Fabulous Cheese from the Pacific Northwest
I don’t think I quite new how much I loved cheese. I was fortunate growing up in that even though we were poor kids from the hood (Hillyard/Spokane, WA), my mom always bought legit cheddar. She NEVER allowed my sister and I to have American cheese, Velveeta, pre packaged slices, or anything like it. She spent money on two things: good bread (Poulsbo for most of childhood) and cheese (Tillamook Cheddar from Oregon). We bought cheap ice cream (remember Snow Star?), store-brand potato chips, imitation soda, and all sorts of other cost-saving food items but when it came to lunch, good bread and cheese were always around. To this day, Tillamook cheddar on tortilla chips or with a turkey sandwich is one of my favorite things (heck, a hunk of it is good too!) to eat late at night when I am supposed to be drinking water and NOT eating.
So even though the now-familiar Tillamook cheddar loaf will not be featured in this post, it is with great affection I share with you these Fab 4 favorite cheeses from around the region.
Dinah’s – Kurt Timmermeister’s Growing a Farmer book (see my post about this great book here) was one of the best books I have read this past year. Without going into all the deets, Kurt introduced us to his cow, Dinah (who is no longer with us, come to find out) and the cheese that she, and her fellow ruminant ladies “contributed” to. This camembert-like cheese has a perfect skin, perfect shape, and perfect, creamy, grassy, farm-like goodness. It is hard to explain how this cheese except that it tastes like, well, the way a cheese that comes directly from a local small batch producing farm would taste like. A little bit of earth, a little bit of dew, and a lot of Pacific NW in each creamy bite. Serve this with crackers (I actually prefer Breton’s) or by itself. Look for the picture of the cow on the wrapper (that’s Dinah) and you can get it at Met Market, PCC, and several other local retailers.
Mt.Townsend Cirrus – Cirrus is a Pacific Northwest variation on the traditional French camembert. Rich and buttery, it ripens from the outside in developing an increasingly creamy texture with age. It’s perfect for cheese plates served with almonds, figs and pears. This explanation comes directly from their website. I honestly don’t know what to say except that it is absolutely one of the very best cheeses I have ever had. I typically eat it with crackers, a little dijon and maybe an orange or something personally. Make sure you let it sit on the counter for a bit to get a little oozzy. It is quite simply, perfect.
Mt. Townsend Trailhead Tomme – Our award winning tomme has garnered first place honors at the United States Championship Cheese Contest and the American Cheese Society competition. We age each wheel for a minimum of six weeks, hand washing and flipping them to ensure the robust, nutty flavor that has caught critics’ attention. Apparently the tomme is a cheese that has a French heritage (in fact I tried a beautiful tomme from an Abbey in France at Calk and kid that was simply wonderful). The preceding few lines too came from their website. My take: this cheese is a bit firmer yet has some nice give when you let it rest a bit. It is simply a gorgeous cheese. Perfect for snacking, maybe a glass of wine….I know I am not doing it justice, but I just love this cheese.
Rogue River Blue Cheese – I have historically not been a big blue cheese guy, since I grew up with the old Lighthouse Roquefort brand, I was not exposed to good, high quality, crumbly blue until I was well into raising my boys. Even today, blue is not my first choice, but when I was introduced to the blue from Rogue River (Oregon), the one wrapped in grape leaves, I was hooked. I served it with some grilled pears, a light salad, and sweet and spicy pecans and it was simply a perfect pairing. The texture, intense flavor, coupled with the grilled pears was literally one of the most memorable salads I have EVER had. I love the vision of the Rogue Creamery… and strongly recommend that if you need a good crumbly blue cheese, for a salad, a steak, or on bread, Rogue River Blue is absolutely phenomenal.
I have tried cheese from France, Spain, Italy, and all over our great country. Maybe we have nicer cows, goats, and sheep up here in the Pacific NW. I really don’t know for sure…but one thing I DO know…we have some of the very best cheese ANYWHERE in the world, right here in our backyards. There are many more wonderful cheese makers in and around the Northwest, and my list doesn’t cover it all…but hopefully a glimpse into some cheese you can pick out for your next party, or just as a lovely snack or light dinner.
Hats off to the cheese makers and mongers for their great work in turning lovely milk into an exotic, intense explosion of our taste buds, and satisfaction to our bellies.