Frankly, the winter has been quite wintry. With the weather circumscibing my social life, I was beginning to feel somewhat cloistered. So when I got an invite to an evening of football – viewed on a really large screen – and chili, I unhesitatingly accepted. I do admit that there was also the inducement of generous amounts of good wine. For my part, I would supply the cheese course and thus began planning my winter cheese plate. I wanted hearty cheeses, cheeses that had been aged and acquired some heft. There would be no fresh goat cheeses or bloomy triple cremes; that is, no white wine cheeses. These cheeses would be suitable for pairing with warm winter reds. Since cheese is an ancient way of preserving milk and thus providing protein in the lean winter months, I also wanted some cheeses with an antique provenance. So off I was to the fromagerie.
MY WINTER CHEESE PLATE
- Fiore Sardo – Here was an ancient cheese, whose manufacture dates from before the Roman conquest of Sardinia. Made from raw sheep’s milk, the cheese is formed, brined, lightly smoked then aged for 4-6 months. Palest yellow with an aroma of light smoke, game and herbs; dry yet crumbly, somewhat delicate, then a bit piquant with an acidic finish. The cheese surprised me with its delicacy – the strong aroma hadn’t prepared me for the subtlety of the taste. This truly was “The Sardinian Flower”.
- Tomme Chevre Ayidus – Tomme de Chevre is widely made in France. This version comes from the Pyrennees, an area usually associated with sheep’s milk cheeses. This raw milk cheese is aged for 4 months. Ivory with a goaty, sharp aroma; firm but moist, than a burst of umami, a flavor that fills the mouth. The cheese is expertly salted, the saltiness only adding to the overall flavor. This goat knocks “Manchester” from Consider Bardwell Farm off the pedestal of “My Favorite Aged Goat Cheese”.
- Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue – The latest offering from the guys who make some of America’s preminent blue cheeses and supposedly the one they had the most difficulty bringing to market. It was well worth the wait. Made from raw cow’s milk and aged 8-12 month, the cheese has a natural rind. The paste is creamy and moist, practically melting on the tongue. A bit sweet, well salted, the cheese is very approachable. Feed it to your friends who claim not to like blues.
We accompanied these with a good Barbera.
These cheeses were purchased at Central Bottle and Provision.