Cheese 136 Blue Mountain Blue

4fcfc9b5d9d3ed29d6d974b875fb9d97

It’s rare that a cheese is also a palindrome: Blue Mountain Blue. OK, I guess it’s not technically a palindrome, but it practically is, and that is a very special thing in a cheese.

Another really special thing in a cheese, is when a cheese monger personally recommends it. I recently made a road trip to Seattle, Washington and visited the charming Calf and Kid cheese shop. It’s always such a thrill for me to find a brand new cheese shop, and I was lucky enough to bring home three local Washington cheeses all recommended by the staff there.

The first of these is the new hot cheese in the shop this month, Blue Mountain Blue. The cheese monger told me it’s fantastic and has been selling like crazy. Honestly, she had me at “Blue.”  Blue Mountain Blue is a new blue-veined cave matured cheese from the eponymous Blue Mountain Blue Cheese company from Walla Walla (another almost Palindrome!) in Washington State.

According to their website,  (which you must go and see, it’s beautifully done) Blue Mountain Blue debuted on 4 July 2013, so it’s practically a cheese newborn. It’s made from the raw milk of a small herd of Irish Shorthorn-Holstein cross dairy cows. The herd is lead by a cow named  Old Blue. Old Blue and her sisters cows graze on natural  stands of lush grasses, and are solely pasture-fed, establishing the terroir of the cheese. I do love it when a cheese is named after a cow, Blossom’s Blue from Saltstpring Island is also named after a cow, and there’s something lovely about that. In fact, I recommend more cheeses be named after cows.

Blue Mountain Blue is a raw milk cheese made with natural rennet. After being formed, the cheese curd is sliced with a special multiple-blade knife.  Sea salt is sprinkled into the cubed curds which are stirred to break down their size further. A “proprietary complex of several strains of Penicillium roqueforti”  is introduced into the curd with stainless-steel needles, creating pathways which permit air (and mould spore) to get into the interior of the cheese. The cheese develops its veining for 120 days, then the rounds are transported to a solid-basalt cave in the Blue Mountain range above the Walla Walla Valley to continue their affinage over 12 months. Wow, a solid basalt cave. I would like to see that with my own eyes.
 IMG_2548

This all sounds fantastic to me: 12 month affinage, raw milk, great terroir, happy cows, solid basalt caves, a cheese named after cows, a swanky website, and a proprietary mould….

But what about the cheese?

Well, this cheese is an attractive  blue cheese. It has a nice creamy yellow looking paste shot through with light blue and green mould, but there’s still a lot of creamy looking paste there. You can clearly see where the stainless needles pierced the cheese as the veining develops along those lines. There’s no discernable rind. The smell is gentle, yet absolutely divine. I’m drooling a little as I type, you can smell that cheesy blue aroma with just a hint of alcohol.

Here goes…

Mmmmmm. smooth, creamy, salty, round and spicy. It’s very much like a Stilton, but a little more salty. Actually there are chunks of sea salt in it that are just sumptuous and kind of crunchy. But it’s got a sweetness from that raw cow milk that helps keep the spice of the blue in balance. Really, it’s fabulous, very nice and very approachable for a blue. It’s so well-balanced and not overly aggressive that it should be welcome on any cheese plate.
Great job, Blue Mountain Blue, I can’t wait to see what you are up to next!
Yummy, it’s Yummy.
IMG_2550

Cheese 135 The Farm House Natural Cheeses-Brie


Sometimes, when something is so good, it’s hard to find the right time to share it. I have been aware of today’s cheese and cheese-maker for over a year now, but it’s just never seemed like the right time to let this little secret out. But enough is enough, welcome-cheese friends, to The Farm House Natural Cheeses.

About an hour and a half outside of Vancouver, lies the sleepy town of Agassiz, in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Last year I was lucky enough to go and visit The Farm House Natural Cheeses to interview their cheese maker and have a tour of their premises. Yes, thanks for asking, it was awesome. At the risk of sounding like an overly star-struck cheese lover, let me just say, that this was potentially the best cheese experience I have had to date.

Everything there was just as you would want it to be. Cows and goats produce the milk on site, and the cheese is made a few steps away: true terroir. The beautiful mountains of the Fraser Valley loom overhead, and the fields of hay shimmer below. Besides that, the whole family is involved too,  from daily milking and barn chores, hay-making and field work, to cheese making. It’s a real family affair.

The co-owner and head cheese-maker, Debra Amrein-Boyes, is one of only twelve people in western Canada and US to be inducted into the prestigious French Cheese Guild, the “Guilde des Fromagers Confrerie de Saint-Uguzon.” This guild  recognizes those who protect and continue the tradition of cheesemaking around the world. And because of this honour, Debra actually has her own patron saint of cheese, and what’s not to love about that? Yes, you did just read that, a patron saint of cheese. Besides that, she’s a lovely lady with a true passion for cheese, who showed me around her fastidiously clean facility and her sumptuous affinage caves. I was loath to leave.

IMG_2493

So how does a cheese maker in a little sleepy valley in BC get such an honour, you might wonder? It’s likely partially because Debra authored her book, “200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes-From Cheddar and Brie to Butter and Yogurt” which was nominated in 2009 for a World Gourmand Cookbook Award and is available for purchase in many book stores, or online. If you have ever wished to try your hand at home cheesemaking, this is the book for you. No, I don’t own it yet, and yes, it’s on my Christmas wish list.

Right, I have gushed enough. Can you tell I’m a fan?

The Farmhouse Natural Cheeses makes a number of cheese products, most of which I have sampled (lucky me) but when I saw today’s Brie for sale, so deliciously close to the “best before” date (remember, this means “best on” date,) I knew that today was the day, and this was the cheese.

This round of Brie is rather diminutive, it’s about 2 inches in diameter. It’s made from pasteurized cow’s milk, sourced on site. It’s an authentic, naturally ripened Brie, hand-ladled, with a lovely, fully developed white mushroomy rind.The smell is inviting, a warm combination of mushroom and straw. When I cut into it, the paste is astonishingly yellow, the milk from the cows must have been very rich, it makes a handsome contrast to the white rind (which I shall eat, aways eat the rind on a brie!)
IMG_2495

Here goes…

Mmmm, it’s salty and smooth and creamy and fantastic. It’s a delicious balance of fat, salt and mushroom. The rind is fabulous, with a real texture to it, and when you mix it in with the paste it makes for an amazing experience. It’s Fraser Valley terroir at its best. It’s perhaps not as gooey as I hoped for,  but it’s only been out of the fridge for 15 minutes, so I’m leaving it out the rest of the morning, and hope to see this little cheese run. It’s a mild and inviting locally sourced Brie, made by a local cheese master (with her own patron saint of cheese.)  What’s not to like about that? Go out and buy some, and thank me later.

IMG_2496

Cheese 134 Bouton-de-Culotte-a Diminutive Raw Milk Goat Cheese

After bringing you a rather mundane and tame cheese last blog post, I was stricken by guilt-guilt that I had let down my legions of readers. Perhaps legions is overly strong, but I know you readers are out there, and I’m so sorry to have bored you with such a pedestrian cheese.

To make up for that egregious oversight, I went searching for the most interesting looking cheese to review next, and that’s when I stumbled across this little beauty, Bouton-de- Culotte. Have you ever studied French? No? Well, let me help you out, Bouton-de-culotte means “buttons of pants” (of course, I prefer zippers to buttons, but that’s just me,) and it’s no wonder this cheese is called a button, because it’s just as cute as one, and also, about the same size as one.

IMG_2199

This Bouton-de-Culotte really did catch my eye, both because of its diminutive size and dark grey colour, but also because of its ridiculous price tag. My small Bouton cost nearly 7$ for really, a tiny morsel. It’s the caviar of the cheese world.

According to sources, Bouton-de-Culotte is actually a small Maconnais French cheese, (NB,Maconnais are also made from goat’s milk and carry the AOC designation.) It is from the Bourgognes region (Burgandy) in France. Boutons are traditionally stored during the autumn to be used throughout the winter. They are made of raw goat’s milk, so are bound to be rather raunchy twice, and who doesn’t like that in a cheese? By the winter when the cheese is ready to be eaten, the rind gets dark brown and the cheese becomes hard and it can then be grated into dishes for a little goaty je ne sais quoi?

And that’s about it for Bouton-de-Culotte, everything else on the ‘net is in French. It’s really quite a little mystery. How long has it been around? Who knows? Who makes it? A mystery. Why is it so damn expensive? Beats me. We will all have to be satisfied with these questions being unanswered. Alas.

But enough of that, my little Bouton seems more grey and white than brown in colour. Also, it’s currently August and these are supposed to be made in the autumn and eaten in the winter, so exactly how old is this cheese? Normally I’m into the rind, but the colour and age have frightened me, today I will be sampling the paste only. If I’m not here again in the next couple of weeks, it was the cheese!

My bouton smells like mushrooms and goat hooves-as it should. It’s musky and also redolent with the essence of barn. When I slice the cheese it’s firm, but not overly hard. It cuts and does not crumble. It’s a deep yellow colour near the ashy white rind and more of a chalky white near the centre.

IMG_2200

Here goes….

Wow! That packs a punch. Its really salty and slightly astringent, but with a lovely kick of goat. The paste has a nice chew, it melts on the tongue and teeth and does not crumble. It’s very flavourful, the combination of raw milk and goat means that all pistons are firing here. I dare not eat the rind, but as I approach it I do taste mushroom and fungus in a funky, salty way. I’m sure if I was brave enough to eat it, it would add another dimension to the cheese, but I am frightened and timid. It’s not at all offensive or overwhelming, no hint of foul mould or anything like that, but its certainly not a starter cheese. It’s actually freaking delicious, too bad its so damn expensive and way too small. One was not enough. Sigh, its all gone. That was fun.

If you are looking for a little goat adventure and feeling flush, go for it, it just might be your slice of cheese.