January 2010

‘Tis a pity that we didn’t discover Brunet until we were toward the end of our journey through the Wine Spectator 100 Great Cheeses list. ‘Tis a pity that neither Colleen nor I could find it in our local cheese shops, so we had to turn to the pricey mail-order option (though we appreciate that it is an option – thanks, Murray’s!). But we won’t have a pity party today because Brunet is such a find, such a cheesey revelation, that we should only celebrate its deliciousness and forget about shipping fees.

I don’t often associate Italy with goat’s-milk cheeses. Cow, definitely, sheep, occasionally, but not goat. Brunet is here to make you forget your prejudices for the Italian cheeses produced from the milk of those two animals, though. Hailing from the Piedmont region and made with pasteurized milk, Brunet has the texture of a French triple-crème but the lightness of a clean-tasting chevre. Left out on the counter for a couple of hours, its paste becomes liquidy and oozing – you could just as easily eat it with a spoon as you could with a knife and a cracker. Its goaty flavor, though subtle, comes through at the beginning and the end of each bite, and if you hold the rind on your tongue you get the tangy sensation that goat-cheese lovers crave.

Brunet would pair nicely with a Chardonnay or any light sparkling wine. If not pregnant, you could bet I’d be toasting its fabulousness with a bubbly beverage, so I may have to reward myself with another shipment come May. It’s just that good.

Though my cheese drawer is chock full of cheeses from the Wine Spectator list, I recently made room for several off-list varieties for a Heavy Table story I was writing about Rochdale Farms cheeses. Made in Wisconsin from the milk of more than 325 Amish farms in Wisconsin and Minnesota, these cheeses have starting appearing in co-op dairy cases in the Twin Cities and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest. All are good, some are fantastic, so seek them out if you live here or will be visiting these parts!

Well, now that the holidays have come and gone we’re getting back to business here on C + C. We’re nearing the end of our quest to taste all 100 cheeses on the Wine Spectator list, and the remaining dozen or so cheeses have proven a little tricky to track down. Thankfully, Jill had the foresight to order a couple from Murray’s for us to sample together during her recent visit. [If you’ve never ordered cheese by mail from Murray’s, we highly recommend it. The cheeses arrived in perfect condition, neatly wrapped with the standard über-informational Murray’s labels.]

First up, Caruchon, made by Papillon, the renowned Roquefort producers in central France. This is a brined cheese with a colorful red specked rind that made me anticipate a more pungent flavor than we found upon tasting. At first glance you might mistake its dense, golden paste for Pont L’Eveque, though as Jill discovered a few months ago, Pont L’Eveque packs a much more pungent fragrance. Like Roquefort, Caruchon is a sheeps-milk cheese (though pasteurized), with the familiar oily mouthfeel and slightly sweet flavor that is reminiscent of a manchego.

Caruchon does possess a distinctive sheepy aroma, and the crisp rind is more mild than you might expect from a washed-rind cheese, notable more for its texture than its flavor. The paste likewise is mild, pleasantly rich and tasting of pure sheeps-milk. It’s a delightful cheese that might be a good gateway to washed-rind cheeses for your more skeptical friends. It certainly wouldn’t frighten anyone away from the cheese board. I’d probably pair this with a light, fruity red wine, but didn’t have a chance to test that this time around.

Before we begin with our latest cheese – an apology. The holidays were a busy time for the C+C families, and combined with our long-awaited reunion last week in Washington, D.C., this blog got the shaft. So sorry! But we’ve got a full slate of cheeses coming down the pike and are ready to keep rolling in 2010 – just about three weeks behind schedule.

The cheese to put us back on track is Lincolnshire Poacher, a British Cheddar-like confection that you may find in your local cheese shop this time of year (I got mine at Surdyk’s). A raw cow’s-milk cheese that has been aged up to two years, Lincolnshire Poacher is made by the Jones family –  brothers Simon and Tim – who use the milk from their own Holstein cows to produce the cheese. Check out the family’s excellent Web site to learn more about the cheese-making process and watch videos of their self-proclaimed “happy cows.” (Hopefully, the California Milk Marketing Board won’t put up a fight for that slogan.)

Though you may frequently hear Lincolnshire Poacher described as a Cheddar, it’s not a true version of America’s favorite cheese. The recipe is loosely based on Cheddar, but the Jones boys say their modifications give their cheese a taste that’s a cross between Cheddar and Comté, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Perhaps I’m biased based on my recent experience with Hook’s 15-Year Cheddar, but this cheese had a lighter, more subtle taste and lack of crystals, so my taste buds didn’t scream “Cheddar!” upon sampling. But could you use it in a recipe calling for Cheddar or slide it into Cheddar’s space on your cheeseboard? Absolutely.

One of the good things about a lighter-tasting cheese like Lincolnshire Poacher is that it is relatively easy to pair with drinks. Beer, of course, would be a no-brainer, and I could see it enjoyed with both red and white wines as long as they’re full-bodied. A sweet, fruity accompaniment greatly enhances the cheese’s flavor – I nibbled on some dried mango with my Lincolnshire Poacher last night and loved how the sugar content of the mango brought out the cheese’s underlying sweetness.

And if my words don’t convince you to try this cheese, maybe you’ll listen to one of our cheese-blogging colleagues, Kirstin, at It’s Not You, It’s Brie, who also recently posted about Lincolnshire Poacher.

For the inaugural #cheesesunday, a Twitter event organized by one of our favorite cheese geeks, @CurdNerd, what better post to share than our Thanksgiving post — just a few of the many ways we are thankful for cheese. What do you love about cheese? Please share in the comments — or over on Twitter. Cheers!

A cornucopia of cheese!

My family was never one in which we all went around the table and said what were thankful for that year. Truthfully, I always thought that tradition was kind of cheesy. But since this is a cheese blog, Colleen and I thought it would be appropriate to craft a short list of thanks as our blog celebrates its first birthday.

  1. We are thankful for Wine Spectator for creating the 100 great cheeses list. The idea for our blog came this magazine’s Sept. 30, 2008 issue, which Colleen discovered one day last fall, and we snowballed on it. Though we haven’t agreed with the magazine on the merits of each cheese on the list, it gave us a wonderful starting point for tasting new cheeses and relishing old favorites. Special thanks are due to Wine Spectator features editor Owen Dugan, whose kind words have meant a lot to us. Sorry we missed you when we were in New York last summer, Owen! We’ll definitely come again.
  2. We are thankful for the generosity of the cheese community. When we started this project last year, we didn’t have any special connections to the industry. We were just two cheese-obsessed women who wanted to do something fun and find an excuse to eat even more cheese. So it has been all the more gratifying to meet and correspond with many of the top cheesemakers, cheesemongers, cheese writers and bloggers and cheese lovers across the United States (and beyond). Everyone has welcomed and encouraged our interest in cheese and made us feel like we belonged. Being generous with samples is always appreciated, too!
  3. We are thankful for our readers. Anyone can start a blog, but there’s no guarantee you’ll have an audience. Hell, we’re pretty sure that our parents don’t read this blog. (Husbands, maybe?) So it has been fun to hear from readers through comments and e-mail, exchange links with other cheese and food bloggers and continue the conversations on other excellent cheese blogs. If you’ve been visiting regularly over the past year, thank you! If you’ve come a few times, thank you! And if this is your first time, thank you, too!
  4. We are thankful for Twitter. A technology that was under the radar screen until a year or so ago has much to do with the success of our blog. Not only does it bring readers to our site, it has made it easy for us to connect with other caseophiles on the Web. Twitter is how we met Tia, who scored us prime-time seats at Casellula and made sure we had cheese coming out of our ears by the time we left the restaurant. Twitter is how I reserve cheese with my cheesemonger friend Benjamin at France 44. And Twitter is how we keep on top of the latest cheese and foodie news. (No, we were not paid by Twitter for this.)
  5. We are thankful for cheese. What would this world be without cheese? Boring and less delicious. We’re lucky to be passionate about a food that offers so much variety and excitement that there is no end to the amount of tasting and talking we could do on the subject. Yes, we might have lower cholesterol levels or be a few pounds lighter, but what fun would that be?

Yours in cheese,
Colleen & Jill

originally published 11.25.09