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Monday, November 14, 2011

Cowgirl Creamery: Your Guide to the New Old Cheeses

Posted By on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 at 11:00 AM

Cowgirl Creamery has always been an SFoodie favorite, and since the ladies have started adding new cheeses this year, we felt a more inclusive survey of the line was warranted. Here's a look at the new, and the old, aged cheeses.   (We'll get to the fresh cheeses in another post.)

Wagon Wheel

The newest cheese from Cowgirl is distinct from the rest in being made in 25 pound wheels rather than the smaller, self-contained ones that the Mt Tam variants come in. Cowgirl markets this as their "everyday" cheese.  Mid-yellow color, with a darkened, slightly waxy rind, this is dense and firm, with a modestly rubbery body, like a lightly aged mozzarella. It's pleasant and mild with a slight note of the rennet bringing a tiny tang toward the finish -- like gruyère without the noticeable nuttiness.

 
Inverness
 
Inverness is a Bay Area treat, distributed just to Cowgirl's stores and a few select local outlets. These are sold in individual cylinders, or "buttons," crafted like the mini goat cheese disks, mounds, and pyramids you see on cheese carts. Expect a nice, wrinkled skin rind with a powdered, bloomy finish. It's a cow milk cheese, but it's about as goaty as cow can get. When you slice it, you see the meaningful darkening near the rind (a clear note of aging) and the bright pale center that mirrors the egg-and-yolk-like presentation of many small goat cheeses.

The flavors are pronounced, but not overwhelming. A strong flavor of the cheese-making elements comes through, leaning more toward a light ammoniation rather than the rennant. Distinctly European in character, this has a great texture that tears when you cut it like un-softened European butter.

  Mt. Tam

A perennial favorite, distinguished by its semi-gooey-stretchy goodness. The tartness from the bloomy rind meshes perfectly with the creamy, almost butter-like cheese within. It's clean and pure, like mountain air. Always a crowd pleaser.

 Pierce Point

Most of the seasonal variations Cowgirl comes out with are like Mt. Tam with different treatments (washes, wraps, etc.). Pierce Point has an herbed rind with the look of Mt Tam sprinkled with herbs and pepper or ash. The first bite brings confirmation of fall. Earthy notes and a sense of fallen leaves suggest full autumn, a contrast to the creamy center. Red Hawk

Some have called Red Hawk Cowgirl's Époisses, though the ladies themselves never seem to take ownership of the comparison. The cheese was created by accident when a test gone wrong turned out a cheese no one wanted. When that same cheese was forgotten about and re-discovered much later it had developed into the Red Hawk we know today.

Perhaps Cowgirl's most lauded cheese, though Mt Tam remains my favorite. The washed rind can come off as wet, and ammoniated, but that shouldn't detract from the cheese unless it detracts from your preference. 

A bit firmer than traditional Mt Tam, with a more assertive pronouncement of its stinky cheese intentions, this is not Époisses -- but it could be a step on the road toward Époisses. With a modest appreciation for more developed and esoteric cheeses, you can enjoy Red Hawk, but to enjoy true Époisses you gotta love the stink.

Cowgirl cheeses are available at their Ferry Building store and better grocers throughout the Bay Area.


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Ben Narasin

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