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!