Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sheep cheese comes to port

You might want to sit down for this. We're thinking about selling cheese. Not just any cheese that you can find in a store. This will be special cheese. The kind whose flavor sticks to your palate and is complimented (if not enhanced) by a good glass of port. The cheese we're thinking of providing is sheep cheese. Nothing is set in stone, we're just baaing around the idea for now. No promises. In truth, a few of us suspect the idea was just an excuse to eat some sheep cheese.

The spread. 
As the copywriter, I have the solemn responsibility of writing about our products, so I took the task of taste tester upon my shoulders for the good of the company (and ultimately our readers in case we decide to sell the cheese). I wouldn't want to force someone else to stuff themselves with cheese after cheese after cheese.

And so late last month, I found myself sitting in the dining room of Stan and Jean's house. Laid before me was an array of 24 sheep cheeses. An abundance of colors, shapes and textures were evident. There were several creamy whites, translucent yellows and a smattering of blues and greens.

Accompanying the cheese was a selection of grapes, olives, sliced apples and bread. Their purpose was to cleanse the palate between each sample of potentially potent cheese.

Each cheese was rated on the scale of "Would you want to eat more of this?" The cheese could be ranked as "Yes! (I would eat more)", "I'm not sure…" and "Not in a million years." Of 24 cheeses, I had 5 I'm not sure's and 19 Yes! For me, not one cheese ranked as not in a million years, then again, I'm a huge fan of lamb face salad and my taste buds can handle most flavors. Others were not so amiable to enjoying certain cheeses in the future.

The overall top pick for the group was Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert, made from both sheep and cow milk. A very soft and easy to spread cheese. It tasted of creamy goodness. Enjoyed by all.

One of the many types of cheese we sampled. A "cousin" to Nancy's Hudson Valley  Camembert. Soft, creamy and delicious. 

I'll discuss my overall top pick for the tasting, Bohemian Blue. For me, all other cheese paled in comparison to the flavor of this cheese.

What type of cheese is Bohemian Blue? It's a blue cheese developed as a substitute to French made Roqueforts. Imported Roquefort's were subject to heavy tariffs for a few years so a U.S. made version was the obvious answer. The Bohemian Blue is dry and crumbly whereas the Roqueforts are drippy and wet. A few folks from Premier (Stan, Jean and Cheyenne) were able to enjoy some fresh Roquefort during the French Sheep Tour in 2011. Cheyenne conceded that Bohemian Blue was the next best alternative to the Roquefort she sampled overseas.

My take on the cheese—the second the cheese touched my tongue, my mouth came alive with energy. The previous 22 samples had dulled my senses, but they certainly woke up when I tried the Blue. The saltiness of the cheese was overcome by the sharp flavor that emanated throughout my mouth. I can't put into words the flavor of the cheese, I can only describe it as a really good blue cheese. I'm not typically a blue cheese fan but Bohemian Blue made me rethink how I look at cheese.

The tasting sheet. Each cheese was rated for taste and testers were encouraged to fill the white space with comments. 
What did others think of Bohemian Blue. Common comments were salty, sharp and great aftertaste. Not one person checked "not in a million years" for the Blue.

Will we be offering cheese in the upcoming years? That has yet to be decided, we might have to hold another tasting…or two.