Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Notes from a Fromager -- American Cheese

Since last night’s main course was a hearty slab of American pork, I decided to go with three domestic cheeses for the mid-meal cheese plate. Tarentaise (in the middle of the photo), is a yellowish hard cheese from Thistle Hill Farm in North Pomfret, Vermont. The Putney Family (mom, dad and 4 kids), runs this farm themselves, and they claim to know all of their Jersey dairy cows by name. I’m not surprised—Thistle Hill is certainly a bovine’s dream; the cows here get milked twice a day, and otherwise spend their time eating organic hay and grains, and, in the summer, moving through various pastures of fresh grass. The Putneys follow the traditional French Alpine way of producing cheese, meaning it’s made in a copper vat, and processed, for the most part, by hand. The result is a wonderfully complex raw cow’s milk flavor with a delicate yet zingy finish.

The two other cheeses I chose are from Cypress Groves, in Northern California. The first, Lamb Chopper (right-hand side in photo), is a semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese whose wheel pictures a lamb, in sunglasses and a leather vest, riding—that’s right—a chopper. Aside from its mild flavor, the most pleasing aspect of Lamb Chopper is its texture, which is both firm and supple, perhaps even chewy. This is the kind of cheese to eat on its own, without crackers or bread or fruit to get in its way.

The other Cypress Groves cheese is by far its most famous: Humboldt Fog. A celebrity for good reason, this aged goat cheese with a ripened surface and a line of beautiful gray-blue vegetable ash running through its center is rich and tangy. I especially love its varied textures; because it ripens from the outside-in, the edges get gooey and runny, while the inside meat remains flaky. (You can see this ripening in the photo).

I paired these three cheeses with pear and apple slices, and an arugula salad with a Meyer lemon dressing. Man, this country has come a long way since cheese spray and Kraft singles.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey--Edan and Patrick I am having a little trouble posting so I hope you get this, Yuo know I love that Humboldt Fog! Love Mom