New Cheese, Old PBS Reference
Nothing makes the day go slower than a full schedule of staff meetings. Unless you've just received a package of cheeses to taste, and you can't do anything about it until the day is over. Then each minute feels like a minor eternity. So you can imagine my relief when my last meeting was over and it was finally time to get on to the real business of the day: tasting the three cheeses from Jasper Hill.
And serious business it is. We know that the three samples we have recieved all come from the same type of cheese that's being developed, but we don't know how one was raised (is that the right word?) differently than the others. It's up to us to tease out the specific differences between the two, armed only with our eyes, ears, and tongues, plus a detailed questionnaire ("What do you catch on the nose? Wet earth? Pawn shop?"). The air of mystery, the serially-numbered cheese samples, and the hard deadline to send the questionnaire back gives me visions of lab-coated cheese scientists with clipboards dance around in my head as I'm doing all this.
So, after running upstairs to snap a photo of the cheese and Mt. Rainier--just to set the scene a little bit--I moved on to the cheeses themselves. The three samples all look, well, like an Alpine-style cheese is supposed to: a thin, firm rind that's salmon orange, and a pleasant, buttery yellow paste. The aromas varied the most between the samples. The first sample's included raw nuts, cloves, and blond woods; the second, clay, raw green vegetables, and onions; the third, fresh butter and dried shrimp.
And the taste? Well, if you've ever watched Bob Ross on PBS (I got bored a lot when I was a kid), you know that a painting doesn't spring straight from your head onto a canvas all at once. You have to prep your medium, do the underpainting, color the background, and only then can you move on to the happy little trees and all the other flourishes that give each painting its character.
The same principle is at work here. If I can abuse the painting metaphor a little bit more, the cheeses already have their big, broad, background strokes of flavor--I detected toast, butter, and roasted pine nuts in all three, with tantalizing glimpses of other flavors starting to develop in all of them. In particular, the first sample had a nice finish of chestnuts, the second had a lot of yeasty flavors in it, and the third had a lot of sweetness in the beginning and eggy richness throughout.
But they're still developing the (happy little) complexities that will make the final product interesting, and I'm sure we'll get some totally new smells and tastes down the road.
In the meantime, I've got all this cheese to deal with! Time to invest in a fondue pot, I guess.