[2-18-2015, 10:40PST Update: Some cheese friends have informed me that one CAN find Vulto Creamery’s cheeses in SF! I have just been missing them. Cheese Plus, Rainbow Grocery, and Other Avenues all carry at least some of Jos Vulto’s cheeses.]
Hello everyone! I am tickled pink sharing this blog post with you! Jos Vulto, artist and cheesemaker owner of Vulto Creamery in Walton, New York, very generously shared with me some of his cheeses so that I may share them with you! If you aren’t familiar with his work, you can read up on him here.
I have heard of his raw milk cheeses—including absinthe-washed Miranda, stinky Ouleout, Alpine-style Andes, and tomme-style Walton Umber—but they are not easily found where I live (although I believe Mission Cheese might carry them once in a while). Before receiving my shipment, I longed for these cheeses. I pined for them. I had read about them, and heard of the growing legend that is Jos Vulto.
Now, then, shall we try them together?
This gorgeous cheese, with its vibrant, basket weave rind, reminds me of a Mediterranean landscape. The rind is dotted with greens, yellows, hints of blue, and brown, while its semi-hard paste is a sunny yellow. It smells, then tastes, like buttered, toasted hazelnuts and sweet hay combined. I love the rind here, which offers some nice bite texturewise. The complex flavors develop slowly, culminating in a slightly bright finish. You don’t want to devour this one too quickly (or any of these cheeses, for that matter!), or else you’ll miss something.
Pairing: Corsican French Blossom honey from Miel de l’Apiculteur. The woodsy, bramble quality in the honey bring out a new, birch syrup-like quality in the cheese. Even better, bring this pairing out on your next picnic, and let the forest guide your tastebuds.
This cheese borrows its name from the town of Andes, NY. It looks almost like Pleasant Ridge Reserve, with its ridge around the edges of the wheel. Its smooth rind and smooth yellow paste are reminiscent of the Alpine cheeses after which it is modeled. Its bouquet reminds me of mushrooms and—is that tomato soup? Tasting this cheese is like tasting an entire meal, if that meal was chicken stew infused with thyme and marjoram. There is so much umami, such wonderfully rounded flavors, and such complexity that develops on the palate, I . . . . I think I need to taste it again.
Pairing: L’Epicurien’s Apple Cider Confit with Calvados. This hearty cheese needs a hearty pairing, so I went back to my Normandy roots with cheeses like Pont l’Evêque and Livarot in mind. This harmonious pairing brought out a bit of extra flavor at the cheese’s finish. Beautiful. Give it a try!
Miranda is perhaps Jos’s most well-known cheese. Named after his late wife, this absinthe and brine-washed marshmallow of a cheese is plush, lush, and alluring. It is gorgeous to behold, with its blushing, groovy rind and rounded edges. Its paste is a pale buttery yellow, soft, with small eyes throughout. I am pretty sure if I let this age some more, I could get a spoonable paste! It smells like sweet hay and leaves, transporting me to upstate New York. Tasting this cheese is such a pure delight. It coats the tongue, then slowly melts into a fine haze. The rind offers a bit of contrasting bite. And the flavor! Miranda starts salty, with zippy, meaty flavors, then mellows out into a sweet grass and hay finish. It reminds me of the Spanish and Portuguese cheeses I love so much, thanks to that smooth texture, and bright front.
Pairing: Williams Pear Confit with White Wine from L’Epicurien stood up beautifully to the strong flavors of Miranda, even mellowing out the cheese’s distinctive front flavors, and drawing out its finish. My notes say “lovely pairing,” and I believe myself. :)
This washed-rind treasure, reminiscent of Reblochon (suddenly, I want an Ouleout tartiflette), is a feast for all of the senses. Its tacky, chanterelle-orange rind and oozing, golden paste demand your attention. Its pungent, meaty aroma tickles the nostrils. Tasting it is a concert of stimuli. This particular wheel is slightly springy, but with age, you can be sure this cheese gets softer. It dissipates so smoothly on the tongue, all the while coating it with its velvety texture. The rind offers a beautiful grainy contrast to the creaminess. On the flavor front, Ouleout reminds me of bacon and beef before yielding to the characteristic funk of washed rind cheeses. If I can’t have an Ouleout tartiflette, I’ll gladly melt this over some steak, or a hamburger.
Pairing: I needed some hefty flavors here, so went for my Balsamic Pepper Fig Spread from Valley Fig Growers. The fig spread mellowed out Ouleout’s initial punch, and balanced out the finish. Maybe I’d put a smear of that spread on my hypothetical Ouleout cheeseburger, too . . . .
Over all, M. Cheesemonger and I were stunned at the complexity we discovered in each of Jos’s cheeses. Their depth of flavor rivaled those of classics such as Reblochon, Pont l’Evêque, among others. What a gifted cheesemaker the cheese community has in Jos. I am glad to finally know what all the fuss has been about! Thank you, Vulto Creamery, for sharing your cheeses with me!
This is a sponsored post—all of the cheeses, jams, confits, honeys, and spreads were provided by their respective makers and distributors. All thoughts, however, are my own.
P.S.: The show I’m performing in, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, has ONE more weekend in Mountain View, California! Come see, come laugh and cry, and say, “Hello!” Get your tickets if they’re not sold out! Aaaaand, here’s a selfie in costume.