One of The Lady’s BCFF is Nathan, who heads up the Murray’s Cheese training program for Kroger. This means The Lady and Nathan get to work together and occasionally hangout. For The Lady, it’s a special relationship; one she cherishes. Nathan is a young man (Ladies, he’s available…) with an old soul and a sense of humor that The Lady appreciates… The Lady tried to introduce us last year in Seattle, but I refused to leave my nest and grace him with my presence. However, I picked up his scent; we are pride.
Recently Nathan sent some of his favorite cheeses for me to taste. Man, oh, man… Nathan “knows cheese”… Here are my thoughts:
The Lady laid out the cheese plate under my watchful eye and I shared them with her and The Man… unlike The Man, I understand the concept of sharing… most of the time.
Our tasting began with Zimbro, a raw sheep’s’ milk cheese coagulated using thistle; my first thistle rennet cheese. Like Upland’s Rush Creek, you slice off the top and dip into this amazing gooey, pudding-esque custard with a bit of sour and a slightly bitter like endive… in other words, a little taste of cheese heaven. And like Rush Creek, The Man and I struggled over what we each considered our fair shares. The Man won again… my dewclaw paw just can’t stand up to his opposable thumb… rats… For dipping The Lady served fresh-from-the-oven mini baguettes.
The second cheese on the plate was Hudson Red, a washed rind from Ghent, New York’s Twin Maple Farm. Made with raw cows’ milk, this cheese was aged in the Caves (Cave 5 to be exact) at Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker Street in the West Village. A little funky smelling, but not as much as an Alsatian Munster, the paste is both sweet and savory. Another delightful cheese.
From Hudson Red we progressed to Podda Classico, a mixed milk (Sheep and Cow) from Sardinia, the island off the coast of Italy that is home to more sheep than people. This aged cheese is made by Ferruccio Podda, who has been making cheese since 1952. On the plate it was beyond fabulous; The Lady mentioned grating it over an upcoming pasta she is planning. Nutty, sweet and crumbly… The Man swooned; The Lady swooned… heck, even I swooned…
Next we traveled to a cheese from the French Pyrenees, another area of Europe famous for its sheep and cheeses made from ewes’ milk… but this cheese, Tomme Chevre Aydius, is a farmstead cheese made in small batches with raw goats’ milk. The cheesemaker ages and washes this cheese for a minimum of three months and sometimes up to six months. When he decides his cheese is ready, he ships it to Murray’s, which continues the washing and aging until their Affineur deems the cheese perfect and ready to debut. It’s earthy and grassy with just that touch of tang that identifies it as goat. It ends with a bit of fruit and pepper.
We continued our journey north to England where we found Tickler Extra Mature, a serious cheddar made in forty pound blocks in the Taw Valley of the U.K.’s Devon region. Although not a traditional clothbound English cheddar, Tickler is made using traditional cultures and aged for eigthteen months before beginning its journey across the pond to finer cheese shops in America. You might recall that Murray’s owner, Rob Kaufelt, enjoys Tickler with bacon on sourdough and grilled with lots of Vermont butter… let’s face it, any grilled cheese with “lots” of Vermont butter is going to be a winner… but I digress…
Tickler is sweet and nutty with a tang that lingers at the back of your mouth long after the last bite. Tickler Creamery loves this cheese so much they created a beer to be enjoyed soley with this cheddar. Alas, you can’t enjoy that pairing here in the U.S…. my guess… still holding a grudge over that 1776 incident… but you can substitute a bitter blonde ale and thumb your nose at the Brits for withholding their ale… what??? Just sayin’…
Finishing Nathan’s “I’ve Always Loved You” Cheese Plate, from Ireland we enjoyed Cashel Blue. Made by the Grubb Family, which incidentally was kicked out of England some 300 years ago over religious differences… sound familiar???…, in County Tipperary where Louis and Jane have kept the family’s dairy roots alive and well. Created in 1984 by Jane, Cashel Blue is a farmhouse cheese made from their herd of one hundred Friesian cows, nurtured by Neal’s Yard after aging a minimum of two months. It’s mild, creamy with a hint of Irish minerals and a perfect end to a perfect cheese plate.
In the center of the plate, The Lady added Grace and I’s Hawaiian Press, a block of pineapple, mango, papaya and passion fruit pressed together with macadamia nuts. The Lady found this delicacy at Bend’s Newport Avenue Market, a wonderful specialty market in the heart of the Oregon high desert.
The Lady added Castelveltrano Olives, French-style Cornichons from Trois Petits Cochons, toasted walnuts, PepperLane Blackberry Buzz and my dear friend, Becky Poff’s homemade Oregon Strawberry Jam. You can’t buy Becky’s jams; she makes very small batches and only shares them with friends.
I reserved my scoring until the end because everyone of these cheeses were nothing less than 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got). The Man, The Lady and I all agreed that this was the best cheese plate we have ever had… Nathan delivered… that’s why we’ve “always loved him.”
Serving Suggestions: Don’t mess with these cheeses. Let them warm to room temperature and serve them only to your most special of friends.
Wine Pairings: Stick with a nice red, not too robust, but not a sissy red either.
Beer Pairing: We defer to our resident Beer Enthusiast, Mike Wright.