The cheese of the day is an American cheese, for once! Contrary to popular belief, Americans can and do produce delicious artisanal cheeses that can easily rival the big-hitting European cheeses. Lucky for me, the store carries a signfiicant number of American cheeses, including this gem called Point Reyes Blue:
Country of Origin: United States (Point Reyes Station, California)
Milk: Cow (Holstein)
Rind: none (wrapped in foil)
Age: 5-6 months
This delectable American cheese is a farmstead cheese, meaning the milk for the cheese is produced on the premises; the cheesemaking process is completley contained within the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. That way, the cheesemakers can control the diets and keeping of the cows. You can bet these cows are happy. They get to graze in Marin County, California, on pastures overlooking Tomales Bay. They do get caught up in some fog, but the land is lush and fertile. You can tell the makers care a lot about their cheese by taking a peek at their schedule: the cheesemaking process begins daily at 2am with the day’s first milking, and cheese production begins at 4am, so the milk is ultra fresh (only a couple hours old!). The Company is a family business–the Giacomini family to be exact (I don’t mean the mob, although the Italian name could make you think that’s what I’m talking about. Forgive me, I can’t help myself; I’m from New Jersey.). Although the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company began in 2000, the Giacominis have been milking cows since 1959, and have a long family history in the dairy business.
As for the cheese itself, when you first encounter it, you will see the neary white, creamy paste, ever so lightly persillée with the penicillium roqueforti mold. There are even some vertical lines of the mold which create the illusion of height (not deliberately, but it looks like a tall cheese). Its aroma is a little bit tangy and sharp, but, this too is an illusion if you compare the aroma and taste! There is no rind, or rather, it is very thin and not very perceptible, just like the Roquefort and Valdeon.
When you do get around to tasting the cheese, you will probably first notice how creamy and silky this cheese is on the tongue compared to most other blues, which tend to be quite crumbly. There are none of the smoky or spicy characteristics typical of the Roquefort. Instead, the long finish of this cheese is marked by a sudden saltiness. The Farmstead Cheese Company stand by this unique flavor as being a result of the terroir–the unique seaside conditions in which which the cows are kept, and the sea breezes and fogs that roll in regularly to cover the pastures.
What can you pair this cheese with? Traditionally, blue cheeses are paired with sweet wines so that the sweetness of the wine can counter the saltiness of the cheese. The Point Reyes Blue is quite salty, creamy, yet is rather mild as far as blue cheeses go. I would try pairing with a champagne or Sauternes, as well as a late-harvest chardonnay or riesling. The store has one late harvest chardonnay that would go particularly well, in my mind. I need to try it, then I can get back to you on whether it’s worth it. If I had to try pairing it with one of the accompaniments in the store, I might try the fig chutney, or those shallots in a port wine reduction I just made today . . . that will also have to wait until tomorrow!
Speaking of shallots in a port wine reduction, this is how it turned out. I was so happy with the color and glossy sheen! It looks like a jewel. Maybe it’s not a coincidence; the bottle of port I used to make this is ruby port. And it’s really not my recipe, either. Carlos found it in a trade magazine, along with some good ideas for pairings. The magazine suggested Cabot Creamery’s clothbound cheddar, which we do carry. I can attest to the excellence of the combination!
After trying this, I thought to myself, “This sauce might go pretty well with a nice, rare piece of filet mignon.” I’m hungry now!