Will Write for Cheese: The Accidental Locavore Helps Birth a Cheese
Anne Maxfield, the Accidental Locavore, was brought up in the early days of Julia Child, however back then what she really thrived on was the bounty of prepared foods. Onion rings in a can, on top of macaroni and cheese from a box, with those cute Vienna franks (also from a can) and there was a great dinner! Parents going out? Frozen pot pies, or even better, a TV dinner…bliss. Why whole grains and fresh vegetables, when there were cans or frozen foods?
Fast forward to a new century…
Last week, the Accidental Locavore got a phone call naming me one of the select group to help Point Reyes Farmstead develop their next cheese masterpiece. Now a member of the “Birth of a Cheese” tasting panel, the Locavore will be able put her years of eating cheese to good use! The first sample was delicious. Praising it highly would be easy, however tricky, because getting boxes of great cheese delivered to your doorstep is about as good as “work” can possibly get (I don’t want to cut my potential supply short). When the box was opened, the first thing I noticed was that the rind was a nice light golden tan, with a hint of bloom on the outside rind. The paste looked like some of the veins were more random and some injected. To compare, the Locavore happened to have a piece of Papillion Roquefort and noticed that there is no perceptible rind on it. The test cheese had smaller veins, spread out a bit more. The paste was also more golden than the Roquefort. Straight out of the box and cold, the cheese smelled like really good bread, possibly rye (that is what Roquefort comes from) or a whole wheat bread. As it got warmer, the bread smell remained, but a bit more subdued, with a sharp, almost ammonia-like cheese smell. Some people might find that a little strong, but to me, it’s just what some good cheese smells like.
Although it was torturous waiting for it to warm up, when the Locavore finally got to taste it, the test cheese was smooth with a surprising taste of smoke and caramel. If I hadn’t seen it, I might not know it was a blue until I got close to the rind. It had a little bit of the crystallization that I love in Parmesan and Piave. As you got closer to the rind, it got sharper and saltier and became more of what would be considered a classic blue. All in all, awfully good, and the smoky aspect was particularly appealing. With the second taste there was some of the nice bread taste that I had smelled earlier. While munching the thought kept running through my head, this is way too much fun! The rind is totally edible although some crazy people, the ones who think it’s stinky, might mistakenly cut it off just because it’s rind…The transformation from the smoky, caramel center of the paste to slightly salty rind is so interesting. It really goes from being a mystery cheese to something much more identifiable as a blue. The only flaw? The rind might have a tiny bit too much of an ammonia taste.
If the Accidental Locavore was sharing this with my friends (who are big blue cheese fans) and serving it with a good salami or two and some olives, it would be gone instantly! As much as I’m not a fan of messing with a good steak, this would be lovely either melted on top, or as a sauce to serve with, or as I ended up making, a compound butter. We had a beautiful aged tri-tip, grilled to perfection. While that was working the Locavore made a compound butter with sweet butter, the cheese and some homemade crème fraiche and sliced it over the hot tri-tip. Simple and spectacular! Other things to try it with (although it wasn’t a big enough piece to last that long…): Cobb salad with one of my smoked chickens, or the classic French frisée salad with bacon and blue cheese. I’m not sure why but what I would really like to try with this is a cauliflower gratin. Of course that might lead to a potato gratin, maybe with a little bacon, and leeks?
The final verdict? Not quite a masterpiece yet, however it’s well on its way. The downside of all this? There’s only one small (and getting smaller) morsel of it left in the world. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone, and yearn for the next one. Hope it’s not too long between batches.
Will write for cheese…