Albuminous return of crottin

3 months of no artisan cheese cravings has demonstrated to me that I don’t like to have to look long and hard for good farmstead cheese (which shouldn’t be a prob here in oregon but I lazy hence no farmers markets d’habitude for me) and I don’t like paying $7 for one stinkin st. marcellin round. Thankfully, when your best friend’s mama takes you and the gang out for sunday lunner at one of Portland’s best (holler at Produce Row Café!) and orders the cheese plate for the table, well that’s when you put on the figurative turophile gloves and dig in to what appears to be a nice, delicate plating of a garlicky soft washed rind cow’s milk creation (Cow Girl Creamery I b’lieve), some nice young pecorino, and a sliced crottin that was courteously identified to me by our server as “ottentique,” which seems to be a crottin produced by Juniper Grove farms here in Oregon. Unfortunately Google told me that accessing their web page would result in attack by malicious software and expose my computer to risks so I just had to go off of the preview in the search engine. Regardless, MIAM MIAM. Check it out:

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Lovely wedges with a discernable pâte and darker exterior. Beautiful aged croûte like edible granite

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Wondeful snowy exterior, shown here on the last morsel of Ottentique

The ottentique had a marvelous creamy pâte and and velvety consistency after some mashing.
It had a vestige of that butter-on-top-of-jam/syrup-on-mistake taste that I still have no other words for. Not as piquant or puzzling as the San Juan’s Quail Croft crottin, but still with the nutty green root vegetable non-bitterness. There was some crystallization as well, and the savory crystals did some good on the palate. Such good.

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Crottin stateside

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Earthy and umami: Quail Croft crottin (say that 10 times fast!)

Sometimes you get real excited seeing a cheese at a market and then you buy the cheese and it feels as hard as the ash-covered/rhomboidal exterior suggests and you say “I hope this cheese was accidently frozen even though I really don’t want it to be frozen” and then you unpackage it and let it breathe for a couple of hours and then it’s the moment of truth and you cut it open and it separates beautifully and you detect a heady waft and have the littlest of slivers and just like that all is well. This was my experience this morning, as I stumbled upon a french-style crottin at the stand of Quail Croft Farms during a visit to the Friday Harbor farmer’s market with the gamins from camp. Our mission was to buy some chèvre for a tartine dish tomorrow, and we came home with garlic-basil fresh chèvre and an enigmatic lump o’ crottin, per left photo.

The granite-like, blue/grey/brown exterior poses a challenge to comprehending the enigma inside. The pâte is very consistent throughout, showing and even ripening and just the slimmest of oxidized surroundings. The first wedge nibble made the phrase “threateningly dry velvet” come into my mind, and I think that is a good description of the initial texture. Mushing the morsel around in my mouth yielded a salty, granular paste. Then came tastes of roasted root vegetable or chestnuts, moqc crottin slicesstly in the form of a peculiar mild sweetness that fluxxed from bitingly tart on the front of the tongue to a crumbly blue sour salt feeling in the back. While tasting I had an undescribable flavor on the tip of my tongue that escaped identification until I pegged it as the weird flavor combination that comes when you spread margarine and syrup (the fake corn syrup kind) on a eggo waffle and some of the margarine gets on top of the syrup and it turns into this funky savory weirdness. I thought that this was a common childhood experience but none of my fellow tasters empathized with me hmmmm. In essence, the Quail Croft crottin is a complex piece of aged dairy that exudes wiseness and escapes cliché.

Also something decadent and head-emptyingly wonderful: camembert au four! Aka a round of camembert put in the oven for 30 minutes ish at 350 F ish (essentially until hot and melty) and removed and top croute cut off and hunks of bread dipped in the molten pool of satiny surface-ripened cheese. Perfect for camping trips and camp counselors on 36-hour vacations on Orcas Island. Just perfect.

camembert au four

not-so-poor man’s simple cheese course

Taste the world in 4 cheeses

The elation that comes before a meal that you know will challenge and expand and stretch and regale your taste buds = exactly what I felt last friday afternoon. On a break from 3 weeks of work and in a mood to burn money on things that float my very own boat, I put together a cheese feast with some coworkers. We picked up 7 varieties, of which I will write about not Taleggio, Morbier, or Saint Nectaire. The biggest pity is that my iPhone with pictures of all these albuminous protein chunks from the Netherlands, France, Spain, and wisconsin was lost to the Salish Sea, so the only fruit for the brain buds will be concise descriptions of what I savoured.

First was the Pave de Jadis, an ash-covered chèvre from the Pays de la Loire. It was weeping moisture in the way only the heat of 5 PM in late july can coax out of a tranche of cheese. It had a slow to come on, rather fuzzy way of conveying citrus, mild dairy, and mellow grasses.

Second was the Garrotxa, a Catalonian aged goat’s cheese. Funky and bleu-chestnut rind colored with fishy tasties in my olfactory part influencing the chalky earth salt taste. A little mold funk made me think that this cheese is confused but in a “share my delirium” sort of engaging way.

Third was the Ballerina, by far the most expensive of our cheeses. It is an aged gouda that has a wonderful dark amber interior and translucent cheese crystals. I am not sure how long the affinage process lasted but I would venture somewhere in between 15-27 months (big range I know). It seemed like a wonderful vessel that someone poured delightful essence of garlic, molasses, salt, and roasted shrooms. The range and developing flavas was just so exciting and I highly recommend this cheese and other friends who like to talk about what they taste for a good time.

Last was Honeybee, another aged gouda. Somehow the sweetness and citrus of a teriyaki chicken skewer were the very first analogies I could find. This cheese finished with such a fun creamy nut sweetness that would have been both a muted dandelion yellow and earthy violet were they to be colors instead of (or in addition to) tastes.

These cheeses were fun to eat. We spent $70 on cheese (and sancerre) and I can’t think of a more amusing way I have spent my money in months.

One time I ate every cheese

A weekend ago I had a picnic in a castle’s ramparts with friends, rosé, red wine, homemade quiche, veggie appetizers, and 2 cheese friends. I wanted to write about them but I waited (maybe foolishly) until 5 days and 3 cheese later. Maybe bad idea but picnic = not bad idea and too much cheese in a blog post = not possible. So lets get down to business chronologically.

First off, we have our new acquaintance and close friend Brillat-Savarin. Take a good looksie. brillatsavarinBrainy and veiny, would someone choose to eat dis normalement? Answer= yes I would and yes i did. With an inside whiter than the outside (tankfurry..), I had feelings of velvety dryness, sensations of holistic mold, and a supportive tang to the taste. I would even dare to say that my tongue found a hint of fish curry in the B.S (haha). Maybe even some peanuts to go along with the thai theme! Overall a yum. Maketh the tasteth budeth happeth.

then next we tried iddle biddle baby Crottin des Alpines. crottindesalpinesOmg brainy and veiny again! Quelle coincidence! But this goat cheese was a different creature entirely. I asked for the “moelleux” instead of “plus sec” so our relatively young C.d.A was moist and yielding. Cutting through the rind was intensely facile, and my mouth brought to mind savory definitions, goaty origins, and feelings of frozen velour. Not your errday chèvre by any means. There are plusieurs types de Crottin so if you spot an opportunity to taste, by all means get that! But make sure you talk well with your cheesemonger before to figure out what your tastes gon be like. Or just have a surprise but still talk with your cheesemonger to 1) talk with a cheesemonger 2) talk about crottin 3) make sure that you’re getting some good dank

And then there was the rocamadour. Soft, ingratiating, goaty, and multi-textured, we had first the rocamadour in a dish called aumonières that you see here regaling on a plateaumoniere in the dining room all wrapped up in pâte brisée and just a lil brulée-d. All tressed in ham and wrapper, I got a gooey ooey dinner taste. And then o la vache I had a wedgy of rocamadour after the deeenner. Below I think you can see bien a round of rocamadour (so coot and lil ri8???) and then its counterpart rocamadourof partly eaten. I had equally rocamadourcutgood times with each. So jenky of design status but I’m not a wordpress master ehhhh but sorry you’ll have to guess what exactly im talking bout.

Then nexttt we have chèvre au mangue but I’m not gonna write bout dat bcuz its just creamy mmm with mangos and tropical fruits such as passion fruit all lined up around dat cremeux exterior. Good simple crowd pleaser without selling out – not easy to do. And then enfin we have the St. Félicien round 2. Still as creamy and droopy as before, still in a cute little wooden hamper, but this time around I have a whole new philosophy of cheese which is eat as much as you need to detect all the nuances and complexities of what exact dairy product you are sensing. And i mean exact as in respect the varieties in production and instruct your palate in what you think hope know you are tasting. stfelicienstcolombeMan brainy again! We are all about brainy cheese this post. But once you cut into dat gyri-filled rind you are rewarded with a supple nest of aged cream. Distant, pungent, coulante, and so close to a jar of cream, this St. Félicien is not to be taken lightly. Aged to youth, packaged up, and sent to my house, the SF gave my taste buds and mouth sensors a roller coaster in how the heck is there so much flavor in a protein-bound liquid? INEXPLICABLE. Talk to you next time.