I get customers at the cheese counter all the time that say to me, “I want anything except for blue on my cheese board.” I used to be the person behind the cheese counter as well as on the shopping side of the cheese counter that uttered these exact words. Until I experienced a pivotal moment with one of the best cheeses the state of Wisconsin has to offer, and that is not just my humble opinion as this particular cheese company has won several awards including awards at the American Cheese Society Conference in 2013 for their cheese Little Mountain, awards at the 2014 American Cheese Society Conference for Dunbarton Blue, and Red Rock was selected by culture as one of the 101 best cheeses and it won awards at the US Championship Cheese Competition.
Roelli Cheese Haus is located in Southwest Wisconsin, and this is the fourth generation of cheese-makers to be delighting consumers with their masterful cheese-making skills. There are two cheeses available from Roelli Cheese Haus that involve blue veining. The first one I came across was Dunbarton Blue. This English-style cheddar has streaks of blue veins that run through it and it is a beautiful cheese to look at, but tastes even better than it looks.
I was fortunate enough to take a tour of Roelli Cheese Haus last fall and was fascinated by the fact that the milk for Dunbarton Blue is inoculated with the Penicillium roqueforti, and then at about a week old the cheese is pierced in order to allow air flow to occur, and the mold then spreads into the cheese. This is not the fascinating part though. The interesting part to Dunbarton Blue is that the cheese is then pressed which changes the texture of the cheese, and makes it difficult for the mold to spread further into the cheese. The mold that in a normal blue cheese would keep spreading is now held back just enough to allow the hint of a wild and piquant blue flavor without overwhelming the character of the earthy, English-style cheddar base. I feel like this cheese pairs rather well with a lot of things. Dunbarton Blue is incredible paired with a stronger beer or hearty red wine, but it can also go well with a fortified wine such as Port. It makes an outstanding addition to any cheese plate for any occasion.
The other original cheese that Roelli Cheese Haus has become known for is Red Rock. It is only aged anywhere from 2-6 months and whenever I get this cheese in I feel as though this is Roelli Cheese Haus’s “basic cheese” version of Dunbarton blue. It is a dark orange cheese with vibrant blue streaks running through it and a natural rind. Double the amount of annatto that is normally used in a cheddar is used for this cheese, and the resulting color is astounding. Red Rock is a beautiful cheese!
This cheese has the blue added after it has been pressed, and then sits on shelving to cellar-age while its natural blue rind develops and fingers of blue mold creep through the center of the cheese. Red Rock is a creamy, sliceable cheese. It is everything you have ever dreamed of to make a perfect grown-up grilled cheese sandwich, and it is the perfect gateway cheese to help your palette become accustomed to blue cheese.
Now I know some people reading this are thinking, “What don’t you understand? I detest blue!” On a personal level, I still struggle with blue cheese myself on occasion, but I promise you these two cheeses will change your perspective. They will open up a door, and soon you will at least be more open to trying some other blue or blue-like cheeses. There’s nothing to be lost in trying a new cheese. Stop in and ask your cheesemonger for a sample. You might just open yourself up to a whole new world of flavor that you didn’t even know you would enjoy!