Better Know a Cheese

Sagging Fence Farm goat tomme

Name: Sagging Fence goat tomme
From: Port Orchard, Washington State
Made By:  Sagging Fence Farm
Milk: Raw goat’s milk
Curdling type: rennet
Size/ weigh: Round tomme about 4# in weight
Rind: Natural rind that is washed weekly during aging
Interior: semi firm, very pale ivory color
Aged: 3-5 months (maybe longer due to recent closures!)

This goat’s milk cheese is made by Bob and Juli Fisher on their farm near Port Orchard on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, where they also pasture raise Aracana chickens for eggs. Although they have made cheeses together for years, Sagging Fence Farm (Juli says the name comes from the farm’s wire fences when hungry goats climb on them trying to get better stuff on the other side) came into being in 2014 as a retirement “job”.

Their goat milk tomme is made from the milk of their herd of 24 Nubian goats, although only 6-8 of these are producing milk at any one time. Each 4# wheel takes 4-5 gallons of milk to make, so the total production is only 4-5 cheeses per week. It is a firm, finely textured cheese with a rich, full flavor that reminds me of the cheeses of the French Basque Countries, where sheep milk predominates but goat’s milk versions also exist. Weekly washing of the rind (“to prevent unwanted growth” during aging, says Juli) adds to complexity and full-flavor to the fresh lactic flavor of the interior.

It is a rare treat to be able to sample a raw milk cheese of this quality made by dedicated artisans right in our own back yard. Although Le Pichet and Cafe Presse are both still closed due to the Governor’s mandate, each restaurant has one of these goat tommes quietly aging in our cheese caves. We can’t wait to see how good it will taste when we reopen! In the meantime, you can generally find Sagging Fence cheese at Quality Cheese in the Pike Place Market.

Sagging Fence Farm cheese-maker Bob Fisher and some of his young wards.
Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

E. Cabretou, now on the cheese board

Now on the cheese board at Café Presse, this goat’s milk tomme from the French Basque region is perfectly ripe and ready to sample. The Basques are famous for their sheep milk cheeses, but a small amount of goat’s milk cheese is also made. These large tommes, which weight about 9#, take their name from the word “cabri” = “kid” or “young goat”. Aged for about 8 months, with a natural rind, the taste is slightly sweet/salty with flavors of hazelnuts and caramel. Miam Miam

Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From the cheese board…

Name: Toma di Gressoney
From: The region of Vallée d’Aosta in the Italian Alps
Made By:  Fromagerie Vallée de Gressony
Milk: Raw cow’s milk
Curdling type: rennet
Size/ weigh: Round tomme about 5# in weight
Rind: Aged in high humidity on oak boards to develop a wet rind, then finished at lower humidity
Interior: semi firm, pale ivory color
Aged: 4-6 months

We received this beautiful cow’s milk tome from Corsican Cellars earlier this month and this weekend it is at the perfect ripeness to enjoy. Made from raw cow’s milk in a high alpine valley in Northern Italy, the Toma di Gressoney is first aged in damp cellars on oak boards, then moved to a dryer cave, which yeilds a finished rind that is a mildly pungent and earthy . This particular toma has aged for about 5 months. Yummy!

Available at Café Presse while supplies last.

Tagged , | Leave a comment

Quader de Cavra (chevre rousse)

Chevre rousse

From: The region of Lombardy in northern Italy
Made By:  Carrozzi Formaggi
Milk: Pasteurized goat’s milk
Curdling type: rennet
Size/ weigh: Flat square about 14″ on a side and 2 inches tall. The whole cheese weighs about 2 kilos
Rind: Rubbed with salt then placed in a pinewood case for aging. The finished rind is orange-grey and very pungent, with a slight graininess to its texture
Interior: semi firm, pale ivory color
Aged: 6 to 8 weeks in high humidity caves

Historical notes: Quader de cavra is produced in the same region as the famous Taleggio of Italy and is made in a similar style. The main difference is that Quader de cavra is made with all goat’s milk, which adds a bit of the sharp, animal flavors characteristic of goat’s milk cheeses.  In France, it is offered under the name of Chevrerousse or red headed goat, which makes sense, given it’s lively  orange rind.  Although categorized as a washed rind cheese, the round squares of Quader de cavra are not washed but rubbed with sea salt before being placed in pinewood boxes for aging in very humid caves.  The result is a pungent, full flavored rind and a mild, creamy interior.

Carrozzi Formaggi is a family run dairy and fromagerie founded in 1960 by Aldo Carrozzi. Today the dairy is run by Aldo’s great grand son Roberto Carrozzi, his wife Donata and their 3 children.  The Carrozzi family purchases all its milk from the small farmers of the area around their cheese making facility.

Tasting Notes:  The interior (or “mie” in French) is mild and creamy with flavors of fresh milk, new hay and grass, making it an ideal cheese to eat for breakfast with butter, a chunk of fresh baguette and a bowl of coffee.  With maturity, the mie takes on slightly caramelized and hazelnut notes, becomes denser and softer.  However, if eat this cheese with its rind (as I almost always do), the mild lactic flavor and rich mouth feel is complimented by a sharp salty bite and deeply musky animal flavors, making for a deeply satisfying experience.

Wine to go with:  This is a mountain cheese and therefore, mountain wines would be a good match.  I think that a rich white from the Jura such as a white Arbois would be great.  I have also tried it with the Pentes de Barenne Tursan blanc at Cafe Presse and found the pairing very rewarding (even though Tursan is flat land wine!)  In red, the lighter body of small chateau Bordeaux makes a good pairing.  For example, try the Chateau la Bouree Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux now at Le Pichet.  I am guessing that a bottle of pinot nero from the Lombardy region would be stellar.

Where to find it now:  Cafe Presse.


Delice du Jura

Delice de jura Oct 2015 From: The region of the Jura in the French Alps
Made By:  Fromagerie Badoz
Milk: Pasteurized cow’s milk
Curdling type: rennet
Size/ weigh: Flat disc about 9″ in diameter and 1″ tall.  It weighs in at about 16 oz
Rind: Washed with brine every 2 days during first weeks of aging, giving a pungent, orange colored rind
Interior: semi firm to very soft paste, depending on ripeness
Aged: 6 to 8 weeks

Historical notes: Delice de Jura is another  pasteurized milk cheese modeled on a traditional raw milk cheese that’s been banned from importation to the United States for containing raw milk.  In this case, the model is Reblochon, one of the wonders of alpine cheese making.  Reblochon was available in the US until 2004, when the USDA began enforcing a ban on raw milk cheeses aged less than 90 days. Delice du Jura was developed in 2005 by the Fromagerie Badoz, who also make AOP reblochon.

Badoz is a family run fromagerie founded in 1960, although members of the family have made cheese since the 1830’s.  As a fromagerie, Badoz uses the milk from a number of fruitières or small, independent dairy farmers in the region, as well as milk from their own farm.   The majority of their cheeses are AOP raw milk alpine cheeses;  most are not available in the U.S. One of the unique features of this fromagerie is their cheese aging facility, which was constructed in the ’70s in an abandoned railroad tunnel.

There are many legends regarding the  origins of reblochon-style cheeses;  I will leave you to explore Wikipedia if you are curious.  But what is clear is that it was developed  predominantly as a cheese for home consumption by farmers who produced larger, more easily marketed and transported cheeses as their livelihood.  They sold the comte and morbier and ate the reblochon themselves.

Tasting Notes:  From a personal perspectivee, reblochon was one of my first cheese loves.  Creamy, mild and easy to enjoy, but with a washed rind that give enough funk to seem like a challenge (albiet an easily mastered one!), it is a great cheese for beginners striking out for more adventurous territory. 

Wine to go with:  I always find that the best match with any cheese is the wine from the same region where it is produced.  In this case, a crisp white Aprement from the Jura would be a great match. A peppery, lighter bodied Arbois red from the same region would also be a complimentary match.  Traditional guides list pinot noir from Burgundy as an appropriate pairing, which I would be very happy to try.

Where to find it now:  Is featured fairly often throughout the year at both Le Pichet and Café Presse, especially in the fall when it is made from very rich summer milk.  Currently at Cafe Presse

Tagged | Leave a comment

Le Ramier Roux

Ramier Roux Oct 2015

From: The region of Tarn et Garonne, north of of Toulouse in southwest France.
Made By:  Le Ferme du Ramier.
Milk: Raw cow’s milk
Curdling type: rennet
Size/ weigh: Flat disc about 18″ in diameter and 3″ tall.  It weighs in at about 12#
Rind: Washed rind.
Interior: semi-firm pate, gently ivory in color and tender.
Aged: 60 to 90 day

Historical notes: Le Ferme du Ramier is a run by several generations of the family family Maravel in the town of Montauban in the southwest of France.  This is a regions that encompasses the gentle plains of the Languedoc and the rugged valleys that join it to the Massif Central, France’s high central plateau.  Accordingly it is a region where cheese is made from the milk of cows, who favor that flatter lands and goats and sheep, who thrive in harsher, steeply sloped terrain.

The master cheese maker is Helene Depierre, daughter of the current owners.  Le Ferme du Ramier produces only “fermier” cheeses, meaning that the cheeses are all made on the farm exclusively from the milk of the farm’s own herd.  Interesting side note, their website states that the cows are raised in toute liberté:  unlike most farms who milk their animals twice a day, Le Ferme du Ramier keeps its milking room open 24 hours a day…the cows decide themselves when they want to be milked!

The cheeses are aged about 60 days at the farm, so arrive on our tables here between 70 and 90 days old.  During aging on the farm, the cheeses are washed with a mixture of saltwater brine and cheese residues from previous batches, which is referred to as a morge.  This mixture gives the aged cheese its reddish brown appearance – the name roux refers to this color –  resulting a what is called a croute morgée.

Tasting Notes:  The rind of the Ramier roux, although moist when young, is dry and pungent at 4 months of age.  Probably to strong and tough for any but the hardiest rind eaters.  by contrast, the paste is mild and milky with flavors of the herbs of the Tarn gorges, of licorice and of fennel.   Maybe an aftertaste of hazelnuts and caramel.  The stronger exterior adds an earthy note that it still mild and balanced.

Wine to go with:  A well structured but not overly forward red wine would be a perfect match.  I recommend the Domaine Jean-Louis Denois “Les Garrigues” Vin de France Rouge.  This wine harks from the Languedoc near the town of Roquetaillade, only an hour or so by car from le Ferme du Ramier.  A blend of syrah, grenache, merlot, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, this wine comes across more as a small chateau Bordeaux than a big Languedoc, meaning more finesse and structure, less power.  It was while drinking this wine that the herb and anise flavors of the cheese were most notable. On the wine list at Café Presse now.

Where to find it now:  Café Presse

Tagged | Leave a comment

Chevrot and mini chevrot

chevrot 3

From: Charente-Poitou, south of the Loire valley on  the Atlantic coast of France.
Made By:  Cooperative Sevre-et-Belle
Milk: Another example of a cheese made with raw milk in France but with pasteurized milk for export, as the US does not allow the importation of raw milk cheeses aged less than 60 days (and even those aged 60 days are coming under greater scrutiny…dommage)
Curdling type: rennet and bacteria
Size/ weigh: Chevrot – 3″ dia drum shape about 6-8 oz.   Mini Chevrot – 2″ drum about 3 oz
Rind: Natural rind with white and ivory molds, usually a bit wrinkled.
Aging: 20 to 60 days. Available in various stages of ripeness. The Mini-Chevrot was created to offer a cheese which ages faster than the larger Chevrot. Continue reading

Tagged , | Leave a comment

Get ready to Better Know a Cheese

Cheese Counter Beauvau 9/5/11

Fromagerie in the covered Marche Beauvau in Paris’ 12th arrondissent.

Do you love cheese?  Do you wonder how your lactose-intolerant friends find the courage to carry on day after day?  Do you consider it a good thing that handling a well aged Saint-Nectare or Reblochon makes your hands reek for the rest of the day?  When you stand in front of a well-stocked cheese counter in Paris, do you feel the deep sadness of life more pointedly, knowing that back home in the USA, you will have access to only a tiny fraction of all this mold covered, curd-y goodness.

Me to.  Deep sigh.

But hey, buck up, there are a lot of great cheeses available here in Seattle.   And to prove it, from time to time, I would like to feature some of the delicious cheeses we are serving at Cafe Presse or Le Pichet, to talk about their characteristics and idiosyncrasies and provide a bit of historical background.

I call these features “Better Know a Cheese” and I will concentrate on featuring cheeses that are currently on our cheese board at Le Pichet or Cafe Presse.  And I will let you know at which restaurant they are being served so you can stop by and try them if they sound good.

  However, in the name of full disclosure, it is possible that the cheeses I mention may not be available at LP or CP even on the day that I mention them.  This is because our cheese board does not feature a set list of cheeses, but instead features our house-aged selections that are most ripe and ready to eat on any given day.  When the cheese we have is gone, we move on to another choice.  If not finding one particular cheese on your Assiette de Fromage is going to ruin your day, please call in advance to confirm availability.

First up, one of my favorite goat cheeses, coming soon.

Tagged , | Leave a comment