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Help Me Understand Why Capriole O’Banon Is So Beloved

Help Me Understand Why Capriole O’Banon Is So Beloved
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  • Help Me Understand Why Capriole O’Banon Is So Beloved

    Post #1 - April 5th, 2005, 10:16 am
    Post #1 - April 5th, 2005, 10:16 am Post #1 - April 5th, 2005, 10:16 am
    Help Me Understand Why Capriole O’Banon Is So Beloved

    Capriole O’Banon is a 2004 American Cheese Society Gold Medal Winner. This goat cheese is made by Judy Schad, who also makes the renowned Wabash Cannonballs, featured in this month’s Saveur.

    But back to the O’Banon: I don’t get it. I’ve been eating it for several days, and it’s doing nothing for me. The bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves give the exterior a pleasant tang, and the cheese itself is beautiful chalk white with good texture, but the taste is…well, I don’t get it. I like chevre a lot, but this queso has no cojones. Now, I just had some LA relatives in town, and I’m fairly certain they’ve never had goat cheese in their house, and they liked the O’Banon, so my conclusion is: this is a good, well-made, hand-crafted goat cheese for people who don’t really like goat cheese that much.

    This, I believe, touches on an eternal theme: at what point does the refinement of a food diminish its distinctiveness? Buddy of mine buys only cheap bourbon (though he can afford much better) because he likes the aggressive bite of the unrefined versions; so he leans toward George Dickel.

    Anyhow, I dig goat cheese a lot, which is perhaps why O’Banon fails to thrill me.

    Still, Capriole (which I bought at Marion Street Cheese Market, and which is also available at Whole Foods, Pastoral and many other local cheese shops) is a good place to keep an eye on for higher-end artisanal chevre : http://www.capriolegoatcheese.com/cheeses.htm
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #2 - April 5th, 2005, 11:07 am
    Post #2 - April 5th, 2005, 11:07 am Post #2 - April 5th, 2005, 11:07 am
    You may have a point there. My kids and one of my best friends won't touch goat cheese (mostly because it comes from *horror* goats!), but the tang and barnyardiness of the good stuff is what turns them off.

    When I was visiting our Italian branch a couple years ago, I was strongly recommended to try the prepackaged goat cheese available in the lunch line -- and it was of the sort you're talking about: it might as well be Philadelphia cream cheese, in fact it wasn't even that tangy (never trust a Swede to steer you toward strong flavor, that's my problem there).

    I use plenty of snow-white commercial goat, but it's mostly a carrier for other things: melt onto a pizza, toast bread-crumb-covered patties for topping a salad, etc. Give me something with some age, some tang, though, and I'll go to town with it plain.
  • Post #3 - April 5th, 2005, 11:42 am
    Post #3 - April 5th, 2005, 11:42 am Post #3 - April 5th, 2005, 11:42 am
    On the most recent episode of America's Test Kitchen, they did a chevre tasting. It turns out that their tasters overwhelmingly preferred the Vermont-style chevre for it's creaminess and mildness. The authentic French chevre was disliked due to it's game-y flavor.

    Chris Kimball tasted the French chevre and proclaimed "this is what goat cheese is supposed to taste like" and heartily disagreed with the tasting panel's results.

    I think the argument for diminishment can work equally as well in the opposite direction: Perhaps we are enhancing certain foods through refinement by broadening their reach and introducing more people to new flavors? This looks like a half-empty, half-full argument to me.

    There are certain foods that are very different around the world but generally named exactly the same, where I prefer only one specific type: Turkish bay leaves over US varieties, California dried apricots over Mediterranean ones, for example. Are bay leaves or dried apricots diminshed by what I see as "lesser" varieties? Or are they enhanced by having greater option and reach? This does detract the issue from refinement to variety, but I think the leap is natural.

    I'm not sure what side of the fence I fall on (it may depend on the food), but it is an interesting question.

    Best,
    Michael / EC
  • Post #4 - April 5th, 2005, 11:49 am
    Post #4 - April 5th, 2005, 11:49 am Post #4 - April 5th, 2005, 11:49 am
    David Hammond wrote:Capriole O’Banon is a 2004 American Cheese Society Gold Medal Winner.


    I think part of what you're getting at is the fallacy of competitions like the ASC. I really think these are marketing exercises more than anything. Now I don't begrudge them their marketing techniques...I'm very glad, in fact, that such a delightful product category is being marketed better.

    But, c'mon...how can you name the best cheese? Even Saveur's list of 50...I would have hoped they would have chosen not to rank them. It just reinforces the tendency towards hierarchy and competition, winners and losers.

    One of my favorite things about Chuck Cowdery's bourbon book is that he refuses to rank or even grade bourbons, in the comprehensive back section. Instead he provides very detailed, and often subjective, accountings of each. Saveur, much to their credit, does the same thing whenever it highlights wine...giving a nice list of 10 or 20 bottles in a certain style, region, grape, whatever, and saying essentially, "We like these." Cowdery's reason for not rating or ranking: basically "It's all good."

    Like the World Beer Cup, or whatever it is, the main function of the ASC competition is to hand out lots and lots of first place ribbons (I think there were something like 70 or 80 handed out this year). If you count seconds, thirds, and honorable mentions, hundreds of cheeses were honored.

    Fine, I'm sure there's hundreds of good cheeses. And hundreds more that weren't honored. Some I like, some I don't, and some leave me indifferent. I'm fine with that, but an unfortunate side effect of the marketing apparatus that makes these sorts of specialty products possible (i.e., profitable for their producers) is the canonization of "high quality" brands, the designation of "premium" and "super premium" and whatever category will be invented next (ultra super special premium?). Blah, blah, blah, reverse snobbism, and all that...sorry for the rant.

    More specifically, I think Capriole cheese overall are quite nice...don't recall if I've had the O'Banon in particular. I really do like Humboldt Fog for American artisanal goat cheeses, and that one's been marketed as heavily as any, for whatever that's worth.

    Carr Valley's Gran Canaria, which won last year's ASC grand prize, is a nice enough cheese, but there's many I prefer...Fiscalini's San Joaquin Gold, for example. Which one's better? Gosh, how do you say? Which wheel are we talking about? What am I in the mood for? How am I using it? And if one's better this year, how is another better next year? Man, this whole process drives me nuts.

    Again, though, it's all in the service of getting a wider audience for a product category that really deserves it. (And if Fox & Obel, with it's 20 or so American artisanal cheeses on offer, is one of the best places in the country for American cheeses, you know the audience is currently not very wide.)

    And by the way, I'm with your friend on cheap bourbon, though for me it's Evan Williams rather than Dickel. But would I say Evan Williams black label is better than the single vintage or Woodford Reserve? I'm with cowdery...I think it's the wrong question.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #5 - April 5th, 2005, 11:53 am
    Post #5 - April 5th, 2005, 11:53 am Post #5 - April 5th, 2005, 11:53 am
    Aaron Deacon wrote:But, c'mon...how can you name the best cheese? Even Saveur's list of 50...I would have hoped they would have chosen not to rank them.


    Within that list they didn't rank them.. the list was alphabetical. The mere act of choosing 50 american cheeses out of all of the choices is, I suppose, exclusionary, but 50 is a pretty big number.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #6 - April 5th, 2005, 12:07 pm
    Post #6 - April 5th, 2005, 12:07 pm Post #6 - April 5th, 2005, 12:07 pm
    gleam wrote:Within that list they didn't rank them.. the list was alphabetical. The mere act of choosing 50 american cheeses out of all of the choices is, I suppose, exclusionary, but 50 is a pretty big number.


    You're right. I was misled by them being numbered 1 through 50...didn't realize it was alphabetical. :oops:

    I do think it appears to be a nice list, by the way, and overall, a good topic to have an issue on. The list is also presented as "Here's 50 we like", and whether it's 50 or 10 or 1, I have no problem saying "We like this". It's the "This is the best" mentality that irks me.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #7 - April 5th, 2005, 12:37 pm
    Post #7 - April 5th, 2005, 12:37 pm Post #7 - April 5th, 2005, 12:37 pm
    eatchicago wrote:I think the argument for diminishment can work equally as well in the opposite direction: Perhaps we are enhancing certain foods through refinement by broadening their reach and introducing more people to new flavors? This looks like a half-empty, half-full argument to me.


    Michael/EC,

    As a kid with single digits of age, I read Classics Illustrated comic books: Ten Years Before the Mast, The Time Machine, The Last of the Mohicans, every one I could get my hands on. I'm glad I did, because as I became an adult, I had a hard time reading Dana, Wells and Cooper, though fans of those authors would no doubt pooh-pooh my limited though "richly illustrated" exposure to these writers. Was it a valuable experience for me to read these highly refined kiddie versions of the "classics"? Absolutely; I loved them.

    So, about O'Banon from Capriole, I applaud its existence, though the likelihood is low I will seek it out again. As you say, if some like their chevre mild, that's great -- at least they LIKE it, and that means more will be made, and so some really goaty ones will find their way to my cheese plate.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #8 - April 6th, 2005, 4:57 am
    Post #8 - April 6th, 2005, 4:57 am Post #8 - April 6th, 2005, 4:57 am
    David Hammond wrote:But back to the O’Banon: I don’t get it. I’ve been eating it for several days, and it’s doing nothing for me. The bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves give the exterior a pleasant tang, and the cheese itself is beautiful chalk white with good texture, but the taste is…well, I don’t get it.

    Hammond,

    When I read your post I wondered if we were on the same page cheese wise, I've had O'Banon a few times and thought it fairly aggressive, not Epoisses funky aggressive, but not the neutral flavors you describe. In pondering our different experiences I poked around the Capriole web site and found my answer "Because the leaves are wet, we vacuum O'Banon. It can be removed from packaging & aged." When I've had O'Banon it's been aged, which lends complexity. Anyway, how can you not like a goat cheese that been wrapped in chestnut leaves and soaked in Bourbon. :)

    Speaking of cheese, Ellen and I had dinner with Thor's parents last night at Volo, a brand spanking new wine bar in Roscoe Village, so new they don't have their liquor license yet. Dinner was really quite good, think bone marrow, and I am in the process of writing a post, but one of the killer bites, among many, was Red Hawk cows milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery. Wow!

    Image

    The other two cheeses on the plate were quite nice, Humbodt Fog and Crabrales, but the Red Hawk caught us by surprise. Cheese service was quite nice, toasted dark walnut bread, sliced apples and grapes macerated in ver jus then frozen, all in all a nice presentation.

    Volo sources their cheese from The Cheese Stands Alone, where I will be heading today to pick up a wedge of Red Hawk.


    Enjoy,
    Gary

    Volo Restaurant Wine Bar
    2008 W Roscoe
    Chicago, IL
    773-348-4600

    The Cheese Stands Alone
    4547 N. Western Ave.
    773-293-3870
    Closed Monday
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #9 - April 6th, 2005, 8:29 am
    Post #9 - April 6th, 2005, 8:29 am Post #9 - April 6th, 2005, 8:29 am
    I also love Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses. Last time I was in San Francisco I went to their cheese shop in the Ferry Building and was in awe of the care that these woman took with their cheese. I tasted through a few of their cheeses, but I think their washed rind, funky, Red Hawk is by far and away my favorite. (I also like the Mt Tam which is a tasty triple cream cheese). It's pricey--but worth it.

    Another cheese on the Saveur list that I think is great is the Hudson Valley Camembert done by the Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. It may fall in the category of the O'Banon goat cheese, in that it tends to be a little milder, a little less funky, than French Camembert, but always a crowd pleaser. I would highly recommend their sheep's milk yogurt too. It comes in both plain and maple, both of which are incredibly rich and sheepy.

    Reading that article made me happy. It's very exciting that there are so many great cheeses coming out of this country.
  • Post #10 - April 6th, 2005, 9:34 am
    Post #10 - April 6th, 2005, 9:34 am Post #10 - April 6th, 2005, 9:34 am
    G Wiv wrote:In pondering our different experiences I poked around the Capriole web site and found my answer "Because the leaves are wet, we vacuum O'Banon. It can be removed from packaging & aged." When I've had O'Banon it's been aged, which lends complexity.


    Perhaps that explains my not that great experience with O'Banon too; it may have not have been out of its packaging very long.

    I haven't seen the Saveur list and don't know if Laura Chenel's goat cheeses is on it, but I tried one (don't remember what exactly) a long time ago and was definitely underwhelmed. Perhaps my expectations were trying to keep up with the buzz but at least that particular sampling was dissapointing. Maybe I should try some again.

    I have never been dissapointed with any goat cheese that bears Pierre Jacquin's name.
  • Post #11 - April 6th, 2005, 12:45 pm
    Post #11 - April 6th, 2005, 12:45 pm Post #11 - April 6th, 2005, 12:45 pm
    G Wiv wrote:
    When I read your post I wondered if we were on the same page cheese wise, I've had O'Banon a few times and thought it fairly aggressive, not Epoisses funky aggressive, but not the neutral flavors you describe. In pondering our different experiences I poked around the Capriole web site and found my answer "Because the leaves are wet, we vacuum O'Banon. It can be removed from packaging & aged." When I've had O'Banon it's been aged, which lends complexity. Anyway, how can you not like a goat cheese that been wrapped in chestnut leaves and soaked in Bourbon. :)


    GWiv,

    Thanks for the hint. Aging might help, but I'm a little vague on the details. Maybe take the cheese out of the vacuum bag and let it sit in a cool dry place for…how long?

    I've had Humboldt Fog and Cabrales, never Red Hawk. I'll look for it.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #12 - April 7th, 2005, 7:02 pm
    Post #12 - April 7th, 2005, 7:02 pm Post #12 - April 7th, 2005, 7:02 pm
    David Hammond wrote:GWiv,

    Thanks for the hint. Aging might help, but I'm a little vague on the details. Maybe take the cheese out of the vacuum bag and let it sit in a cool dry place for…how long?


    Maybe GWiv can provide a better method, but in a standard issue apartment refrigerator, this is how I 'age' some of my cheese.

    Put the wax paper wrapped (not too tight) cheese in a bowl. Place bowl on a small plate and cover the bowl with an inverted larger container. I normally use a square container as the inverted one over a round plate, so that there is some gap between the plate and the rim of the inverted container.
    This allows the cheese to 'breathe' whilst remaining cool in the fridge, without the air around the cheese getting displaced too much and drying the cheese out. I place the cheese at the back of the bottom most shelf (just above the crisper)- since it is a spot that is furthest from the fan.

    The longest I have left cheese as described (and eaten it afterwards :) ) is approx 7 weeks.
  • Post #13 - April 14th, 2005, 6:06 pm
    Post #13 - April 14th, 2005, 6:06 pm Post #13 - April 14th, 2005, 6:06 pm
    It seems, and I may be mistaken, but it seems that just leaving the cheese in the refrigerator, after having opened it up and exposed it to a little air, has enhanced the flavor. I tried some of the capriole this afternoon (not having actually taken the initiative to try any of the excellent aging techniques suggested), and I thought it tasted better than when I opened it about 10 or so days ago.

    Many chevres seem to be packed fairly tightly -- it may make sense to open them up and let them breathe for a few days before consuming them.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #14 - April 30th, 2005, 7:31 am
    Post #14 - April 30th, 2005, 7:31 am Post #14 - April 30th, 2005, 7:31 am
    sazerac wrote:Maybe GWiv can provide a better method, but in a standard issue apartment refrigerator, this is how I 'age' some of my cheese.

    Sazerac,

    I do not, at least not on purpose, age cheese in my refrigerator. The few times, in the distant past, I've attempted to age beef were such disasters that the only thing aging (quickly, I might add) in my house is me. :)

    That said, I'm saving your method to my recipe technique file and, if the urge strikes, will employ your method.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #15 - April 30th, 2005, 7:36 am
    Post #15 - April 30th, 2005, 7:36 am Post #15 - April 30th, 2005, 7:36 am
    trixie-pea wrote:I also love Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses.
    <snip>
    (I also like the Mt Tam which is a tasty triple cream cheese). It's pricey--but worth it.

    Trixie,

    Had the Mt Tam Cowgirl Creamery at Blackbirdlast evening and, as you said, it's a "tasty triple cream" Blackbird had the Mt. Tam as a salad course pared with jerusalem artichokes, white asparagus and woodland mushrooms, but we had just the cheese with dessert.

    Speaking of Blackbird and appetizers I nominate their current foie gras appetizer for Best Appetizer in Chicago, along with Le Bouchon's Lyonnaise salad (Best Salad in Chicago). The foie gras was paired with pomegranate gelee and spiced potato bread, not to mention the most incredible green almonds. There was also the lightest sprinkle of sea salt dusted on the crisp seared top which perfectly complimented the silky, smooth, rich foie gras.

    Blackbird being the incredibly gracious service oriented establishment it is, brought a pour of sauterne with the foie gras, in addition to our after dinner drinks, to amend for the most minor of seating gaffs. This was completely unnecessary as even minor is overstating.

    Foie gras and sauterne is a match made in heaven.

    Our meal at Blackbird deserves its own post, but I did want to mention the foie gras while I was still in taste memory afterglow.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #16 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:28 am
    Post #16 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:28 am Post #16 - May 3rd, 2005, 9:28 am
    Few weeks ago, I bought a package of Laura Chenel’s Chabis goat cheese at jazzfood/Alan Lake’s well-stocked cheese section at Gourmet 47. It didn’t have O’Banon’s bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves, but the flavor was just about as good as I’d expect an out-of-the-pack cheese to be. No additional “aging” required; this stuff was ready to go, with some fine goaty funk balanced by pure white creaminess.

    Trixie-pea, I’ve heard good things about Cowgirl Creamery, and I plan to order some cheeses from their fanciful site at http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/. You can also get Chenel’s cheese from this site.

    For those of you who haven’t stopped in at Gourmet 47, they’ve got an interesting and growing cheese selection, well-maintained and offering some surprises. There are also lots of very good deli items (gorgonzola stuffed dates and purple potato salad which, according to jazzfood, is made possible by cooking the spuds with skin on – if you peel off the skin, you lose the color during cooking, even if you bake them – and there is something really cool looking about a bowl of big purple cubes).

    Gourmet 47
    122 N. May St.
    312-239-2873
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #17 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:31 am
    Post #17 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:31 am Post #17 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:31 am
    David Hammond wrote:there is something really cool looking about a bowl of big purple cubes


    I just got back from a few days in Dallas, and at a small, strip mall East African storefront with a few tables, my sister and I dug into some goat and beef and rice. We asked the Somalian proprietess about the various preparations, and she confessed to adding yellow food coloring. "Who wants to look at a big pile of white rice?" was her explanation.

    She also gave us each a whole, unpeeled banana, since "It's just not lunch in Somalia if you don't have a banana." :!: :?:
  • Post #18 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:39 am
    Post #18 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:39 am Post #18 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:39 am
    Aaron,

    As I was coming back from the airport one day, I was talking to the Somali cab driver. I asked him what kind of food he ate back home, and he said, “Italian. We eat all Italian food.” As a scholar of early modern Italian history (honest, folks, he really is!), you know that Somalia was until recently a colony of the current faded reflection of the once great Roman Empire…and we Italians do love the bananas.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #19 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:49 am
    Post #19 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:49 am Post #19 - May 3rd, 2005, 10:49 am
    David Hammond wrote:he said, “Italian. We eat all Italian food.”


    You know, I didn't think of that, but it explains why this woman, in addition to the goat and beef specials scrawled on posterboard in the window, said they had spaghetti. This really puzzled both of us.

    Furthermore, among the collection of sauces brought out for our, uh, "more traditional" Somalian lunch, was a big container of a tomato-based sauce that resembled nothing so much as good old Italian-American red sauce.

    Cheers,

    Aaron
  • Post #20 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:06 am
    Post #20 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:06 am Post #20 - May 3rd, 2005, 11:06 am
    David Hammond wrote:Trixie-pea, I’ve heard good things about Cowgirl Creamery, and I plan to order some cheeses from their fanciful site at http://www.cowgirlcreamery.com/.


    David,

    If you don't want to order from their website, either because they make you buy a "collection" of cheese, or because you want instant gratification, you can buy wheels of Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses at Fox and Obel.

    trixie-pea
  • Post #21 - May 3rd, 2005, 12:24 pm
    Post #21 - May 3rd, 2005, 12:24 pm Post #21 - May 3rd, 2005, 12:24 pm
    trixie-pea wrote:If you don't want to order from their website, either because they make you buy a "collection" of cheese, or because you want instant gratification, you can buy wheels of Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses at Fox and Obel.trixie-pea


    I just checked the price on the Tam at the Cowgirl site. It looks like $25 for an 8 ounce round, plus shipping, bringing the price to about $50 a pound. This is, I'm going to have to believe, outstandingly good fromage.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #22 - August 8th, 2005, 10:31 am
    Post #22 - August 8th, 2005, 10:31 am Post #22 - August 8th, 2005, 10:31 am
    It had been quite a while since I'd had Capriole O'Bannon, and from what I could remember when this thread came up was that it was a good goat cheese. It hadn't lodged in my memory as a very good cheese and I wondered if that was because like so many cheeses what I had sampled hadn't been stored/aged properly. Also I was curious about whether the bourbon actually did anything.

    Capriole O' Banons
    ImageImageImage

    I bought two of these (at the Cheese Stands Alone on an LTH inspired run) still in vacuum packaging which I removed. One I decided to 'age' in its leafy package. Instead of the cheese in bowl in inverted bowl setup, I put it in a holey container and along with a folded wet paper-towel placed it in a brown paper.
    The second one, I first removed from its leafy covering. I had come a across a French goat cheese, "Arômes au vin blanc" that's sealed in a jar on a wire rack above some wine and 'aged.' I thought I'd try this sort of aging with bourbon, since the O'Bannons are somewhat bourbon treated to start with. If a little bourbon helps, then more bourbon should more, I reasoned. First I reduced some bourbon by half to bring down the alcohol content, and with A2Fay's dexterity with a needle and thread, suspended the cheese over the bourbon in a plastic container that was then sealed.

    These two were left (almost) undisturbed in the refrigerator for nine weeks and two days. The brown paper bag was opened briefly after about five weeks, the paper towel was dry so I replaced it with a wet one.

    The results:
    Curious as to what discerning palates may think, I took it to the Duck Outing. I hadn't tasted it but only had a quick nibble to see make it was palatable. My apologies for making unwitting experimenters of fellowLTHers.
    The brown paper bag cheese having dried out a bit was a little firm. It was still very mild in flavor with just a slight goaty tang.
    The bourbonized one was soft, much more spreadable. It had a mild sourness that hinted of the bourbon (though I'm not sure if one could tell if they didn't already know). Tangy, mildly goaty.
    Eatchicago graciously called it a successful storage experiment. A good choice of words, I think, because as an aging experiment, the results weren't too great.

    This cheese, unlike some of my aunts, did not improve with either bourbon or age. I doubt I'll ever buy this cheese again; I've had far better goat cheese that didn't cost as much ($11.99 a round at the Cheese Stands Alone; possibly cheaper elsewhere).
  • Post #23 - August 9th, 2005, 9:08 am
    Post #23 - August 9th, 2005, 9:08 am Post #23 - August 9th, 2005, 9:08 am
    sazerac,

    I admire your scientific impulse. It would never have occurred to me to assume the cheesemaker's apron and try to age my own cheese, though it seems likely that a little “airing out” of store-bought cheese would be a good thing.

    On the subject of making cheese under the guidance of a certified cheesemaker, I did notice a few months back that Judy Schad (Goat Goddess of Capriole) is offering internships:

    http://attrainternships.ncat.org/internDetail2.asp?id=340

    (another retirement option for me).

    Sorry I had to cancel on the duck tour…I was really up for it, but duty called.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #24 - August 15th, 2005, 10:30 am
    Post #24 - August 15th, 2005, 10:30 am Post #24 - August 15th, 2005, 10:30 am
    Okay, I'm not going to get into it with all of you about the 'marketing' by the ACS (but as a quick aside, there is no farmhouse/artisanal conspiracy to foist mediocre cheese on the world - every year the ACS panel of judges changes, and their taste may not reflect the taste of aficionados or other judges from years prior. To win at the ACS show is a big deal, but if you have been going for the ten years or so, you would have noticed a tremendous change in the number of entrants, the overall quality, and the variety of products, both good and bad. But I digress).

    Sometimes a cheese wins that is universally reviled by a majority of the cheesemakers out there. Sometimes a truly outstanding cheese wins. Almost without exception, semi-hard, sharp cheeses win the best in show. And amen they are publicizing their efforts. No group or society is without fault, but the ACS has done a great job over the last decade making artisan cheese an important category within the overall cheese market.

    Anyway, I will add that I do not like any of capriole's cheese, never have, but think Judy Schad is absolutely wonderful and a very competent cheesemaker.

    Most of the leaf-wrapped cheeses, when they arrive at the shop come in those nasty wet cryovac. To really get flavor to develop, they have to be aged. At Artisanal cheese center they age Paula Lambert's Hoja Santa (goat cheese wrapped in Hoja Santa leaf, it has the mild flavor of sassafras) to a richer, drier, earthier stage and it is far more delicious than the original product. Sally Jackson produces both goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheeses wrapped in leaves, but they are hard to come by and not produced in small formats.

    The best US-produced goat cheese is, hands down, from Andante Dairy. But you will never see an ACS ribbon on her products because she withdrew from the society nearly 5 years ago. And you won't see her products in many places outside of california. She produces some of the most sublime goat cheeses - smooth, fresh, flavorful - that pasteurization will allow. If you can get your hands on Goat's Leap banon-type cheeses (Kiku, etc) produced by Barbara Backus, you are also in for a treat. But the best cheeses are produced in very small quantities, seldom make it out of state, and won't be appearing anytime soon on a shelf near you.

    For something a little closer, Lovetree Farm in Grantsburg, WI produces gorgeous cow and sheep's milk cheeses that can't be beat. About 5 years ago they started playing with a fresh sheep's milk cheese wrapped in nettle that had been soaked in vodka. Amazing stuff.

    There's another brilliant cheesemaker in Canada at Le Moutonniere. If you go up to montreal seek this stuff out. There is wonderful washed rind cheeses as well as sheep's milk cheeses wrapped in leaf.

    Lastly, if you really want to learn the art and science of affinage (that's what one of you was attempting, above) I'd recommend either a short internship in New York at Artisanal or at Murray's. They actually do know what they are doing with their caves. Unlike here in Chicago.
  • Post #25 - October 5th, 2005, 3:40 pm
    Post #25 - October 5th, 2005, 3:40 pm Post #25 - October 5th, 2005, 3:40 pm
    The ACS Competition is a bit of a scam. The ACS makes a big fuss about Raw-Milk cheese but generally pasteurized cheeses are the winners of the Best in Show(not this year though with Mike Gingrich's awesome raw-milk Pleasant Ridge Reserve). Last year it was Carr Valley's Gran Canaria. Pasteurized milk. The year before Cowgirl Creamery's Red Hawk, again pasteurized milk. At least the Red Hawk is actually a superior product. The Gran Canaria can be good if it's aged long enough, but it seems Carr Valley really doesn't care much and often release their cheeses long before they are properly aged. When you expect people to pay $20-30 a pound for your cheese they better be good all the time.
  • Post #26 - October 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    Post #26 - October 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm Post #26 - October 5th, 2005, 4:21 pm
    The ACS Competition is a bit of a scam. The ACS makes a big fuss about Raw-Milk cheese


    I completely disagree that it is a scam. Define scam, please, and how the ACS is perpetrating one. It will help me understand your point.

    The ACS isn't trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or benefit financially from a public duped into thinking its winners are raw. Read the not-so-fine print. By no means does the ACS misrepresent the meaning of earning a ribbon at competition. So what if it isn't raw? The ACS was founded to support cheesemakers - Artisan, Farmhouse, Specialty - not raw milk cheese manufacturing in the US. Yes, many of these cheesemakers do make unpasteurized product, but the ACS' role is to promote everyone. The ACS's CCC - Cheese of Choice Coalition - is all about raw milk cheesemaking and defending its production in the US. The ACS, however, does not include "unpasteurized" or "raw" in their mission statement, which you can find on their homepage.

    Have you ever had mediocre truly bad rm cheese produced in the US? There's quite a bit of it. In the hands of a talented cheesemaker, raw milk cheeses can be fantastic. And in the hands of that same cheesemaker, pasteurized product can be delicious, better than a raw milk cheese made in a similar style by another less talented cheesemaker.

    Yes, the Best-in-show can be a real apples and oranges affair at ACS, but a scam it isn't. It is what it is - flawed, but not ill intentioned.

    As far as cheese cost goes, consider this: I helped several cheesemakers figure out how much they should charge retailers like Murray's to carry their product. In order to make a decent profit (we aimed for 50% margin) one cheesemaker, who makes an extraordinary Doddington-style cheese, had to charge wholesalers $8.25. They in turn had to add in their markup, which in cheese retail is 100% (wholesale varies from 5% to 35%, depending on product and nature of the buyer). Shipping then needs to be added in. Costs for that vary wildly, depending on time of year, method of transport, etc. In the end, a $20 price tag per pound wouldn't be surprising. Compared to similar European cheeses, it isn't always a great value. But the cheese is good, a quarter-pound will set you back $5, and it is raw, traditional, and preserving a way of life that the super-farms and declining milk prices have been quickly wiping out.
    CONNOISSEUR, n. A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.
    -Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

    www.cakeandcommerce.com

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