Welcome Back

January 7, 2009 at 9:28 am

Rob Gardner

It’s not that the last two weeks were bereft of local foods. There was country ham and Kentucky bison burgers; stone ground grits from a water driven mill, bar-g-que’d mutton and the kind of chicken that takes forty-five minutes to fry.  Still, as vacation wound down, it seemed like a lot of pho, Chinatown and late-night Korean.  By Sunday, I was ready for something home grown.

Or not exactly home grown (and by home I mean the Midwest not my bungalow) but home produced.  A satisfying dinner was wedges of three Bleu Mont Dairy cheeses, a spoonful of Door County cherry jam and kimchee made by Angie Ackerman from her Illinois grown cabbage and peppers.  Local.

The star of the plate was obviously the three cheeses made by Willi Lehner not too far from Madison.  All from raw milk, my selections were his version of a blue, a washed rind, bloomy cheese he calls Irish Gem and the star of stars, the flat out best cheese I know, his reserved bandaged cheddar.   The superstar, however, needs to go first in the tasting because, relatively speaking, it is the mildest.  It is not particularly sharp either in the way that cheddars can be sharp, but it does get that hint of decay that raw milk provides.  It also has a nice crystalline crunch on the back-bite.  The Irish Gem is soft and buttery within but dominated by the washed rind, a little powdery on the tongue and surely stinky in the nose (although there is only the whiff of that Limburger bacterial rot).  Bleu Mont’s blue would not be last if not for the heavy veins of penicillin.  It’s a Stilton like blue, yellow, and, well can I use buttery twice in a paragraph?  I feel sorry for the locavores who do not have such cheese in their zone.

It’s good to be back home.