The island of Pag off the coast of Croatia is home to a special artisan cheese, Paski Sir. Paski Sir is gaining worldwide recognition quickly as it amasses award-after-award. In 2010, it won the prestigious Barber Award and was named the World’s Best New Cheese at the World Cheese Awards. That’s one hefty accolade.
Through this blog, The Lady and I met Simon Kerr, the indefatigable Marketing and Export Director for Gligora Dairy where Paski Sir is produced (Simon is also a Master when it comes to understanding social media). He graciously offered to send a sample our way and we were thrilled. After sampling it, we felt we had been granted membership in an exclusive club… those lucky enough to taste this exquisite sheeps’ milk cheese.
Before reviewing let me share more about Pag and the production of Paski Sir.
The Lady was in Croatia in 1978 when it was still Yugoslavia and Tito was alive and kicking. She didn’t get to Pag but the week she spent in Yugoslavia is one of her fondest memories. She loved every minute she spent there; the people were friendly; the countryside is beautiful; the cities old and stately. Her favorite was the Croatian walled city of Dubrovnik. She worked in the airline industry at that time and was invited to sit in the cockpit while landing in Dubrovnik; ahh, the good ole days of aviation… but I digress…
The Island of Pag is off the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic Sea and enjoys a perfect climate for cheesemaking. Its eastern landscape lies beneath the mainland Velebit mountain range which creates the Pag Bora, a strong, cool and dry wind that comes off the mountains. When it reaches the sea, it creates millions of tiny sea droplets that the Bora dries and turns the droplets into salt dust. Then the Bora deposits the salt dust on the vegetation of the island. It is here that the Paska Ovca Sheep grazes on the vegetation, their favorite being the Pag Sage growing on the rocky landscape. The aromatic sage is quite prominent in both the scent and taste of this cheese. Paski Sir is a perfect example of terroir and cheese.
Paski Sir has been produced on Pag since the 7th Century during Roman occupation and today there are several dairies producing this cheese (and many other award-winning cheeses as well). Currently the main producers of Paski Sir have formed a Cheese Association with the intention of obtaining Protected Designation of Origin for Paski Sir to impose strict condition for production. It would also ensure that Paski Sir remains a product of Pag.
In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Gligora Sirana Dairy won the coveted 3 star Superior taste Award from the International Taste and Quality Institute for Paski Sir.
The Lady, The Man and I enjoyed a wedge of this cheese one evening and although it started out as the appetizer; it quickly became dinner. The cheese was so satisfying we were unable to just taste one or two bites and the three us finished the entire wedge. I suppose we should be embarrassed but we’re not in the least.
The piece we had was aged about one year and the color of light caramel. It has a dense paste with some small eyes, similar in appearance to a Manchego. When The Lady sliced the wedge, a floral aroma filled the air and promised more to come. The first taste is light but quickly develops into a strong, piquant finish. A finish that lingers and grows as you enjoy yet another slice. It crumbles and melts and leaves you begging for more. The taste is unique and because this cheese is thermalized rather than pasteurized, most of the floral of the sage plant is still delightfully present which adds to the enjoyment of this cheese. As a point of reference because this cheese is not yet widely-known in the US, this cheese is moister than Manchego and not as salty as a Pecorino but has similarities to both.
The Lady and I decided after enjoying this cheese, we are firmly moving into the category of lovers of sheep milk cheeses. Like the Sally Jackson cheese The Lady tasted at the 2010 ACS Conference, the taste remains in your mind and you can almost taste it again with only thinking of it.
Sadly, Paski Sir is not currently available for sale in the United States but Simon told The Lady it should be available via wholesale through Grand Prix Trading of New York by mid-May, 2011. For further information regarding Paski Sir, please contact Simon via his Paski Sir Blog. Paski Sir also has a Facebook page you can “Like” and they Tweet as @PaskiSir. As I said earlier, Simon knows his way around the internet. His series “From Ewe to You” is informative and follows the entire production of Paski Sir from the Ewe to your table. You can win a wheel of Paski Sir – the details are on the blog.
Serving suggestion: Slice in triangles, leave the rind intact and serve this cheese naked to fully enjoy its flavor and taste. The Lady served the Paski Sir with a trio of Vintner’s Kitchen jams: Marionberry Jam with Port, Confetti Pepper Jelly and Strawberry and Pinot Noir Jam and VK’s Honeyed Wine Mustard with Garlic. She also had a peppered salumi on the plate and freshly baked French Bread.
Wine Pairing: The Lady enjoyed a glass of 14 Hands Merlot with this cheese although she suggests a Riesling would also pair well with Paski Sir.
Beer Pairing: North Coast Old Stock Ale . The Earthy sweetness pairs well with the salty tang of the Paski Sir.
Trivia: Pag lacework, also made on the island and used in the background of the Paski Sir label, was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009.
FTC Full Disclosure – The cheesemaker/manufacturer sent me their product, hoping I would review the product/cheese.