The impetus for this cheese plate came from a class – and the ensuing discussion – at Central Bottle + Provisions, “Old World vs. New World”, presented by cheesemonger Stephanie Santos. The question – just how do American cheeses compare to European cheeses? Not so long ago, my opinion was that on the whole European cheeses were superior and few American cheeses their match. Yet like a presidential candidate, my opinion has evolved. I’ve come to see that American cheeses should be judged on their own merits and not in comparison to European cheeses. While some American cheeses are modeled on prestigious European brands, the American terrior changes them; others are unique creatures. Thus, with the intention of composing a cheese course that would highlight the excellence of American cheeses, I presented this plate for a recent Easter-Passover celebration I attended. To add a twist to my composition, I decided to use all cow’s milk cheeses.
- “Barely Buzzed” – This first cheese from The Beehive Cheese Co. of Utah would probably have Europeans shaking their heads in disbelief – “Barely Buzzed” is definitely an American creation – a rich full-bodied cheese rubbed with a paste of finely ground espresso and lavender buds. The aroma is wonderfully perfumed. The golden hued cheese is rich and full-bodied with notes of butterscotch which contrasts with the bitter espresso. The lavender imparts both a sweet herbal scent and taste. Beguilingly unique – or not, depending upon one’s continent.
- “Drunk Monk” – The popular signature washed rind cheese from Cato Corner Farm in Connecticut is “Hooligan”; “Drunk Monk” substitutes brown ale from the Willimantic Brewing Co. for the brine used in”Hooligan”. The cheese is pale with an orange rind marked by the basket in which it was formed. Creamy and pliant at the edge, the texture becomes more firm in the center. The flavor is intriguing with hints of mustard and bitter herbs. The cheese is judiciously seasoned. A most approachable “stinker”.
- “Four Corners” – I first had “Four Corners” made by Cobb Hill Cheese at the inaugural Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival – its flavor was memorable. Modelled on the Welsh cheddar “Caerphilly”, the cheese is pale ivory with a pebbly gray rind. Firm and a bit crumbly, the cheese – made with vegetable rennet – is slightly bitter, most tangy and well balanced. A successful American cheese that takes inspiration from Europe.
- Point Reyes “Original Blue” – From The Farmstead Cheese Co. on Tomales Bay California, this was a cheese I hadn’t eaten for several years. Honestly, I felt that it wasn’t very good. Times change. When recently I sampled the cheese again, I was surprised at how appealing it actually was. Creamy yet crumbly, the sweet richness of the milk contrasts nicely with P. Roquefortii – the blue mold in blue cheese. An ideal cheese for those leery or fearful of blues.
Cheeses available at
Central Wine + Provisions 196 Mass Ave Cambridge MA