Last year I attempted to visit Keso Cheese Shop in Whiterock, BC (a city outside of Vancouver.) I was stopped at the door by the police! Alas, the store had just been robbed a minute earlier. As I stood outside, peering at the cheese between the boys (and girls) in blue, I promised Keso I would be back. Yesterday, was that day, and what a great road trip. Proprietor and fellow turophile Mauricio Kremer was happy to chat cheese with me, extolling the virtues of cheeses he and I have loved, and imploring me to give my cheese nemeses, Tete du Moine and Stinking Bishop another go. Nice try, Mauricio.
I was only in the shop for a minute when this little beauty caught my eye. Roaring 40′s has actually been on my “must try” list for over a year, but this is the first time I have seen the real thing. Did you think I made a mistake and meant “Roaring 20’s?” OK, I actually thought that was an error too, but no, Roaring 40’s refers to the strong westerly winds that hit the fromagerie on King Island, found in the Bass Straight south of Melbourne, Australia on the 40 degrees latitude. This wicked wind, called the “Roaring 40’s” is responsible for many shipwrecks, but also for the terroir that eventually makes its way into the cheese. According to cheese legend, (I love me a cheese legend) the King Island grasses were actually seeded from straw mattresses washed up from these same shipwrecks. So truly, this cheese does belong to the Roaring 40’s! The cattle of King Island nibble shipwrecked straw and kelp all day, but that’s about it, truly shipwrecked terroir!
Roaring forties is made by the eponymous King Island Dairy from cow’s milk. It’s aged 10-12 weeks and is inoculated with blue pencillium roqueforti. Basically it’s a Roquefort, but made with cow’s milk instead of sheep’s milk, and with an Australian shipwrecked mattress twist. A thick coating of blue-black wax covers the cheese, and this acts to limit which bacteria can enter the cheese and also keeps the cheese sweet and fruity. It also keeps it quite moist and protected inside, which is a good thing as Australia is a long, long way from Vancouver. Despite the challenges I have had tracking it down,Roaring 40’s is pretty well-known in the world of cheese, it’s won a ton of awards, but most recently the 2012 Champion Trophy in the Australian Grand Dairy Awards
Roaring 40’s is an extremely sexy looking cheese. Blue/black thick wax covers the exterior with a creamy paste shot through with mould, what’s not to like? As I peel back that thick wax (don’t eat it , silly, it’s not a rind) I’m kind of drooling. It’s a handsome cheese, it looks like Stilton to me with that lovely creamy cow’s milk yellow. It really is moist for a blue, that wax did a good job. This cheese smells fabulous, pungent and cheesy, it’s a little sticky to the touch. Enough, I must taste.
Mmmmmm. Wow. Oh yah! It’s really smooth and unctuous, yet slightly crumbly in the mouth. There’s a tiny little crunch in the paste, is it salt? Is it calcium? Who cares, it’s great. It’s salty and fruity, almost caramel sweet but with that unmistakable spicy blue mould hit. It’s really a terrific blue, and not overly terrifying. It’s actually pretty mellow for a blue, I MIGHT be able to talk to blue-phobic husband into this one…nah, I’m keeping it for myself.