Cheesemonger author Gordon Edgar selected the Best New Cheeses of 2010 for the San Francisco Weekly’s SFoodie blog last week. Take a look at these great ideas to add to your holiday table!
It shows the strength and popularity of the growing world of American craft cheese that not only are all of my top five new (to the Bay Area) cheeses of the year American, but I had a hard time choosing. Ten years ago I would have felt obligated to find one non-Euro cheese to mention. This year it’s all American.
1. Nettle Meadow Kunik
From upstate New York, a ripened goat milk cheese made into a triple cream using Jersey cow milk. Jersey milk is the richest of all the cows and the Kunik is tangy, rich, refreshing, and fruity. Nettle Meadow Farm even runs an animal sanctuary on premises. This is a cheese I didn’t know I needed until I tried it. Now I think I’d cry if we couldn’t get any more deliveries to Rainbow.
|Kunik from Nettle Meadow: Goat, meet cow.|
2. Vintage Cheese Company Mountina
“An Alpine cheese from the mountains of … Montana.” I was absolutely skeptical of this cheese before I tried it. Sure, third-generation cheese makers, blah blah blah. I expected yet another pale imitation of a baby Swiss like Jarlsberg. But no, Vintage Cheese Company’s Heap brothers went to the real source for inspiration. Not only is this cheese nutty and earthy like a real Emmenthal, this is better than most Emmenthal sold in the states. Big, unexpected flavor.
|Mountina from Vintage Cheese Company: Not some pale imitation of a Swiss.|
3. Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Bonne Bouche
Okay, this is cheating for an end-of-year review, since Bonne Bouche has been available in the Bay for a couple of years now. But I include it because it is now flat-out incredible ― I’d go so far as to say that this is better than any soft-ripened French goat regularly available in the U.S., and it’s made in Vermont. I was a judge at the American Cheese Society competition this fall and out of over 1,300 entries this got my vote for Best of Show. If you’ve tried this before, try it again!
|Bonne Bouche from Vermont Butter and Cheese: Flat-out incredible.|
4. Uplands Creamery Rush Creek Reserve
It’s probably not right to mention this one because it is still a little inconsistent. It takes years to get a cheese recipe right, considering the continuous corrections for milk protein levels, humidity, and timing, plus the Vacherin Mont D’or style (which the Rush Creek aspires to) is particularly tough. But this cheese is very good right now and has huge potential. Made by the company that is the only three-time winner of the American Cheese Society competition, this is oozy, earthy, rich, and a touch smoky. This style is the most complex soft cheese you can find.
5. Four from California
My people (the Californians) will come after me if I don’t mention all the good new cheeses in our own backyard. First off, Garden Variety Black Eyed Susan is one of the most incredible U.S.-made sheep milk cheeses I have ever had. Two Rock Valley’s aged goat cheese is not only tangy and sharp, but often has flavors of tropical fruit (and I don’t say crap like that often!). Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Toma is rich and grassy, and Valley Ford Cheese Company Estero Gold is similar, only sharper and more acidic. Four new awesome cheeses is a lot for one state in one year!
|Aged goat from Two Rock Valley, left, and Estero Gold from Valley Ford: Local heroes.|
Gordon Edgar’s Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, is available now.