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, mostly 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.