Planet Cheese is a weekly blog devoted to everything cheese: products, people, places, news, and views. James Beard Award–winning journalist Janet Fletcher writes Planet Cheese from her home in Napa Valley. Janet is the author of Cheese & Wine, Cheese & Beer, and The Cheese Course and an occasional contributor to culture. Visit janetfletcher.com to sign up for Planet Cheese and view Janet’s current schedule of cheese appreciation classes.
When I first tasted this Austrian cow’s milk cheese four years ago, its name was Hubaner. It was naked—no flowery exterior—but deliciously robust and meaty, with an aroma of brown butter and toasted walnuts. A few retailers willing to hand-sell an unknown Austrian cheese were carrying it, but customers weren’t buying.
“You never know why that is,” says Jonathan Richardson of Columbia Cheese, the importer. “But we thought, what if we dressed it up and gave people a reason to buy it?”
Thickly cloaked in dried mountain herbs and flowers and rechristened Alp Blossom, the same cheese has been “massively successful,” says Richardson. Who can resist this beauty?
The nine-pound wheel is produced at a cooperative creamery in Austria, from pasteurized milk gathered from small farms. The cheese is aged for about six months and then shipped just across the border to Germany where a woman applies the coating by hand.
It’s primarily decorative; because the cheese is already mature and sold shortly thereafter, the herbs and flowers don’t contribute much scent. But now the wheel stands out in a cheese case and Columbia is importing 200 a month. I can’t think of a prettier cheese. More important, it’s still delicious.
The texture is satiny and more supple than many alpine cheeses—a slice bends without breaking. The flavor is beefy and highly savory but not so concentrated that you’re done after a few bites. I could snack on this cheese all day.
Serve Alp Blossom with a dry Riesling, Gewurztraminer or Grüner Veltliner. Beer fans, open a malty brew, like a brown ale, porter or doppelbock. Look for Alp Blossom at these retailers.
NEW! Cheese Class: New and Notable from Europe
Monday, October 9
Silverado Cooking School
5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
An evening devoted to great cheeses that didn’t exist a decade ago. Meet the best new wheels from Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland and beyond.