Today I had a great blind date with a new friend. I mentioned this in a previous post, but a friend set us up because of our mutual interest in food, photography and writing, and after a few rain checks due to illness we finally met and lunched today. We went to Otto as we are both rather fond of cheese, and Otto has a nice selection with an option to do a three, five or seven cheese tasting plate. We opted for seven… when it doubt, EAT MORE CHEESE!
Here is the cheese plate:
The menu probably had around twelve cheeses on it – listed by name, milk type and region. I was familiar with some and had never heard of others. With seven cheeses, it was easy to have a variety of textures and milk types. We asked our server for some advice on the sheep’s milk cheeses, as there were a few I hadn’t heard of and I wanted to know if they were soft or hard, strong or mild, etc.
Here are the cheeses we selected starting at twelve o’clock and going clockwise around (ending with the blue at eleven o’clock).
- Coach Farm Triple Cream Goat Cheese – this is a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from the Hudson Valley area of New York. I had never tried a triple cream goat’s milk cheese before. Usually it’s cow’s milk or a mix of milks so I was intrigued when I saw this on the menu. This cheese is white in color (typical of goat’s milk cheese) with a soft, white, edible bloomy rind. The consistency was wonderful – super silky and creamy with a buttery, rich flavor touched with a hint of tangy goat. When I tasted it with the rind, it was a bit stronger. I actually liked it better without the rind (unusual for me.)
- Fontina – a raw cow’s milk cheese from the Valle D’Aosta region of Italy. The first thing that came to mind when I smelled this cheese was stinky feet! It definitely had a funkiness to it. The paste was pretty soft and pliable and it had a definite barny/animal flavor to it. Fontina can evidently be on the milder side or more pungent and this one was definitely a little pungent. I liked it – but didn’t love it.
- Pecorino Grand Old Man – a pasteurized sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany – this cheese is aged more than fifteen months, is yellowy gold in color, with a harder, more crumbly texture – like a Parmigiano Reggiano. The smell is sweet and nutty and it’s delightfully snackable. This was one of our favorites of the plate.
- Marzolino – a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Tuscany – made from the early spring milking in March (the name comes from Marzo – the Italian word for March.) I found this cheese to be pretty intense. The first taste sensation I had was bitter – then nutty, animal, funky, salty and sour. This was definitely a unique cheese for me – but not a favorite.
- Bergkase – a cow’s milk (not sure if pasteurized or raw) mountain cheese made in the Alps. The cheese is aged three to nine months and is made with summer milk (the cow’s graze high on the alpine pastures). The curds are cooked and pressed. The cheese to me smelled just like buttered popcorn – it was a bit chewy in texture, nutty, salty and buttery in flavor. It is supposedly a good melter!
- Taleggio – a pasteurized washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy. This is a funky cheese from the stinky washed-rind family (orange rind… washed regularly with liquid during aging process – sometimes wine, brandy, beer, salt-water, etc.) This cheese actually made my tongue prickly a bit – not sure what that means. This Taleggio was semi-soft in texture, and fairly mild but some Taleggios are described as pudding-like and easily spreadable on bread (like an Epoisses). This wasn’t like that. I think that means the one we got was younger and not quite at full ripeness? It was only ok in my opinion. I’d like to try it when it’s funkier, bolder and spreads like pudding. 🙂
- Gorgonzola Dolce – a pasteurized cow’s milk blue cheese from the Lombardy region of Italy. Gorgonzola dolce is the sweeter milder version of Gorgonzola. It is cave aged for only about three months. It still has that blue bite and spiciness to it – but it’s creamier and moister and has a sweetness that makes it a little easier for those who are not into super strong blues. I think it’s a delicious blue!
To accompany the cheeses, our server at Otto brought out a few plates of pairing condiments.
The condiments were apricots with chili, truffle honey and sour cherries. The truffle honey rocked my world. I tasted it with almost every cheese and thought it went great. The cherries were quite bold in flavor and overshadowed the cheeses for me most of the time and I didn’t care for the apricots very much. But oh… that truffle honey. Heaven on a plate.
Overall, our cheese plate was good today. I question whether all the cheeses were given to us at their absolute prime. I definitely think the cheese selection and quality at Casellula was still better. I’m dying to go back there again!
Now – for my photo of the day from yesterday:
Photo 313 out of 365 – “Tyler & Ducky”
This is Tyler. He is the son of our friends who are part of the “Brooklyn Boys” gang. He is one of those babies that makes me want to have a baby… like now. Just super chill, adorable and easy. Can I place an order for one like that?