Morbier

I recently read an article (don’t ask me to remember where) that compared Morbier to Humboldt Fog. Naturally, I was intrigued since my love for the Fog is well-documented. But it turns out that the only thing the two cheeses have in common is the thin line of vegetable ash running through their centers. Otherwise, not so much. Humboldt Fog is a goat’s-milk cheese; Morbier is made from cow’s milk. Humboldt Fog is from California; Morbier is French. Humboldt Fog is amazing; Morbier is not.

I’m not saying Morbier is a bad cheese – it was perfectly pleasant enough with a soft, slightly rubbery interior and stinky but not-too-funky aroma. But the taste was so mild that my tastebuds said, “OK, next, please.” Maybe it’s because a leftover cheese – some producers, like Jean d’Alos, make it from the leftover curds from the Comte they also create. Morbier is the meatloaf while Comte is the steak.

But don’t cry for Morbier. It’s an innocent cheese just trying to make its way onto your cheeseboard. And since it’s so mild, it’s a good choice to serve if you don’t know how adventurous your guests are with cheese. Pair it with a Beaujolais, Gewurztraminer or Pinor Noir.

As you might expect, it’s Vermont Cheese Week here on Cheese + Champagne, and the first virtual postcard from Vermont comes from Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, in the southern end of the Champlain Valley. We drove through the valley en route to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, and it was breathtakingly beautiful even with the on-and-off rain showers.

This was one of the last cheeses I sampled at the festival, and I was delighted to find Hannah Sessions of Blue Ledge Farm tucked into the back corner as their Lake’s Edge is on our Wine Spectator list and had proven hard to find further south. This cheese is similar to Humboldt Fog, in that it is an aged goats-milk cheese with an ash layer and bloomy rind, but its taste is markedly distinct. It is fresher, with that sweet, clean taste of fresh chevre; the jet-black line of ash adds an earthy tang that awakens the palate. The pure milk taste distinguishes Lake’s Edge from more sour goats-milk cheeses, making this cheese approachable without compromising on flavor.

Blue Ledge Farm has a mixed herd of Alpine, Nubian and Lamancha goats, milked in season (February through November) and rotationally grazed on organically-maintained farmland. In keeping with the cheese’s name, we ate this cheese for lunch on the shores of Lake Champlain — by hand, improvising with dried banana chips as knives. My sister-in-law and I literally had to fight my 3-year-old for the last bites.