What a Friend We Have In Cheeses

| December 15, 2005 | 1 Comment
  • 1 Comment

Head Cheese is going to be really irritated with me for posting this entry, because it’s all about one of her favorite hoarding cheeses, BUT I have a duty to spread the Gospel of Cheeses. I will be a burning Bucheret, and I will deliver a sermon on the Mount Tam! Am I going to hell for that slice of heresy? If so, I’ll remember to pack my raclette. (Rimshot!)

I first had this cheese a few months ago. We were standing around Ye Olde Stanke Cheeseshoppe, pre-cutting, pre-wrapping, and pre-pricing our more popular cheeses in order to ready ourselves for the impending Saturday Farmers Market onslaught. McCheese came bounding up to the barge, shrieking, “It’s here! Kiku is here!” She ripped off the sous vide wrapping, pulled a cheese wire through the round, and shoved a fig leaf-wrapped half in my face. “Take a whiff — it smells like coconut!” McCheese announced. I took a deep drag and she was…oddly correct.

This fresh, goat’s milk chevre that should have nothing whatsoever to do with coconut did smell amazingly like that tropical nut. Is it the musty Sauvignon Blanc that the fig leaf is soaked in? Something Kiku — the goat for whom the cheese is named — ate? That last one is sort of gross to think about but, hey, if you didn’t know that’s where cheese came from then I do feel sorry for you. Seriously, though, have you ever noticed that Parmigiano-Reggiano can be different colors? At times it’s fairly white and insipid looking, and other times it’s golden-yellow and quite rich looking. That’s all about what the cows were eating at the time, which thus influenced the milk they gave. Think about what happens when you eat asparagus.

Wait, that’s not a true parallel and really much more disgusting than I intended. What I’m saying is, think of terroir the way wine makers do. Everything around an animal or human or grape ultimately affects its…output. In the summers, cows eat buttercups and tender green grass which makes their milk golden. In the winters, cows eat hay and stuff and the milk is paler. Many professional eaters and cheesemongers will tell you that there is a distinct difference in taste between cheese from either season. For myself, I’ve never discerned that much of a difference and neither seems superior to the other. I love them both. The only thing I insist upon when using Parmigiano-Reggiano is that it must be freshly grated. I won’t buy green canned or packaged stuff — there’s just a marked difference in taste, texture, and appearance.

ANYWAY, back to Kiku. It’s a sumptuous cheese from the folks at Goat’s Leap up in St. Helena, CA. Kiku is tangy and bright and can make goat cheese lovers out of even the most skeptical. I particularly love to watch this cheese grow old. Do you see that runny, camembert-ish, edging right near the figs leaf wrapping? As the cheese ages, that beautifully sticky, viscous layer moves in like a weather front across the drier more crumbly part of the cheese and douses it in sharpness that isn’t offensive but will certainly wake your tastebuds up in the morning.

The recommended wines with this cheese are Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and anything bubbly. Personally, I love it with a rich sherry or a tawny port, but if I must have wine — and frequently, I must — I do love it with a comforting glass of Sangiovese.

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Category: Bay Area Bites Food + Drink

About the Author ()

A former picky eater, Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic is a writer, editor, and lapsed cheesemonger in the San Francisco Bay Area. A culinary school grad with an English lit degree, she has written for CNN.com, MSNBC.com, Popular Science, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe. Additionally, she has been writing for KQED's Bay Area Bites since its inception and is the website editor for KQED's Emmy-award winning show "Check, Please! Bay Area." Stephanie was an original recapper at Television Without Pity and worked on a line of cookbooks for William-Sonoma as well as in the back kitchen of a Jacques Pépin cooking show. Her first book, SUFFERING SUCCOTASH: A Picky Eater's Quest To Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate (Perigee Books, 2012) is a non-fiction narrative and a heartfelt and humorous exposé on the inner lives of picky eaters that Scientific American called "hilarious" and "the perfect popular science book for a reader that doesn't think he or she wants to read a popular science book." Stephanie lives in Menlo Park with her husband, three-year-old son, assorted cats, and has been blogging at The Grub Report for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter at @grubreport
  • Anonymous

    I think we get where cheese comes from without drawing analogies between cream/milk and urine. If we didn’t, would we be sopping up your posts with relish? I think not! Keep up the good work, but jettison the “asparagus makes your urine colorful and aromatic references” when talking about such a beautiful cheese. You’re far more talented than that!