canada for sale.  You may just have to appreciate these darlings on the page here, I’m not sure if they ever make it to our fair shore- but what an excuse to go to France (does one need an excuse to go to France?)

I have run into the word “Tomme” before in relation to cheese, and have previously reviewed Tomme de Montagne, Tomme Haute Richelieu and Tomme Alsace Fermier.  So what’s with all the Tommes?  It turns out the word “Tomme” (not Dick, not Harry) is a generic cheese word which generally refers to cheese made from many herds mixed, or small alpine cheeses, or skim milk cheeses, or some combination of the three (sorry, that’s as clear as it gets).  The word Tomme is followed by a place name to clarify it’s point of origin.  Hence Tomme de Savoie, is from the …Savoie region, now you get it!

This Tomme is a true Mountain cheese made from skim raw cow’s milk,  milk left over from making cheeses like Beaufort or Gruyere, which are from the exact same region, and tend to hog up all the full-fat milk.  I’m actually all for a skim milk cheese if it gives me that nice cheesy mouth feel, it’s only those wretched low-fat so-called mozzarella type cheeses that have spoiled the whole skim milk cheese thing for me.  It’s good to be open minded about this sort of thing. A girl who loves cheese like me, and is also attempting to watch her weight, needs to be careful-my sample has 30% fat which seems just about right.

According to my research, there are actually many Tomme de Savoies, virtually every village in the area makes one, and the name isn’t controlled by one village.  This cheese does have a designation type that is new for me. I have discussed, at length the AOC designation, a designation that protects the name and terroir of a cheese, but Tomme de Savoie has Protected Geographical Indication or PGI (IGP, Indication Géographique Protégée) which seems to be an “AOC lite” type designation, meaning that this cheese is certified  as being traditional or a typical speciality from a clearly defined region, but without the controlled specification of the AOC.  That’s my best shot at explaining it, folks.  One source online source stated that Tomme de Savoie is currently being considered for an AOC designation but isn’t there yet. Tomme de Savoie obtained the “Protected Designation of Origin” label in 1996.

Tomme de Savoie was first produced by local farmers as a way of using left over skim milk hundreds of years ago and continues to be made in small batches using the same techniques.  The inhabitants of the Savoie region are terribly fond of this cheese, and will eat it with their coffee for their afternoon snack. Tomme de Savoie is made from the milk of Tarine or Abondance cows. After the curd is pressed it is matured for 2-4 months in a traditional cellar, which produces the thick rind and adds flavor. Tomme de Savoie is salted, rubbed and turned over twice a week-lucky!  My lovely stinky wedge of Tomme de Savoie travelled a long way to make it to my table.

This is one of the most fabulous looking cheeses I have ever seen-and that’s really saying a lot this far into my cheese journey.  The rind is dark and forbidding, the interior creamy and pocked with tiny holes.  It just looks like a cheese ought to look-like an authentic cheese, I can imagine a farmer or shepherd munching on this Tomme 1000 years ago on the side of a hill-it just reeks of authenticity and is clearly not a factory-made cheese.  It’s perfectly hideous and unabashed in its cheesy glory.

My French student informs me that the rind is not typically eaten with this cheese, so I shall avoid it-truly it is a little daunting.  While I do enjoy a raunchy rind on my cheese this one is mottled black and brown and a tad too zombie-like for me. Tomme de Savoie smells fabulous in that unwashed toes and uric acid sort of way that I adore, it simpers beside me warming and off-gassing, proclaiming to all that it is a little stinker.

Here goes…

Mmmmm, ohhhhhh.  Much more mild than I was expecting.  It’s a little lemony, that surprises me, there’s also a balance of salt and toes that’s just freaking divine.  Oh!  It’s creamy, much more so than the other Mountain cheeses I have sampled which tend to be semi-hard, this one’s actually quite soft and toothsome, there’s not a lot of chewing involved, it’s perfectly tensile and springy.  I can’t believe this is a low fat cheese-you would never, ever know, the mouth-feel is just as perfectly unctuous as any other full-fat cheese.  It’s actually sticking to my teeth, cleaving to them, it’s made best friends with my tongue, why, “hello!”  There’s a real feel of forest terroir and dank cellars in Tomme de Savoie-make no mistake-while it is relatively mild you can’t deny that hint of mystery and dark places and mushrooms-but it’s all held in perfect balance. This cheese is freaking unbelievable, why doesn’t everyone eat it?

Oh Tomme de Savoie!  You are so scrumptious and low fat, why aren’t you available to me here?  You are definitely my slice of cheese.

Cheese 109- Danish Blue Cheese AKA Danablu-Castello Rosenborg

This blog has been threatened by a number of factors over the last several months: travel, a broken fridge, cost,and  a head cold, but nothing has truly put it to the test like this week’s foible: a cleanse.  A cleanse is a sort of masochistic eating regime hypothetically created to cleanse the body of toxins.  In reality, I suspect many folks-along with myself, indulge in a cleanse in order to shed some excess weight.  The rules of this cleanse are easy-peasy: if it’s something that’s yummy, you can’t have it, if it’s something that’s gross, go for it!  Luckily it’s only 7 days and I am half way through, but let me be clear: cheese is absolutely not permitted on this cleanse.  So what’s a turophile with a weekly cheese blog to do?  Here it is, I’m breaking the cleanse just for you, gentle reader-that’s how much I care.  Hopefully my cleansed body won’t go into shock.

What better way to break a cheese fast than with a blue cheese!  I do adore me some blue, and have thus far  sampled the big three, Stilton (yum) Gorgonzola (a little less yum) and Roquefort (not really that much yum at all) and it has come to my attention that there is another big player in the Blue cheese scene, and that is “Danish Blue” aka Danablu.  There are several cheese makers claiming to make a “Danish Blue” but the largest and most established by far is the Danish Arla cheese company and its so-called House of Castello Rosenborg.  Castello (Arla) actually makes several blue cheeses, but their big player is Danish Blue Cheese.  Chances are you have already tasted this cheese, it’s that blue on the cheese plate at all those art gallery openings you attend.  This little darling can be purchased just about anywhere in Canada and is truly the most ubiquitous blue on our shores-despite being Danish.

Castello has been making cheese in Denmark since 1893, when Rasmus Tholstrup, decided to dedicate his life to cheese making-and who can blame him for that!  His son Henrik, grew up to share his passion for cheese, a clear sign of good parenting.  Henrik Tholstrup took the family dairy from a small producer to a big player on the cheese scene. In 1958 Henrik bought several dairies in Denmark and production skyrocketed.  Castello was acquired by Danish cheese giant Arla in 2006, and is now the biggest maker of imported blue cheese in North America. Go Denmark!  The name Rosenborg actually has nothing to do with the cheese.  It refers to the Royal Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen, built in the 17th century by King Christian IV.  A picture of this castle is on the label for the cheese, but alas, this cheese did not spend any time in the castle, or its dungeons, it’s just a pretty picture. Sigh.  Castello-Rosenborg Danish Blue Cheese is really a big player in Blue cheese scene, have I mentioned this?  It is the winner of 33 International cheese awards.  That’s right, 33.

So why in the world is the top selling Blue cheese in North America from Denmark and not from France, the home of Blue cheese?  Good question.  In the 1920s, a Dane named Marius Boel discovered an innovation to improve the taste of classic French sheep’s milk blue cheese Roquefort, by substituting cow milk for sheep’s milk. The result was a creamier, richer, and fuller flavored cheese- Danish Blue, basically a Roquefort made from cow’s milk.  It’s also easier to make, cows produce a lot more milk than sheep do.   Danish Blue cheese was first manufactured in 1927.  This blue cheese is inoculated with Penicillum Roqueforti, and is made from whole pasteurized cow’s milk.  the Blue culture is added right into the cheese milk. Like other blues the culture requires a lot of oxygen to develop correctly, thus the cheeses are pierced with stainless steel needles, which leave a large number of air ducts.When you cut open this cheese you can see the blue lines running through the paste where it was pierced.   The culture develops from the inside towards the surface of the cheese. After approximately one month, the cheese is ripe and ready to go.

My Danish Blue Castello Rosenborg came in a sealed plastic triangle container. It’s a very white cheese shot through with blue lines as well as little blue clusters in the interior paste where the mould developed on its own.  There is no discernible rind to my eyes.  The cheese is piquant in odour and smells somewhat of vomit.  Now, don’t be upset by that, as I have discussed in a previous post this cheese does contain the same enzyme as vomit so the similarity is no coincidence.  I am reminded that shepherds used to pack infected wounds with Roquefort as the penicillium mould actually works to prevent infection. I just think that’s such a helpful fact,  I am repeating it here, in case the apocalypse occurs and you haven’t stocked up on penicillium but you do have some Roquefort of Danish Blue around.  I digress.

Here goes…

Mmmmm.  Damn, this really is a good cheese.  Maybe it’s because it’s so familiar, it really is “that blue” that you have had a million times on a million cheese plates.  It’s really creamy and a perfect balance of salt, umami, vomit and sweet.  It’s raunchy and sexy and I like that in a cheese!  The paste is even throughout, as there is no rind you just eat it all.  I would like to smear this cheese on something, but as I am forbidden grains on this cleanse I will pass.  OK, this cheese rocks, it’s also available almost everywhere and relatively cheap, so go for it, it’s a great starter blue and to my taste buds, an improvement over the original Roquefort which I just couldn’t get behind.

Danablu, Danish Blue, Castello Rosenborg, Arla, whatever you are called, you are welcome back anytime you little raunchy darling, you are definitely my slice of cheese!

Cheese 108-Mountaineer-and a trip to Cowgirl Creamery DC

I recently returned from an epic journey to New York and DC, and while there had many adventures in cheese.  In fact, I think cheese tourism is the next big thing!  Why not?  People travel to drink wine all the time and that’s just grapes and vats of juice and stuff.  Cheese is much more exciting! While you are travelling, do try the cheese. I highly recommend it.

While I was in DC I planned to visit Cowgirl Creamery.  Any turophile trolling the internet for cheese info will run across this cheese shop time and again as leaders in the world of cheese.  They have a couple of locations across the USA and were definitely on my hit list.  After my somewhat discouraging visit to Murray’s cheese shop in NYC my expectations were lower, but I am happy to report that Cowgirl Creamery far exceeded my cheese love expectations.  Although they actually had a paltry number of cheeses on site-likely under 50- these folks were true turophiles and were more than happy to geek out over cheese with me.  And really, that’s all I am asking for-is it so much? Please people, if you own a cheese shop: hire cheese lovers.  The fellow who served me at Cowgirl Creamery not only sported a funky hat,  but gave me numerous free samples and extolled the virtues of all the cheese. I felt he was a kindred cheese spirit.  We had a long discussion about the joys of raw milk, the virtues of fresh cheese, and cheese in Canada versus the USA.  Alas, the day was hot and my hotel had to fridge, so I had to limit myself to a cheese that could stand a little mistreatment, which led me to a Mountain cheese called Mountaineer.

Mountaineer, from the Meadowcreek Dairy in Virginia, is a cow’s milk cheese made from raw milk.  The Meadowcreek Dairy, a family farm, has a herd of Jerseys from which all their milk derives.  Owners Rick and Helen Feete have been farming here since 1980.  Over the years they have perfected the genetics of their herd of cows, and it’s a real cow to cheese plate production. Like all real farms, Meadow Creek’s  production is seasonal, so grab the cheese when it’s for sale, something else is just around the corner.  The cows here seem to live a great life, they are never confined and are born and raised on pasture, happy cows! According to their website their farm “sits perched in the misty, cool emerald reaches of the Appalachian Mountains at an elevation of 2,800 feet, where the water is pure, the air is bright and clean, and the soils are rich and untainted.” Nice terroir, Meadowcreek, it kind of sounds like Canada! Meadowcreek has been making Mountaineer for a while, but they feel it “truly came into its own” after they made a trip to Europe in 2004. They got into the Mountain cheeses of Valle d’Aosta and the Savoie, and brought their inspiration home to make this dense aged cheese.  Mountaineer has a natural brushed rind and is aged in their cellars a minimum of six months. Nice!

This cheese is, well a typical looking Mountain cheese, strong and broad and handsome.  The soft interior is a relatively dark yellow, those cows must have been getting into some strong grass.  It has a thick natural rind which I shall decline to eat having some cheese PTSD associated with gnarly rinds. This cheese really stinks, I mean, it really does, especially for a Mountain cheese, but it’s also a washed rind cheese, interesting combination.  It’s actually stunk up our entire hotel room!  I accused my poor daughter of having stinky feet and insisted she bathe, but even then smell persisted.  I had forgotten the cheese!  It perfumes the entire room with a strong odor of teenager toe, but I mean this in the best possible way.

Yikes, here goes…

Hmm, well it tastes like toes too!  Actually, I don’t really know what toes taste like, but I imagine it can’t be far off this flavor.  It’s a strong, unctuous taste, slightly sexy, slightly carnal.  There’s something woodsy and naughty about this cheese, likes it’s just taken a tumble with a certain someone in the underbrush.  I wish they had used a little more salt with Mountaineer, but this is a common complaint with me and Mountain cheese, I just don’t get the lack of salt.  Was there no salt available traditionally in the mountains?  What gives?  The lack of salt fails to bring this cheese to a finish on my palate, but that’s ok, because the party was good up front. The texture is delightful, chewy, dense, yet yielding, it’s pleasing to the tongue and to the teeth.

Mountaineer, I doubt we will ever meet again: you being a raw milk cheese from Virginia, and me being a cheese lover from Vancouver.  It was fun while it lasted, and you-you little stinky thing, are certainly my slice of cheese!