With all the times we’ve mentioned this cheese over the past year, is our No. 1 bubbly-worthy pick any surprise?

This triple-cream cheese from New York’s Nettle Meadow Farm is made from 75 percent goat’s milk and 25 percent cow’s milk, and the result is 150 percent spectacular. Read more.

Happy new year! May 2011 be the cheesiest year yet.
Colleen+Jill

If there’s one cheese that I’ve been craving more than any other during the past eight months of pregnancy, it would be Kunik. This triple-cream cheese from New York’s Nettle Meadow Farm is made from 75 percent goat’s milk and 25 percent cow’s milk, and the result is 150 percent spectacular. Thank the Lord that the Cheese Shop at France 44 usually has a button or two in stock when I stop in after yoga on Saturday mornings. A week without my Kunik fix is a bad week, indeed.

As lucky as I am to find Kunik here in Minnesota, I can’t help but wish I lived close to the Nettle Meadow Farm in the Adirondacks. The cheesemakers, Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, make a variety of small-batch, hand-crafted goat cheeses mixed with yummy ingredients like herbs, olive oil, garlic, maple syrup and honey. You really can’t beat fresh chevre when it comes to cheese – the flavor is so rich and pure that you can eat it straight with a spoon. But since I’m not close to Nettle Meadow – and I have delicious Minnesota and Wisconsin chevres to devour – I will definitely take the Kunik when I can get it. Though it’s been slightly aged, it still carries the freshness of a chevre with the luxurious creaminess of cow’s milk. If you can find a button, buy it and eat it in small wedges on a cracker or by itself. I’d be surprised if you can stop yourself before the entire cheese is gone!

Before we get any further into fall (it’s October already?!) I need to fill you in on one last fresh goat cheese, the Coach Farm Medallion. I didn’t think this cheese would be hard to find when I first saw it on the list, as my local cheese shop carries several Coach products, but they never seemed to have the Medallion, a small 4-ounce knob of creamy chevre. Coach Farm‘s goat cheeses were one of the first artisanal cheeses I can recall tasting, years ago on my first pilgrimage to the Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan. My travel companion and I were smitten and brought back a jar of marinated goat buttons which I ate as slowly as possible to stretch out the supply.

Coach Farm is located in New York’s Hudson Valley, about two hours north of the city. Their French Alpine dairy goats graze on fresh alfalfa hay grown on the farm, plus a daily supplement of soybeans, oats and corn. Coach uses vegetable rennet, making their cheeses vegetarian-friendly. The milking parlor connects directly to the creamery, where they ladle the curds by hand, turning out consistently rich, smooth cheeses. This particular medallion was crisp, creamy and fresh tasting, silky in texture and flavor. (Is silky a flavor? It is now.)

Yes, if you’re wondering, the Coach is that Coach, of handbag fame. The founders, Miles and Lillian Cahn, retired from the fashion business and moved upstate to enjoy a quiet country life with 1,000 goats. Their hobby quickly took off and their goat cheeses have been featured in some of New York’s top restaurants — including those of Mario Batali, who is married to the Cahn’s daughter. Today, you can also find Coach’s fresh and aged goats-milk cheeses, and their delicious drinkable “Yo-Goat,” at fine cheese shops across the country. I picked up the Medallion at Marlow & Daughters, an adorable little gourmet market in Brooklyn, on our last visit to New York. We enjoyed it with a few other regional cheeses and Brooklyn-made goodies from the Bedford Cheese Shop …. more on that soon!

(Can you guess the other two cheeses on the plate? Hint: they’re from states on the I-91 corridor.)

While we may be done recounting our New York cheese tour, I’m not quite done with New York yet. My cheese of the week, Ouray, is New York born and bred. Well, I guess “aged” would be the proper term, right?

Ouray is one of the many raw cow’s-milk cheeses created at Sprout Creek Farm, a 200-acre farm in Poughkeepsie that also serves as an educational center for kids and adults interested in learning more about farming and environmental stewardship. The milk for Sprout Creek Farm cheeses comes from grass-fed Jersey, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn and Brown Swiss Cows, and the cheeses are made following European artisan tradition. The Web site features a step-by-step photo gallery of the cheese-making process, a practice more cheesemakers should adopt for us nosy cheese lovers.

Upon tasting Ouray, it’s obvious that the milk comes from grass-fed cows because the grassy, almost floral flavor is very prominent. The cheese has a lightness to it that is very pleasing on a summer evening, but its saltiness keeps it from being so light that its flavors disappear from your palate within a few seconds. Try it with a Cabernet Sauvignon and some apple slices for snack, or add a green salad and bread for a light dinner.

Special thanks to Benjamin at the Cheese Shop at France 44 (and the St. Paul Cheese Shop) for his help in bringing Ouray to Minneapolis for me!

The fourth and final installment in our New York Summer ’09 cheese tour — though we’re already counting down to our next visit.

I actually heard about Barnyard first on Twitter, and made a mental note to add it to our chzday09 adventure. When we staggered across town from Murray’s to Barnyard’s front stoop, we were frankly a little tired and cranky and more concerned with resting up for dinner than with looking at yet another cheese case. So we were almost relieved when we didn’t spot any cheeses from the list that we hadn’t yet sampled. Had this been our first stop of the day, we likely would’ve spent more time chatting with the friendly staff in this inviting, yet cozy, neighborhood shop.

While the selection was not abundant, Barnyard did have a noteable array of  foreign and domestic picks that ranged from the classics (Beemster, Roquefort) to newer and regional choices (Roaring 40s, Consider Bardwell).

They also make (and deliver!) fresh deli sandwiches and soup, and offer all the critical cheese complements from olives to crackers, plus some farm fresh eggs and meat products in the deli case. While I may not make a special trip over just to visit the shop, I’ll be certain to poke my head in should I find myself in the neighborhood. And if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to peak around the corner at their affiliated wine shop for something else to take home with your cheese.

Barnyard
149 Avenue C
Alphabet City
New York, NY 10009
212-674-BARN (2276)
open daily, check website for hours
www.barnyardcheese.com
Barnyard on Urbanspoon

The third in a series of tasting notes from our New York Summer ’09 Cheese Tour. Though chzday09 actually took place on Sunday, June 28, Colleen and I did a practice run, so to speak, in Brooklyn the previous day. After spending some time at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum with the extended dccheese family and feasting on pastrami at Junior’s Deli, we made a quick stop at Stinky Brooklyn before I headed into Manhattan and Colleen went to the No Doubt concert at Jones Beach (lucky!).

A slip of a shop in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, Stinky Brooklyn nonetheless packs in a large variety of cheeses, meats (you can’t miss the selection of hams with hooves still attached) and all the classic accompaniments into its four walls. While the bus of visiting cheesemongers in town for the Fancy Food Show made the shop very crowded, we managed to squeeze our way in to pick out a couple of cheeses from the Wine Spectator list that we had yet to sample. Colleen and I usually like to take time to chat with the cheesemongers, taste a few (or several) cheeses and poke around the non-cheese items, but the volume of hungry customers made it impossible this time. Hopefully, we’ll make it back another time for a more leisurely visit and tasting session.

We were excited to see one of the two Portuguese cheeses on the list at Stinky Brooklyn – Nisa, a raw sheep’s-milk cheese made in the country’s Alentejo region. A creamy, yeasty cheese, Nisa seemed lighter than the Gabietou, though it had a similar consistency. We noticed a less pronounced “sheepiness” (i.e. oiliness) to the cheese but still enjoyed its drier texture and herbaceous flavor. Being Portuguese, Nisa is a can’t-miss match for Port or a light-bodied red wine.

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the tongue,
And therefore is fromage best sampled blind.”

– Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first: this is not an unbiased review. We first met Tia Keenan, mistress de fromage, virtually via Twitter. It was love at first tweet as we instantly sensed a kindred spirit in cheese. So when Jill and I realized the stars would align for us to meet midsummer in New York, Casellula was top on our agenda. On a night when the biggest and brightest of the professional cheese trade were in town, many also visiting this intimate cheese and wine cafe, Tia was a warm hostess and generous with her time and talent.

As cheese junkies, it is futile to ask what kind of cheese we like best. Would you ask a mother to name her favorite child? Well, right now we can, but that’s only because we each have only one. But back to the point, we prefer to do the asking when at a cheese shop or ordering a cheese plate, and our best finds are often those when we relinquish control and let the cheesemonger surprise us. This was certainly the case at Casellula, where we selected the New York flight as the most likely to contain cheeses we weren’t familiar with, and were delighted when Tia made a few adjustments for us. New York’s 3-Corner Field Brebis Blanche (so fresh!) and Red Meck were certainly delicious, but we were totally smitten with the Pipe Dreams chevre log and sweet pea puree pairing. Lazy Lady Farm’s Bipartisan, a fresh goat cheese ball dropped into a washed-rind cow’s-milk cheese, was a most welcome treat. The cheese plates Tia lovingly prepares are truly inspired, with pairings ranging from a typical mustard to pickled ramps and coconut macaroon balls.

While the rest of our trip was meticulously documented in photos, tweets and tasting notes, we declared ourselves off duty and simply savored our wine, cheese, plate of fresh anchovies with fennel and pickled shallots, blue cheese-laden endive salad and mouth-watering desserts. So we can’t tell you what wine we drank, other than that it was a lovely full-bodied white Czech tokai, but we can tell you that the parsnip cookies with Pipe Dreams chevre filling are simply not to be missed. Aside from that, entrust the wine suggestions and cheese selections to Tia’s capable hands, and you’re sure to walk away refreshed and inspired.

Casellula
Hell’s Kitchen NYC
401 W. 52nd Street
5pm – 2am, 7 days a week (reservations not accepted)
212.247.8137
Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe on Urbanspoon