At Murray’s Wednesday night, I attended a cheese tasting featuring an assortment of the winning cheeses from the American Cheese Society 2011 conference. Led by Aaron Foster, Murray’s Buyer (aka the guy who tastes cheese all day and picks what they sell aka the dream job), the plate included 6 cheeses, starting at that white gooey lump around one o’clock:
Burrata, Maplebrook Farms
3rd Place, Fresh mozzarella encasing a distinctly separate, softer curd and cream, or other soft cheese, core – all milks
— This is the first year that Maplebrook has been making Burrata, but you wouldn’t know from the product. Delicate, milky, tart, a little meaty, with hints of brine. A firm but delicate outer capsule contains the creamy core, collapsing on the tongue as you put it in your mouth.
Up In Smoke, River’s Edge
2nd Place, Open Category made from goat’s milk, sheep’s milk or mixed milks
— This maple-leaf wrapped fresh chevre is delicately smoked, lending it a subtle campfire flavor and smell, with a bacony undertone mingling with autumnal hues and hints of tarragon and lemon. I’m often leery of smoked cheeses because they tend to taste like — and are often made with — liquid smoke, but this little guy is a standout example of what smoked cheese is at its best.
Mont St Francis, Capriole
3rd Place, Open Category Goat’s Milk Cheeses aged over 60 days
— A funky, briny washed rind goats milk cheese, grassy, barnyardy, meaty and salty. Aaron pointed out a “pewtery” undertone. Washed rind goats can often be intense but this was surprisingly mild and subtle in flavor and smell. I’ve had the Mont St Francis before when it was further along the aging curve and quite a bit stinkier.
Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Uplands Cheese Company
1st Place, Cheeses aged more than 90 days with up to 44% moisture – all milks
— Always a standout alpine style cheese with a sweet, nutty, milky smell and a smooth paste with caramel, herbs, hay, a perfect balance of sweet and salty and surprisingly strong notes of pineapple and tropical fruits.
Bandaged Cheddar, Bleu Mont Dairy
2nd Place, Cheddar wrapped in cloth, linen, aged up to 12 months
— A sweet, firm paste with a little crumble to it, with a smattering of crystals exploding with flavor. The rind has its own unique flavor, with a distinctly musty, mossy aroma and flavor, the result of being bound in the cloth.
Echo Mountain Blue, Rogue Creamery
Substitute for Rogue River Blue, Best of Show winner
— Mild in odor, nicely balanced between sweet and briney, metallic, creamy, tart, complex. Little pockets of herby, leaf flavors in the blue, and a touch of heat.
The only disappointment was that the Echo Mountain was standing in for the actual Best In Show winner, the Rogue River Blue. Don’t get me wrong, the Echo was an excellent cheese, but when you call your tasting “Best In Show”….all the same, I understand that it’s a seasonal cheese, and this aint the season, so getting their hands on it would have been tough. I’ll just have to enjoy it at a proper time and place.
Below is the maple leaf that encased the Up In Smoke.
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