Cheese 136 Blue Mountain Blue

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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.
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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

Cheese 123-Louis d’Or Vieille

 

It’s getting harder these days to really excite me about a new cheese. I’m perhaps a little jaded, 123 cheeses into this strange little foray of mine…but yesterday-my heart stopped.  While at my local cheese shop looking for something “sexy, Canadian, and hard” (yes, those were my criteria, don’t laugh) my eyes fell upon something I had somehow missed before.  It was a large handsome cheese: hard, firm, Canadian…organic, unpasteurized, and a gold medal winner…breathing harder, yes…this is the cheese I have been looking for, and it was right under my nose.

You see, it turns out that I really am mad for Canadian cheese-all things being equal-which they aren’t, of course.  To find a great cheese made in my homeland just seems right.  There’s supporting your fellow Canadians, then’s there’s the carbon footprint, et cetera, but really, why not eat Canadian cheese?  Especially when Canadians are so damn good at making damn good cheese, especially the French-why?  Why is it always Quebec?  This is a great mystery to me.

I digress.  Today’s handsome (and hard and Canadian, I did mention that, right) cheese is a Comte look alike (and I love me some Comte) made by the Quebecois Fromagerie du Presbytere.  It’s a cow’s milk cheese made with organic milk right on the farm.   It’s rare to find such a large Mountain Style cheese made here in Canada as it takes quite a commitment to make and then store a cheese of this size. I reviewed another cheese by this groovy fromagerie back in my early cheese days-Laliberte which was an unctuous and yummy triple cream brie, but today’s cheese is their eponymous headliner-and I tend to think that when something is eponymous, it’s really special!

I’m kind of stealing this next bit from my old review, but it just bears repeating, and it’s not theft if it’s from yourself. “The farm of Louis d’or, is a family run company operated by four generations of the Morin family.  Even better, it’s  artisanal, family owned, and organic.  This family turned to organic farming in the 1980′s, which makes them early adopters.   The farm has a herd of Holstein and Jersey cows which graze in the organic pastures of clover, timothy grass, bluegrass and other organic grains. These cows are never given antibiotics or hormones. In 2005 this Morin family decided to remodel an old church rectory called Sainte-Élizabeth de Warwick. It was located just in front of their farm.  All their cheese is now made in this refurbished building and the family only makes artisanal organic certified cheese. Wow, this is sounding like an ad for this fromagerie.  But come on, a refurbished cheese rectory.”

This beautiful cheese is remarkable for its size- it’s made in 40 KG wheels, and has a washed rind and a firm pressed cooked paste.  It is made from raw milk, so pregnant ladies we warned! Typically this cheese is served at the 9 month age-and this is the one that won all the prizes, but my little sample is the Vieille or aged and is 18 months old.  Yes, be jealous of me, that’s perfectly understandable. Louis D’Or (at the 9 month age) is a big winner taking the 2011 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Grand Champion as well as best in class in firm cheese, farmhouse cheese, organic cheese too, and the American Cheese Society best of show third place, along with numerous other awards.   Are you impressed yet?  How can we ask for more?  It’s an award winning  family made cheese based on happy organic cows and a refurbished rectory.  I’m sold.

 


My long slice of Louis d’or Vieille which from the sounds of it I was lucky to find-due to the popularity of this cheese, is an attractive creamy yellow with a dark brown natural rind.  I see other reviews referencing eyes in this cheese, but my sample does not contain them…mine is also the 18 month version, so I am unclear if this is the cause.  It appears as though there is some crystallization or tyrosine throughout the paste-which makes me crazy with desire…I love me some tyrosine!  It smells wonderful, nutty and deep and really for all the world like a Comte.  It’s a mellow and mature cheese, it’s begging me to enter into a conversation with it…and I shall.

Here goes…

There’s so much going on here, I don’t even know where to start. First, it’s floral, and sweet, I’m so shocked!  It’s very mellow and round, but ultimately very, very sweet and benign more like a great Gruyere than anything else.  There are no sharp or uric notes whatsoever, it’s just totally mellowed out, it’s like a Zen master of cheese. Sweet, round, mellow, pleased with itself and the balance it has achieved in this world.  The texture is fabulous, it’s firm to the teeth, but enjoys a little chew before dissolving into a sweet milky paste-there’s a faint fleck or tyrosine, but that’s not the show stopper here-the show stopper is the taste, it’s really unlike anything I have ever tasted before, it’s clover, sunshine, friendship and happiness. It’s a revelation in cheese.  Unlike many cheeses this one should be eaten by itself, with nothing else-it’s cheese in the purest form: complex, developed, wise, sumptuous.  If you can get your hands on this cheese, do it, you can thank me later.

Holy Hannah Louis D’Or, you are most definitely my slice of cheese, bravo!

 

Day 71-Reblochon de Savoie AOC

It’s bright and early Tuesday morning.  I am ready to eat cheese. Yesterday’s unfortunate run-in with some bad rind only temporarily sidelined me.  You can’t let one bad cheese spoil the whole plate.  In all things in life-cheese included-we must persevere.

Speaking of persevering, today’s legendary cheese, Reblochon de Savoie-is a true survivor.  Reblochon  has been made since the 13th century.  However, it has spent the majority of its existence as a secret cheese! Reblochon was basically underground and for personal consumption only until the French revolution. Farmers using the pastures in the Haute-Savoie area were made to pay a tax based on their daily milk yield.  To get around this, the farmers only half-ass milked the cows while the tax-man was looking.  When he left, they re-milked the cows and made this cheese from that milk.  The  French verb “reblocher”  means “to squeeze a cow’s udder again”-this re-milked  cheese was only for the family. The French revolution removed heads and also the milk tax.  At last Reblochon was free to come out of the closet…temporarily.

After a couple of hundred years as a legitimate cheese-Reblochon is experiencing a whole new life in the underground.  Although legal in Canada, it is currently illegal for sale in the USA due to recent enforcement of laws regarding raw milk cheese.  Although there are pasteurized or locally made versions of Reblochon for sale (Le Gaulois, reviewed last month was a Canadian take on the cheese,) the real thing is-once again, an outlaw.  There is a plethora of information on the ‘net of people trying to “score” some Reblochon.  An apparent vibrant “black market” for this cheese exists, with die-hard Reblochon fans doing whatever it takes to get their fix. Some shops-unnamed-carry it “under the counter” and sell it to trusted buyers only.

In fact, the whole world of Reblochon is so fraught with issues in the USA  that a crop of fake Reblochon has flooded the market in response to this need. A cheese called Fromage de Savoie was created to try to get around the American raw-milk loophole and replace Reblochon.  Alas, it’s just no good, according to those in the know. In some places Fromage de Savoie is sold  as Reblochon, but beware…it isn’t.  Interestingly, the name “Reblochon” is protected by AOC, but this AOC designation only protects someone from producing a cheese called “Reblochon,” it does not protect a store or distributor from calling a cheese whatever they like.  This suddenly makes a lot of sense to me-there seems to be a disconnect between what some stores are calling some cheese, despite the rules I thought were in place to protect the name.  There’s a lot of mis-named cheese out there in the market place, particularly if the real thing is banned, expensive or difficult to purchase.

Reblochon is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese, designated AOC in 1976.  The AOC regulations stipulate that it is made from raw cow milk only, and made and matured in the Haute Savoie/Rhône Alps region of France. Milk for this cheese comes from the Montbeliard, Abondance and Tarine breed of cow.  Reblochon is made  Industrially, cooperatively and by individual producers.  Reblochon is still made with the creamy milk of a second milking. The curds are poured into molds which are covered with a cheesecloth. The cheesecloth gives the trademark texture to the cheese rind. The cheeses are put into a cellar or caves to dry for the next 6-8 weeks.  They are flipped every second day and washed with whey to aid the development of the rind.
My wedge of legal and authentic Reblochon is just minding its own business.  You couldn’t tell it was a little bad-ass rebel simply by looking at it-it looks like an innocent  brie to me.  The paste is yellow and the rind is white and slightly sticky. The smell is strong-not a gagger.  This is clearly a washed rind cheese though-and all that implies.  There’s a little bit of toes in the nose, but I like that.
Here goes…
Mmmmm.  It’s mild, and buttery, with a little hint of uric acid. It’s mushroomy.  It’s not sweet or salty, and my tongue is always searching for those notes in a cheese.  It’s surprisingly light and savoury and kind of eggy.  It’s pretty chilled out unless you add the rind, which kicks the piquancy up a notch.  Do this at your own peril. The texture is fabulous, it’s gooey and sensual.  It’s a sticky and carnal little cheese that seems to have made great friends with my teeth. I’m torn between the great story of this Rebel-ochon and the underwhelming taste profile.  It’s not the best tasting cheese I have sampled, but I do like it-it’s a saucy little survivor.