March Madness Cheese Plate – Marcella The Cheesemonger International Guilde des Fromagers
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March Madness Cheese Plate

IMG_20140324_202315_729To celebrate the Kentucky Wildcats’ almost total success this year in March Madness, I created a small cheese board with Blue Mont Dairy’s Bandaged Cheddar, Grafton Cheese’s Bear Hill and Mt. Townsend’s New Moon. I added some pate and paired each of the cheeses with an amazing Marionberry Jam handmade by Food by Bob.

Willi Lehner owner and cheesemaker at Blue Mont Dairy in the “Driftless” region of Wisconsin near Blue Mounds State Park is a second-generation cheesemaker who buys only pasture-fed, raw cow milk from four local dairies. After the make, he brings his wheels home and ages them in a cave he designed, built and lined with cedar planks. He wraps his wheels in cloth and then sprays with a mixture of water and old bits of his cheddar. The humidity, temperature “mixes” with the molds living in the cave and these factors contribute flavors to his cheeses.Blue Mont Bandaged Cheddar

Willi’s bandaged cheddar tied for Third Place as Best of Show at the 2013 American Cheese Society Competition. This bandaged cheddar tied with another of Willi’s cheeses, a first time two cheeses from the same maker received such recognition. Four of the five cheeses Willi entered into that competition won awards, three winning first place in their respective classes…. which might explain, in a recent conversation with Willi, he told me that right now, he has no cheese to sell… he’s sold out, making cheese and waiting for wheels to age…

The cheddar is fruity, nutty and a little earthy. Crumbly and immediately melts on the palate leaving a satisfying finish.  No surprise this cheese is winning awards and making it hard to keep up with the demand for Blue Mont cheeses. Definitely a 4 Paws winner!!

Second on the plate and right where it should be is the 2013 American Cheese Society‘s Second Place Best of Show Winner, Bear Hill from  Vermont’s Grafton Village Cheese.

Bear HillCheesemaking has been a tradition in Grafton Village, Vermont since 1892 when several dairy farmers formed a cooperative to pool their surplus milk and make cheese. In 1912, the cheesemaking facility was destroyed in a fire; several decades later in 1962 The Windham Foundation restored the company and brought cheesemaking back to Grafton Village. The Windham Foundation is dedicated to promoting the rural communities of Vermont. The profits from Grafton Village Cheese go back into the foundation to further its commitment to keep rural Vermont alive and thriving.

My “favorite cheese” usually is the last cheese I tasted but were I to pick a favorite “style” it would have to be aged sheep milk cheeses and Bear Hill is an aged sheep milk cheese that has been made in the Alpine-style and washed to give it just an extra bit of aroma. The cheese is nutty and full-flavored with a sweet finish. You get that pleasant sheep tang but none of that barnyard taste that can happen with goat milk cheeses. Sublime cheese… another 4 Paw winner.

The third cheese on the board is New Moon from Washington State’s Mt. Townsend Creamery. New Moon is a tasting, melting cheese that is sweet and buttery with the texture and consistency of a Jack. We enjoyed it on the board but this cheese would work as well in the kitchen inside your favorite quesadilla, on top of your favorite nachos and as a part of your favorite mac n cheese. New Moon is a versatile cheese and if you like it smoked, Mt. Townsend offers it smoked as Camp Fire. Blue Mont and Food By Bob

To round out the board, I added handmade Marionberry Jam from Food By Bob. My good friend and fellow Cheesemonger, Bob Wedemeyer, gave me a large bag of his handmade jams, preserves, chutney, marmalade and pickles to enjoy (and enjoy we are here at The Manse. His goodies are so good that The Man has been in a perpetual state of swooning…). The Marionberry Jam is perfectly sweet and fruity; a great pairing for all three of these cheeses which I also served with Fabrique Delices’ Black Pepper Pate on freshly baked French Baguette… another successful cheese board…

Stay tuned… reviews of Food by Bob’s jams and preserves will follow this posting…


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