Cheese 139 Ashley-by Albert’s Leap

I discovered a new cheese shop in Vancouver yesterday, which shocked me. I thought I knew of every slice of cheese in this town  but Pane e Formaggio somehow slipped me by. It’s a cosy bread and cheese shop and deli with a small selection of cheeses- but the staff there were extremely friendly and knowledgeable, and that’s really what I’m looking for in a cheese shop. Please, talk cheese with me.  I so appreciate people taking the time to indulge me in a little cheese chat. Bravo, Pane e Formaggio, I shall be back!

One cheese there which caught my eye was Ashley, by Albert’s Leap. Ashley has a line of ash running through it-get it-“Ash” ley. This line of ash theme is a common one in cheese-and basically a cheese nod to the  great French cheese Morbier– traditionally made with a layer of ash running through the middle.    Once upon a time, Morbier was made in small batches by monks in the dark ages in presumably dark monasteries.  The line of ash separated the morning milk from the evening milk, keeping a rind from developing-like an ash band-aid. My Albert’s Leap was made in  Ontario, probably in the light of day-but I appreciate the effort and the nod to tradition, nonetheless.

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Ashley is a bloomy rind, ash dusted pasteurized goat’s milk cheese brought to us by Quality Cheese , specifically their Albert’s Leap brand. I confess to finding their website a little confusing. Firstly, it doesn’t mention Ashley at all. I have looked closely at the Ashley label, and it clearly is made by this company, so why the company does not describe it on its website is a little mysterious. Feel free to shed some light on this if you know the reason for the omission. The internet is also strangely mum about Ashley, so it may have been a limited run, or just a new product-who knows?

The site does reference this company being run by the Borgo family, specifically brothers Joe and Albert (who sometimes Leaps) who are carrying forward the tradition of cheese started by Italian Almerigo Borgo, who, “left for Canada in 1954 and by 1957 he decided that cheese was his passion and that he would begin his own venture.”  Almerigo built the Quality Cheese company and mentored the next generation of Borgos to carry on his tradition.

Ashley is an attractive, showy cheese.  As with all soft goat cheeses, this one has ripened from the outside in, so there’s a nice creamy yellow gooey rim, and a whiter chalky interior. It’s an attractive cheese, and would look great on a cheese board.The odour is mild and faintly farm-like, as it should be.

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Here goes…

Hmm. There’s a lot going on here. It’s sticky and creamy and goaty, but doesn’t have the sweet note I was expecting. The rind is almost a little bitter-or maybe that’s the ash. The rind is also quite surprisingly chewy, but then there’s that gooey first layer, and chalky finish. It’s good, and I like the three textures, but I think I would want to eat this one with a little something sweet-fruit perhaps, or a quince jam?

Ashley is a real looker that would make a great compliment to any cheese board-but make sure you have a little sweet to go with this darling.

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Cheese 138 Gouda Van Giet-Goat’s Pride

Last weekend I did something REALLY exciting: I went to visit a goat’s farm and fromagerie. I recognize that this may not be a top 5 on everyone’s bucket list, but that’s just sad-it really ought to be. Goat farms are fabulous, go and find one and visit it now, I command thee!

I’ve been kind of obsessing over Goat’s Pride “Blue Capri” cheese now for over a year, you can read my review of it here. But that review doesn’t really do it justice, and it certainly doesn’t explain the hankering I have for that cheese, like all the time. All I really want to do all day long, is eat Goat’s Pride Blue Capri. Alas, it’s darn hard to find, so I decided to go to the source- a small goat farm out in the City of Abbotsford, in the Lower Mainland of BC.

As we drove up the meandering driveway, I saw goat’s cavorting. Seriously! And these are tiny, wee goats, not the large goats I was expecting. They were knee high at best, and literally cavorting amongst fields of clover. It was ridiculously perfect. My heart filled with goat-loving joy, one could almost say, pride…Goat’s Pride.
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Goat’s Pride is a family run business. The son is the cheese maker, and mom seems to run the store. She graciously showed us around the farm stand and explained the lay of the land. Basically, organic goat’s milk is almost impossible to source. All of their goat’s milk comes from their own small herd of (ridiculously cute) goats, but that’s not cutting it. They may have to look at alternative sources and alternative cheeses as they expand their line of products.

For the time being, Goat’s Pride continues to make a limited run of cheese including today’s Gouda Van Giet, and yes, I did also buy three blocks of the Blue Capri for my own private joy.

According to their wrapper, Van Giet means “from the goat” in Dutch. As Gouda- and the Goat’s Pride family- are all Dutch, it seems only fitting. This cheese truly is “from the Dutch.”

Gouda Van Giet is a certified organic cheese, and the milk and cheese are processed directly on the farm. This Gouda is aged about a year-if memory serves me correctly. Unfortunately, their website is currently down, so I can’t double check, but let’s go with that. I’m assuming they pasteurize their milk, as it doesn’t say “raw” anywhere, but it’s made on the farm from happy goats, so for me, that’s about as good as it gets.

Gouda Van Giet is white-very white-goat’s milk is whiter than cow’s because it lacks beta carotene. That’s that carrot colour that makes cow’s cheese kind of yellow. For some mysterious reason, goats convert beta carotene into Vitamin A, colourless. See, goats are magic!

I digress, my vitamin A rich Gouda is a stark white, it’s firm without discernible texture in the smooth paste. It has no rind. The smell is faint and slightly goaty. It beckons me. Yes, it’s not Blue Capri, but a very close cousin, “try me,” it says.

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Here goes…

So complex! It’s like one of those gobstoppers that changes flavour as you go down a level. Initially, salty and goaty, but then, a caramel undertone emerges. It’s rich and salty. It’s also salty, did I mention that? The texture is not as smooth as I expected, the paste holds up to chewing, keeping its integrity. It’s pretty mellow for a goat’s cheese, nothing scary here. It’s chilled out and toothsome.

OK, I like this cheese, but I’m not completely obessed with it, as I am with their Blue Capri. But that’s ok, not everyone appreciates mouldy goat’s cheese, I get that. This is a beautiful, organic, family and farmstead made goat’s Gouda. Try it, it just might be your slice of cheese.

Cheese 137 Mopsy’s Best-a Raw Milk Sheep’s Cheese

One of the great things about being obsessed with cheese, is that people tend to send me cheese tidbits. Alas, not edible cheese tidbits, but links, stories and photos of cheese. Last week a friend sent me a story about extinct words of the English language, including tyromancy. Tyromancy is the art of  divining the future through cheese!  How in the world did this work? Was it like reading tea leaves, only with cheese curd? Were all cheese types involved, or was there a special, powerful cheese used for this purpose? Most importantly, why did tyromancy die out?  Today, here, on “My Blog of Cheese”  I declare the return of tyromancy: I gaze deeply into a beautiful sheep’s milk cheese, and this is what I see…

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Sheep’s milk (sometimes known as ewe’s milk) cheese, is a very special cheese to me. It has a wonderful barny taste, but more than that, ancient cheese munching shepherds were not herding cows, they were herding sheep. Thus it just feels right to me to eat sheep’s cheese, I feel somehow that I’m getting closer to what cheese really is supposed to be. Plus, sheep have tiny little udders, so they really have to work a lot to make milk, and I also appreciate that. It’s good for so many reasons.

On my recent road trip to Washington state, the cheese monger I spoke to recommended that I try today’s cheese, “Mopsy’s Best.” “Oh you must, try it,” she said, “It’s a local, raw milk,  sheep’s cheese.” And really, local, raw or sheep alone would have been enough for me, but the three together is like a cheese yahtzee.

Mopsy’s Best comes to us from the Black Sheep Creamery, and I urge you to visit their website, as it is fantastic and full of great sheep pictures, and who doesn’t like that? The folk at Black Sheep craft their sheep milk cheeses on their farmstead from the milk of their own flock of Rideau-Arcott and East Friesian sheep who graze near Chehalis, Washington- as well as additional milk from the Tin Willows Farm in Eastern Oregon. In case you forgot, my name is also Willow, see: tyromancy at work! Let’s call this a “Cascadian” terroir” as they are mixing milk from 2 states, but it’s all coastal, so it’s all good.

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This cheese appears to be a family run affair. They got their first three sheep in 2000 when their second child had a sensitivity to cow milk, but was able to tolerate sheep milk, (can I just comment here on this being really exemplary parenting, most people would just score some soy milk from the store, but these people went out and bought sheep.) One of their first ewes was  ‘Mopsy” (who now does her best.) One thing lead to another, and  they have been making and selling cheese since about 2005.

Mopsy’s Best is a semi-firm raw cheese aged at least three months. Sheep’s milk has more butterfat and protein than goat and cow milk, and this helps to give it that complex flavour I’m so crazy about. The fact that the milk for Mopsy’s Best has not been pasteurized means that the flavour is more complex yet, as the milk is able to fully develop without any pasteurization getting in the way.  My little wedge of Mopsy’s Best is a firm medium yellow cheese. It has a natural brown rind with a cheese cloth pattern in evidence. The colour is darker closer to the rind, and there are some small eyes in the cheese paste. The smell is rich and barnyardy (is that a word?) It smells sweet and kind of funky, but mild over all. I can’t wait.

Here goes…

How interesting! It changes flavour as you chew it. Initially it’s a round salty sheep taste, but then a hint of caramel emerges. Crazy! The paste has a really interesting texture, it kind of falls apart in your mouth, like it gives up the game the second it touches your tongue, and then it just kind of dissolves into this cream…wait, now it tastes earthy, and closer to the rind it gets more intense with the hit of mushroom funky fungus taste that I dig.

It’s sweet, salty, funky, sheepy and crazy good. My skills of tyromancy tell me that there’s a great future for this little cheese, bravo, Black Sheep Creamery.IMG_2570