CHEESE NOTES

High-res This is the Reblo, a Piedmontese Robiola-style cheese, made from cow and sheep mixed milk, with a bright orangey-red rind not from B.Linens, but from Annatto rubbed onto the rind (the same natural coloring that gives Cheddars and Red Leicester's their vivid hues). The Reblo is distributed by Sant’Alessandra. I actually reviewed the same cheese, albeit from a different distributor — La Casera, and named “Reblo Cremoso” — a year ago, you can see that post here. 
As I said then, The rind is thin and delicate, containing the soft, ripe paste, which is lightly eyed and ivory white. Creamy, velvety and buttery, with a wonderful silky mouthfeel, in both aroma and flavor the Reblo is mild and delicate without being boring, milky, mushroomy and grassy with a subtle lanolin finish from the sheep’s milk. This is at first taste a simple cheese but with a wonderful complexity that comes out as you eat it, bringing to the fore the best qualities of the milk from which it was made. 
Purchased at Formaggio Essex.

This is the Reblo, a Piedmontese Robiola-style cheese, made from cow and sheep mixed milk, with a bright orangey-red rind not from B.Linens, but from Annatto rubbed onto the rind (the same natural coloring that gives Cheddars and Red Leicester's their vivid hues). The Reblo is distributed by Sant’Alessandra. I actually reviewed the same cheese, albeit from a different distributor — La Casera, and named “Reblo Cremoso” — a year ago, you can see that post here

As I said then, The rind is thin and delicate, containing the soft, ripe paste, which is lightly eyed and ivory white. Creamy, velvety and buttery, with a wonderful silky mouthfeel, in both aroma and flavor the Reblo is mild and delicate without being boring, milky, mushroomy and grassy with a subtle lanolin finish from the sheep’s milk. This is at first taste a simple cheese but with a wonderful complexity that comes out as you eat it, bringing to the fore the best qualities of the milk from which it was made. 

Purchased at Formaggio Essex.

High-res It’s that time of year again! The date of the 2014 Cheesemonger Invitational has been announced. Mongers, sign up now, or check out the “Send Your Monger Packing" contest, sponsored by Culture Magazine and Cypress Grove Chèvre, for a chance to win a free trip to the CMI.
Everyone else, get your tickets, this is a must-attend for cheese lovers in the NYC area. That is, if mountains of cheese and competitive mongering is your thing. Check out the photos from last year’s CMI here and here. 

It’s that time of year again! The date of the 2014 Cheesemonger Invitational has been announced. Mongers, sign up now, or check out the “Send Your Monger Packing" contest, sponsored by Culture Magazine and Cypress Grove Chèvre, for a chance to win a free trip to the CMI.

Everyone else, get your tickets, this is a must-attend for cheese lovers in the NYC area. That is, if mountains of cheese and competitive mongering is your thing. Check out the photos from last year’s CMI here and here

High-res On the cheese board this Easter Sunday were a couple of my own cheeses, the “Finback Wheel”, and its bloomy rind sibling. These are from the batch I made during my time at Woodcock Farm. Made with pasteurized Jersey cow’s milk from Jersey Girls Dairy, the wheel on the right was washed with Finback Brewery's Smoked Porter and aged for about 6 weeks. The wheel on the left is the same exact cheese, but was left unwashed, which allowed the white Penicillium Candidum molds to take over, and also produced a very different final product, of course, more of a classic mild, buttery, tangy bloomy rind cheese. The beer-washed wheels, on the other hand, while the beer influence was subtle, were definitely more pungent, with a yeasty, fruity overtone and a little bit more complex flavor. The paste was also moister and creamier, evenly ripened, not oozing but with a nice bulge to it as it warmed. 
For the next time I do this, I’d like to get the beer to assert itself more, perhaps with a beer brining in the beginning, as these were dry-salted and then washed with beer later in the aging. 

On the cheese board this Easter Sunday were a couple of my own cheeses, the “Finback Wheel”, and its bloomy rind sibling. These are from the batch I made during my time at Woodcock Farm. Made with pasteurized Jersey cow’s milk from Jersey Girls Dairy, the wheel on the right was washed with Finback Brewery's Smoked Porter and aged for about 6 weeks. The wheel on the left is the same exact cheese, but was left unwashed, which allowed the white Penicillium Candidum molds to take over, and also produced a very different final product, of course, more of a classic mild, buttery, tangy bloomy rind cheese. The beer-washed wheels, on the other hand, while the beer influence was subtle, were definitely more pungent, with a yeasty, fruity overtone and a little bit more complex flavor. The paste was also moister and creamier, evenly ripened, not oozing but with a nice bulge to it as it warmed. 

For the next time I do this, I’d like to get the beer to assert itself more, perhaps with a beer brining in the beginning, as these were dry-salted and then washed with beer later in the aging. 

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The Wall Street Journal reports on the Crown Finish caves in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, home to NYC’s newest affinage facility. You can check out Cheese Notes’ visit to Crown Finish from a couple months ago here. Via the WSJ

Brooklyn Couple Is Using Old Brewery Tunnel to Age Cheese

A Brooklyn couple has found a unique place to pair beer and cheese: a warren of barrel-vaulted chambers under Bergen Street.

Husband-and-wife team Benton Brown and Susan Boyle are taking a 70-foot long tunnel, last used by the defunct Nassau Brewery in 1912, and pressing it into service once again. The tunnel, named Crown Finish Caves after their Crown Heights neighborhood, will be used to ferment cheese, not beer.

At first, he considered becoming a cheesemaker, and studied the art in Vermont and France. That was, until he decided that it would make more business sense to enter later in the cheesemaking process. “We don’t have the farm or the animals,” Mr. Brown deadpanned.

By the end of May, Crown Finish Caves will receive its first shipment of cheese, 1,000 pounds of Gorgonzola, Parmesan and pasta filata, among other varieties. It marks the city’s latest entry into the cheese-aging business, a relatively recent phenomenon in the U.S.

For the year-old Parish Hill Creamery in Westminster West, Vt., working with Crown Finish will mean doubling its output. Between May and November, the creamery—Crown Finish’s first client—will send the Brooklyn operation 15,000 pounds of mostly Tomme-style raw cow’s milk cheese, none of it over two weeks old.

"We would be going into debt to build an aging facility," said owner Peter Dixon, who met Mr. Brown at one of his cheese-making workshops.

Mr. Dixon, 56, said he and his wife Rachel Fritz Schaal will still age cheese in a root cellar on their farm, and will compare the taste of their batch with that of Crown Finish’s when the cheese is ready.

For help, they turned to the French company Clauger, which specializes in the kind of stainless steel ventilation equipment used by dairy giants such as Danone. Today, the tunnel features lime-washed bricks and a gleaming, state-of-the art filtration system that ensures the room is filled with clean air every hour.

Check out the full post.

(Photo ©2014 WSJ.com)

High-res Even the Lad Mags have discovered cheese, judging from this feature in the April 2014 issue of Details: 

America, We’ve Stepped Up Our Cheese Game
The wedges, blocks, and wheels that are redefining American cheese.
For too long, cheese born in the USA was defined by those rubbery, wax-dipped bricks of schoolbus-orange Cheddar found in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. But those days are over.
"The bar has definitely been raised since I started, in terms of the sheer number of farms producing cheese and the number producing really good cheese," says Anne Saxelby, who opened her eponymous New York City provisions shop in 2006.
That’s partly because American makers have started embracing terroir—a concept borrowed from vintners that suggests that geography and climate influence how something tastes—to create flavor-packed takes on European classics. It’s a difference you can taste in salty wedges seasoned by early-morning fog off the Pacific and pungent blocks ripened in a humid Virginia summer. “It starts with where the cheese is from,” says Jason Sobocinski, owner of New Haven’s Caseus.
Here’s how the New World’s cheeses stack up:

Rad the full post.
(photos ©2014 Details)

Even the Lad Mags have discovered cheese, judging from this feature in the April 2014 issue of Details

America, We’ve Stepped Up Our Cheese Game

The wedges, blocks, and wheels that are redefining American cheese.

For too long, cheese born in the USA was defined by those rubbery, wax-dipped bricks of schoolbus-orange Cheddar found in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. But those days are over.

"The bar has definitely been raised since I started, in terms of the sheer number of farms producing cheese and the number producing really good cheese," says Anne Saxelby, who opened her eponymous New York City provisions shop in 2006.

That’s partly because American makers have started embracing terroir—a concept borrowed from vintners that suggests that geography and climate influence how something tastes—to create flavor-packed takes on European classics. It’s a difference you can taste in salty wedges seasoned by early-morning fog off the Pacific and pungent blocks ripened in a humid Virginia summer. “It starts with where the cheese is from,” says Jason Sobocinski, owner of New Haven’s Caseus.

Here’s how the New World’s cheeses stack up:

Rad the full post.

(photos ©2014 Details)

The Burlington Free Press reports on the rise of goat dairies in Vermont, and Vermont Creamery’s role in that expansion: 

Cheese company leading way for more Vt. goat dairies

Newborn lambs and goat kids gamboling around farms are a sure sign of spring in Vermont. But at the new Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, adorable baby goats will be a year-round presence as part of Vermont Creamery’s efforts to build a successful model for goat dairy farming in the state. 

Touring a visitor recently through the new barn at the company’s latest venture, Vermont Creamery co-owner Allison Hooper explained dairy goats need to be bred and milked throughout the year to provide the busy production facility in nearby Websterville with the raw ingredients needed to craft the fresh and ripened goat cheeses that are in demand across the country.

Although half of Vermont Creamery’s product line is now made with cows’ milk sourced from the St. Albans Co-op, it all started with goats back in 1984 when Hooper, now 54, was working as a dairy lab technician in Vermont after a stint as a cheese apprentice in France. Thirty years later, their award-winning specialty food company ships 3 million pounds of product annually and has played a significant role in building both the local and national artisanal cheese community. 

Throughout the years, however, sourcing enough regionally produced, high-quality goats’ milk year-round to fill growing nationwide demand for Vermont Creamery products has been a challenge.

Over the years Hooper and Reese have tried numerous strategies to develop more goat dairy partners within the state. The new dairy is the latest, and most significant, tactic in this ongoing effort, and something that Hooper said she has been scheming about for years.

Simply put, she said, “We felt that in order to solicit farmers and advertise that this is a viable enterprise, we really had to do it ourselves…With this we can say, ‘We feel your pain. We understand the labor issues, the feed issues, the animal health issues. We can work through this together.’”

Read the full story.

(Photos ©2014 Burlington Free Press)

Two Month, Vintage and Reserve Boont's The cheeses out of the box! Bollie's Mollies Laychee Bollie's Mollies Two-Month Boont Corner Vintage Boont Corner Reserve Boont Corner

Named for the wild pennyroyal mint flowers that carpet the meadows of their farm, Pennyroyal Farmstead is a fairly new cheesemaking operation, locating in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino, California, about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco, on the sixty acres of Navarro Winery. Sustainability is a high priority for the farm, with electricity supplied by solar panels, waste reclaimed for agricultural applications and an army of miniature sheep keeping the lawns mowed. The goats, in their daily foraging, wend their way through the vines and help keep the weeds at bay.

They’ve been a sheep farm for over 25 years, but the goats only arrived five years ago, and the cheesemaking began in earnest after that, with the first cheeses making it to market only in the spring of 2012. The cheesemaking is still small-scale, with the daily makes happening in a 50-gallon vat, working primarily with goat’s milk but also doing mixed-milk sheep and goat’s milk cheeses as seasonality permits. 

I first heard about their cheeses when Kirstin Jackson raved about their Boont Corners cheese on her It’s Not You, It’s Brie blog. I contacted them to inquire about availability on the East Coast; the bad news was that they are not currently available on this side of the country, but the good news (for me) was that they were happy to send me a sample box to try their cheeses! California readers should keep an eye out for them (and see the end of this post for details about their Farm To Table mail order program). 

The first cheese I tried was Laychee, a fresh cheese that is made with goat and sheep while the sheep are still milking, but goes to pure goat later on. This is a mild, bright, milky cheese, in the vein of a queso fresco or fromage blanc, with a creamy, lightly grainy texture and a wonderful cottage-cheesey flavor to it. This would make a great breakfast cheese, with fresh fruit or in a crepe, or as a bruschetta topper with honey.

The next cheese was the Bollie’s Mollies, a lactic bloomy rind goat’s milk cheese. The rind is the dusty blue-gray color of a Selles-Sur-Cher, but the cheese itself is firmer, a soft but not runny creamline surrounding a firm, fudgy center. This is a mild, salty cheese with a smooth mouthfeel, a little bit musty in aroma, with subtle goaty and grassy notes. 

After that was the Boont Corners, which came in three varieties: Two-Month Tomme, Vintage Tomme (aged four to six months) and the Reserve Tomme, which is aged over six months, and in this case was a mixed-milk raw sheep and goat’s milk cheese (although I’m not sure if it’s always mixed milk). All three were aged in a thin paper layer that covers the rind to protect the interior and control moisture loss.

The Two-month had a stony, textured tan rind, and an ivory, moist paste, moderately eyed. The flavor was mild, milky and salty, a little bit tangy, with gamey and herbaceous notes. 

The Vintage tomme, although in theory just an older Boont, had a different rind from the Two-month, smoother, with less irregularity and texture. The paste as well was smoother, with fewer eyes and a creamy, denser, dryer texture. The flavory was more developed and multilayered, a bit saltier, the tanginess of the two-month aged out, with wonderful subtle smokey and meaty notes and a mellow finish. 

The Reserve Tomme, with the addition of Sheep’s milk, resembled a good pecorino, with a rind similar to the Two-month Boont but a paste that was golden colored, moderately eyed, and with a harder, dryer, crumbly texture, with trademark hints of buttery oil from the sheep’s milk. The flavor was salty, rich and nutty, with caramel, lanolin and grassy notes. 

All of the cheeses I tried from Boont were great, with the Vintage Tomme being the real standout. Unfortunately, as noted, they’re not available on the East Coast, but Pennyroyal has a “Farm To Table” mail order program that you can subscribe to, which entitles you to a shipment of three seasonal cheeses, five times a year. Learn more at www.pennyroyalfarm.com/table/.

High-res Dr. Dennis D’Amico taught the Sanitation & Hygiene class when I was attending VIAC, and it was without a doubt one of the most informative (if occasionally stomach-turning) classes of the whole program. Dr. D’Amico is a strong supporter of artisan and raw milk cheesemakers, but believes that the only way we can continue growing the artisan cheese movement is if we commit absolutely to food safety, sanitation and hygiene, and the planning and documentation of those practices through HAACP and other processes. As the recent Listeria-related recall at Crave Brothers shows, even the most well-established, respected cheesemakers can fall victim to contamination. 
VIAC is now closed, but Dr. D’Amico has recently announced a workshop to be offered  at the University of Connecticut on June 6th. He’ll also be offering the same workshop at Cornell, on August 27th. If you’re in the area and haven’t taken a workshop like this previously, I highly recommend it. 
Check out DairyEvents.com to learn more or register.

Dr. Dennis D’Amico taught the Sanitation & Hygiene class when I was attending VIAC, and it was without a doubt one of the most informative (if occasionally stomach-turning) classes of the whole program. Dr. D’Amico is a strong supporter of artisan and raw milk cheesemakers, but believes that the only way we can continue growing the artisan cheese movement is if we commit absolutely to food safety, sanitation and hygiene, and the planning and documentation of those practices through HAACP and other processes. As the recent Listeria-related recall at Crave Brothers shows, even the most well-established, respected cheesemakers can fall victim to contamination. 

VIAC is now closed, but Dr. D’Amico has recently announced a workshop to be offered  at the University of Connecticut on June 6th. He’ll also be offering the same workshop at Cornell, on August 27th. If you’re in the area and haven’t taken a workshop like this previously, I highly recommend it. 

Check out DairyEvents.com to learn more or register.