Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cheese Course - Cypress Grove and Cow girl Creamery

I miss Chicago. I miss the dramatic Gothic architecture looming over the bustling streets contrasted by piercingly tall modern glass structures. Something about the dramatic height of the buildings and the lights against the black night sky grounded me whenever I felt uprooted or lost.  There is something magical about the way the vast Lake Michigan sparkles just so when hit with sunlight and something visceral about the way the brisk wind makes you acutely aware of your face. I miss the captivating, poignant beauty of the Monet room at the Art Institute. I miss living a few blocks away from my foodie haven, Fox & Obel, with its incredible cheese counter, wine room, cooking classes and tomato soup and grilled cheese pairing, and of course, I miss the heavenly vodka sauce at Volare.

But what I miss the most of all about Chicago, you know, the kind of miss that makes your heart ache, is RG, my dearest, fabulously wonderful in every conceivable way, best friend. Today is her birthday, and I want nothing more than to celebrate it with her. 

From dirty tramps and morals, dirt cake (in a flower pot, complete with gummy worms), and chicks and salsa to wine and cheese hour in our cubicles (grad school doesn't always have to suck), Dom Perignon and Caymus Special Selection (the latter accompanied by our very own fabulous dance to Forever), and Arun's, RG and I have shared quite the culinary journey over the years. And it has continued in SF with feasting on dosa until it hurts at Udupi Palace in the Mission, buying out the farmer's market, Cowgirl creamery and Acme bread, followed by an impromptu picnic in oh-so-charming Sausalito.

It is only appropriate that this post about cheeses is attributed to RG because she is the one who introduced me to the wonderful, exquisite world of French cheeses, like delice de bourgogne, comte, pont l'eveque, and creamuex de bourgogne.

In the Midwest, I fell in love with Wisconsin cheeses, like Pleasant Ridge, Little Darling and Dante, but didn't know too much about California cheeses, other the more popular ones like Cypress Grove's acclaimed Humboldt Fog and Purple Haze. 

When I first moved to California, my Saturday routine was to walk over to the Ferry Building, grab a latte from Blue Bottle coffee and prepare myself for the mobs of people at Cowgirl Creamery.

I sampled many Cowgirl cheeses, like Mt. Tam and Red Hawk, as well as the collection of other local California cheeses, like Cypress Grove's Truffle Tremor and Midnight Moon. 

Below are my tasting notes on some of my favorite local California cheeses, including Cowgirl creamery's mysterious, rare cheese Sir Francis Drake.

Happy Birthday, my dearest RG. I love you millions.

Source: Artisanal
Humboldt Fog, pasteurized goat, California
Mary Keehn at Cypress Grove 

Humboldt fog is a complex goat's milk cheese with a vein of vegetable ash running through the middle of the bright white cheese. The cheese is creamy and melty near the bloomy, white ribbon rind and dense like a fresh, tangy chevre in the center. When you bite into the delightful cheese your palate is hit with pleasant tangy, lemony notes. Humboldt fog is one of my favorite, go-to cheeses and is widely available.

I like to serve humboldt fog with walnut levain bread, honeycomb and pears. I pair Humboldt fog with either an oakey chardonnay, like Far Niente's Oakville Chardonnay, or with a fruit forward Russian River Pinot Noir.

Source: Artisanal
Purple haze, pasteurized goat, California
Mary Keehn at Cypress Grove 

I've reviewed Purple Haze before, but to recap it is a delightfully fresh,white as snow goat's milk cheese dusted with golden fennel pollen and lavender. It is creamy, smooth, tangy, lemony and oh so refreshing.

I like to serve Purple Haze with an arugula salad with lemon and olive oil and pair it with a bright, grassy and citrusy Sauvignon Blanc. 

Source: Cow girl creamery
Truffle tremor, pasteurized goat, California
Mary Keehn at Cypress Grove 

Mary Keehn's newest cheese is Truffle Tremor, A ripened, creamy and lush goat's milk cheese noticeably infused with earthy black truffles from Italy. Specks of black truffle dust the dense interior of the tangy, velvety cheese. Similar to humboldt fog only in that it has a fresh chevre center and is melty and creamy just below the bloomy rind. One of my favorites! 

Some may suggest pairing the cheese with a sparkling wine but personally, I love love love ripe Truffle Tremor paired with a cherry, spiced oak Pinot Noir or a full bodied Cabernet.

Midnight moon,  pasteurized goat, California
Mary Keehn at Cypress Grove 

Midnight moon is a firm, dense goat's milk cheese that is ivory in color and slightly grainy and nutty. It has notes of brown butter and hints of caramel, like gruyere or an aged gouda. You won't believe it is goat's milk!

I loved serving Midnight Moon with figs and pairing it with a fruit forward Cabernet or a fruity, medium intensity Zin, like Ridge Geyserville Zinfandel. If you prefer a white wine, try an oaked Chardonnay.

Source: Cow girl creamery
Mt. Tam, pasteurized cow, California
Cowgirl creamery

Mt. Tam is a wonderful triple cream, silky, buttery and lusciously rich with a mild mellow earthy flavor, slightly salty. The cheese ripens from the outside in so it is softer near the bloomy rind and slightly more firm in the center. You may except the cheese to be more like an oozey brie but it is supposed to be a firm not-so-oozey cheese.  

Personally, I prefer the salty, ooziness of the beloved fromage d'affinois, but Mt. Tam is certainly a noteworthy cheese.

As with most luscious, creamy cheeses, I like to pair with a sparkling wine or a champagne.

Source Reluctant Gourmet
Red hawk, pasteurized cow, California
Cowgirl creamery

Red Hawk is a soft, supple, pungent washed rind triple cream that has a luciously creamy texture. It has intense aromas of earth and mushrooms, but is mellower than you would expect from the pungent smell. This sensuous cheese just screams Northern California Coast. 

I haven't played with pairings for Red Hawk but Janet Fletcher recommends pairing Red Hawk with Gewurztraminer.

Source: Flickr user BudgetBougie
Sir Francis Drake, cow, California
Cowgirl creamery

Sir Francis Drake is a mysterious, rare cheese by Cowgirl creamery. It is hard to locate and the only bit of information I came across said that Sir Frances Drake is a delicious mistake that only appears when something happens with Mt. Tam. It is washed with a dessert wine and sprinkled with a few currants.

Whatever the reason, if you can find this cheese, TRY IT. It has the aroma of salty ocean air, like the Pacific Ocean, and is creamy and luscious like Mt. Tam but not as briny and pungent as Red Hawk.

I was lucky enough to try Sir Francis Drake at Local Mission Eatery. And boy was it wonderful!


  1. So thoughtful, so heartful.. RG must be a lucky girl. Happy Birthday RG:)

  2. Thank you so much, my dear heart. I love you more than epoisses stinks :) xxxooo


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