If you’re ever at a loss for what to do when a giant, stinky box of cheese arrives at your doorstep, go buy a good bottle of wine, a good baguette, and invite some friends over. Or just keep the smelly goodness to yourself — your preference. We recently got such a package from Cato Corner Farm, courtesy of Pam (thank you!!), filled with healthy portions of Vivace, Dutch Farmstead, Bridgid’s Abbey, and Hooligan (their stinkiest, ripest, most gorgeous award winner). They make some of the best raw milk cheese in the US, and they are only an hour or so away, so we were thinking of picking some of their varieties for our wedding (which we are self catering, picnic style, because we are nuts / poor grad students — whichever you prefer). Therefore, with utter seriousness, a bottle of Malbec, and a great deal of hunger, the taste test commenced.
James arranged the order, because he’s the resident cheese expert. We started with the Vivace, which tastes kind of like a young, less salty Asiago (though the website describes it as a cross between a Gruyere and a provolone). This one was mild and pleasant and ended up making a delicious melting cheese. Next was a 6 month Dutch Farmstead, which is sort of a raw milk Gouda. It was also fairly mild, though richer than the Vivace, and somewhat creamier. Bridgid’s Abbey, which is supposed to be a Trappist-style monastery cheese, finished the trio of older, slightly harder cheeses. Now, I have no idea what a Trappist-style monastery cheese is supposed to taste like, but of the three harder cheeses, this last one probably had the most complex flavor profile, and was the most bewitching when melted over a bit of toast.
Now, for my personal favorite. That cheese in the top left corner of the picture above is called Hooligan. It smells of wet, dirty socks, but tastes creamy and complex, with a slightly strong aftertaste. Now that is CHEESE, as it is meant to be. And it’s the closest either of us have come to finding a proper Epoisses in the states. I am, unfortunately, hopelessly addicted. Good thing it’s hard to come by here — you really have to go to New York to pick up a smaller portion, or order a whole 1.3 lb wheel and pick it up at the farm.
All these cheeses are made with the same milk, so they all have a similar creamy flavor to them. For the wedding, we’ll probably pick a few from different producers, just to get a bit of variety going. As for the Hooligan? Well … It depends on whether we can figure out what to do with a whole 1.3 lb wheel of the stuff. I have a few ideas…