Valdeon – Spanish Blue Cheese wrapped in Leaves

Valdeon Blue Cheese – Spain

I found Valdeon cheese at the Alex Farms Cheese Stand in the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Canada.

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese from Spain

Valdeon is made from a mixture of pasteurized cow’s milk (80%) and goat’s milk (20%). It comes from the small municipality of Posada de Valdeón in the Northern Province of Leon in Spain.

Posada de Valdeón in the Province of Leon, Spain

Posada de Valdeón in the Province of Leon, Spain

The milk from the animals in this region is of a very high quality due to the fertile green pastures found in the valley. High quality milk makes high quality cheese. Penicillium roqueforti is the mold responsible for the dominant flavor of this cheese.

One of the unique features of Valdeon is that it is wrapped in Sycamore leaves while it ages for 45 to 60 days. The leaves help the cheese maintain moisture as well as imparting a special earthy characteristic.

Valdeon Cheese Leaves

Valdeon Cheese Leaves

I assumed that I should not eat the leaves, so I removed them. Even with the leaves removed Valdeon is still a good looking cheese.

Valdeon Cheese with Leaves Removed

Valdeon Cheese with the Sycamore leaves removed

Valdeón was named the best blue cheese in a 2003 national competition in Spain.

What does Valdeon Cheese taste like? It is rich and creamy, a tad spicy and fairly salty. It has a taste that sticks around on the palette. The salty start dissolves into a rich earthy taste that sticks around for a long finish. This is a complex and powerful cheese. The sweet of the milk spars with the sting of the blue mold. This is a cheese you can roll around in your mouth for a while because it stays interesting. There is a lot going on.

Valdeon Blue Cheese Up Close

Valdeon Blue Cheese Up Close

Not only does it taste good but this cheese is attractive … very attractive. I might even go so far as to say it’s beautiful and artsy. Yeah that’s it … cheese art.

Valdeon Blue Cheese

Valdeon Blue Cheese

This cheese should pair well with wines made from the Gamay grape, such as Beaujolais, as well as Muscats. It would also marry well with a Port wine.

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Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese

Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese

Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese

I found Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese at the C’est Cheese Please store in Cambridge (Ontario, Canada). The Point Reyes name was familar as I remember it being mentioned in articles and blogs that I have read in the past. I was excited to find it.

Point Reyes Original Blue is produced by the Giacomini family, the owners of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes California (USA).

What exactly is “Farmstead” Cheese? Farmstead means “from the farm” and describes a cheese making process that begins with the cows on the farm and ends with the cheese. This is in contrast to a farm selling milk to a dairy to make cheese, or milk from several farms being mixed to make a cheese. Farmstead really means control. The cheese maker has significant control over many of the variables that can affect the finished product. It makes the cheese unique.

“The milk from our own cows on our dairy farm is what is used to make our cheese unique. Original Blue™ cannot be duplicated, even 5 miles away.”
– Lynn Giacomini Stray

Point Reyes Original Blue cheese is made from Grade A raw milk from a closed herd of Holstein cows on their 700 acre farm. The cows graze on certified organic, green pastured hills overlooking Tomales Bay. The cheese maker claims that the secret to their cheese is the milk, the coastal fog and the salty Pacific breeze. Sounds romantic doesn’t it?

The cheese is very good and I have to give them hat’s off to their marketing effort. They have successfully tied the mystic and romance of their farm location to the cheese enjoyment experience. That works for me, after all, much of the pleasure of enjoying a good cheese is appreciating the story behind it.

Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese takes 21 days of handling and then three to four months of aging in the company’s barns, on the farm. The breezy moist air blowing off of the Pacific is conducive to the growing of the blue cheese mold that imparts much of the flavour to this cheese.

What does Point Reyes Original Blue cheese taste like? I considered this blue cheese most similar to Rosenborg Castello Danish Blue Cheese that I have tried and previously reviewed. The Point Reyes is creamier and has a little more depth of flavour. It is a medium strong blue with tanginess and mild bite on the finish. It is milky, grassy and complex. Other reviews have mentioned the taste of the Pacific ocean held in the cheese. I think that’s a bit of a stretch. It’s salty, but not ocean salty.

Point Reyes Original Blue is a high quality blue cheese but you have to already like blue cheese to really enjoy it. I tried it on a Carr’s Table Water Cracker but I preferred this on on it’s own. I used it to accent a dinner salad dressed with balsamic vinegar. The Point Reyes Original Blue stood out and held its own as opposed to disappearing into the blend. It provided little moments of wow enhancing an average salad to a standout.

If you are fan of blue cheese I would suggest giving this one a try.

Bleu Benedictin – Made in Quebec Canada by Monks

Bleu Benedictin Cheese

Bleu Benedictin Cheese

I had the chance to try a nice Canadian blue cheese over the Christmas Holiday. I found Bleu Benedictin at my neighbourhood cheese shop, Goat Inc. in Port Credit, Ontario, Canada. Bleu Benedictin is made by the monks at Benedictine Abbey in Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, Quebec, Canada.

I have tried a few other cheeses made by the monks at the Benedictine Abbey.  See my posts on Mont St. Benoit cheese and Frere Jacques cheese for more information about the Abbey.

Bleu Benedictine is made from cow’s milk and is classified as a semi-soft blue cheese. It is fairly heavily veined with the Penicillium Roqueforti mold. This cheese is produced in 2 kilogram wheels and aged over 90 days.

What does Bleu Benedictin taste like? If you’ve tried one cow’s milk blue cheese cultured with Penicillium Roqueforti then you’ve tried them all. Well, that does not hold exactly true. Of course there are subtle differences, but my point is that there were no surprises with this cheese. It is milky, salty and has a “classic” blue cheese flavour.

The Bleu Benedictin cheese that I purchased was pretty firm. This is not a soft blue cheese like St. Agur. This blue cheese is not going to spread easily. I thought I would get clever and try slicing some for my cheese board. Bleu Benedictine does not slice well. It crumbled very easily and as hard as I tried, I could not end up with a decent slice. The good news is that I have discovered a wonderfully crumbly blue cheese. I would recommend it as a topping for salads or other situations were a beautiful crumbled cheese is desired.

Bleu Benedictin

Bleu Benedictin

I would consider this a solid blue cheese but not a stand out. My son, a blue cheese lover, gave it a thumbs up. Blue cheese lovers won’t be disappointed with this Canadian blue cheese.

Moody Blue Cheese

I was in Longo’s supermarket today picking up some bread for my wife when I accidentally wandered into the cheese section. I don’t know why that keeps happening. As I browsed the cheese case for something new and interesting I discovered a blue cheese named Moody Blue.

Moody Blue Cheese

Moody Blue Cheese

It reminded me of the band the Moody Blues that I was a fan of back in my high school days. Suddenly I was remembering the Moody Blues song “Your Wildest Dreams”  in my head.

I bought the cheese and brought it home for a try.

This is a cheese made in Wisconsin, USA by Roth Kase. I found Moody Blue on their website under the “New” heading. Their description of the cheese is:

Made in small batches from fresh, local Wisconsin milk, our rich, creamy blue is delicately smoked over fruit wood to create subtle smoky undertones with hints of roasted nuts and coffee. Beautifully balanced, sultry, and seductive, Moody Blue is excellent on a cheese plate and delicious in culinary applications.

It is a cow’s milk blue cheese aged four or more months.

This is a strong blue, and a little on the salty side. It has bite. The smoke flavour is well balanced. I thought the smokiness was more delicate than the Blue Haze that I have tried previously. The texture is dryish and crumbly. I tried to spread it on Carr’s Table Water Crackers but I broke about half the crackers that I tried to spread.  It would be best sliced and placed on the cracker.

Moody Blue Cheese

Moody Blue Cheese

My son likes blue cheese so I offered him a taste. His opinion on this one was “Good”. But it didn’t send him over the top. His favourite blue cheese is still St. Agur.

This one is a thumbs up for me.

I listened to the Moody Blues and I ate the cheese. That’s a good combination.

A Pairing Suggestion; Ciel de Charlevoix and Cirque du Soleil

Ciel de Charlevoix

Ciel de Charlevoix is a Canadian blue cheese that is produced in Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec.

Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

The town is about 90 km Northeast of Quebec City on the northern shore of the Saint Lawrence River.

Baie-Saint-Paul from Google Maps

This small town (population 7,288) was where Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984 by two former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier. Cirque du Soleil is currently based in Montreal and the company has grown to employ 5,200 people.

The blue cheese Ciel de Charlevoix is produced by La Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour Inc. which was established in 1994 by Maurice Dufour. Maurice is a certified agronomist and the head affineur. Their cheeses have won many awards. The Ciel de Charlevoix won the 2009 Champion of the Blue-veined category at the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix.

Ciel de Charlevoix is one of six cheeses currently produced by the company. The six cheeses are:

  • Le Ciel de Charlevoix
  • Le Migneron de Charlevoix
  • Le Secret de Maurice
  • La Tomme d’Elles
  • La Tomme de Brebis de Charlevoix
  • Le Bleu de Brebis de Charlevoix

Ciel de Charlevoix is made from cow’s milk. It is ripened a minimum of 60 days with a shelf like of 60-75 days. The blue is the result of P. Roqueforti. This cheese is 27% milk fat and 39% moisture content.

What does Ciel de Charlevoix taste like?

I like blue cheese and I enjoyed this one. This is not a soft spreadable blue cheese like Cambozola. This is semi-firm cheese that does not need a cracker to carry it. You can slice a small piece and let it melt on your tongue. I like the colour which is a creamy  ivory with a hint of aged yellow that is heavily veined with blue green mold. Although this cheese is not aged long, its look conveys a certain character. It is not a strong blue; in terms of strength, it is in the middle.  It has a fairly sharp finish.

Ciel de Charlevoix will hold its own on a cheese plate. I suggest pairing this cheese with a Cirque du Soleil performance since they both originate from the same small town. My prediction is that they will go together wonderfully and you will enjoy both very much.

Roquefort – Girl Crazy, Cave Dwelling, Slow Kid – Thank you!

Roquefort Cosse Noir

I picked up some Gabriel Coulet Roquefort Cosse Noir at Whole Foods in Oakville, Ontario. This is a French cheese made from raw sheep’s milk.

According to Wikipedia:

Roquefort is one of the world’s best known blue cheeses. European law dictates that only cheese aged in the natural Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon may bear the name Roquefort. Legend has it that the cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold (Penicillium roqueforti) had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort.

That’s a great story but I’ve got a few questions.

In the first place, when I was young, if I had to choose between finishing a cheese sandwich or chasing after a girl I would have finished the sandwich then took after the girl. I mean seriously, how fast was this girl going, when she passed by, that required abandoning a cheese sandwich?

Secondly, that must have been some chase. That girl must have been really fast and the kid chasing her must have been half snail. How long does chasing a girl take? According to the story … a few months later? Well, if I didn’t get the girl within a few minutes, or a few hours at most, then I would give up and go back to finish my sandwich. With a full belly, I would wait for another girl to come along.

Ok then … I can come to terms with the kid being so girl crazy that he leaves his sandwich behind, and then he gets so distracted that he doesn’t come back … for months. BUT, when he returns and finds his cheese all moldy and stinky, WHAT IN THE WORLD was he thinking when he decided he should eat it anyway?

But I digress. It’s still a nice story and I’m glad he tasted it. I’m even more grateful that he had the sense to bring his discovery to the attention of the proper authorities to produce even more of the remarkable cheese.

The mold that gives Roquefort its distinctive character is Penicillium roqueforti and it is found in the soil of the Combalou caves in France.

Again, according to Wikipedia:

As of 2009, there are seven Roquefort producers. The largest by far is Roquefort Société made by the Société des Caves de Roquefort[5] (a subsidiary of Lactalis), which holds several caves and opens its facilities to tourists, and accounts for around 60% of all production. Roquefort Papillon is also a well-known brand. The five other producers, each holding only one cave, are Carles, Gabriel Coulet, Fromageries occitanes, Vernières and Le Vieux Berger.

The cheese I tried, and that is pictured above, was produced by Gabriel Coulet. It is 44% milk fat with a 33% moisture content.

What does Roquefort Cosse Noir taste like?

It is milky, smooth, creamy, salty and packed with flavor. It is a strong cheese that will steal the show when put alongside a milder cheese. It spreads easily on crackers or bread. I recommend spreading it on a fresh warm baguette. On a cheese board it would take center stage.

I rank Roquefort high on my list of favorite cheeses and based on it’s popularity, I am not alone.

Here is a link to Roquefort France’s website.

Ovinsardo is Over the Top Delicious

I picked up this cheese at the Gouda for You specialty cheese shop in Barrie, Ontario. The owner, Deb Marrow, told me that this was one of her favorites.

Ovinsardo is a blue cheese that is made from sheep’s milk. It is pale white with blue and green veining. It is produced in Sardinia.

Where is Sardinia?

No it is not a Province of Canada. Sardinia is an Italian island in the Mediterranean. In fact, it is the second largest of all Mediterranean islands. Supposedly, there are more sheep than people on the island which may explain why they are making blue cheese from sheep’s milk.

Sardina, Italy - image from Wikipedia

I attempted my usual internet research to learn as much as possible about this cheese, but Ovinsard (or Ovinsardo, or Ovin Sard) all came up with very scant information. When I Googled it, most of the references came from it being featured on cheese flights, or cheese boards, from several swanky restaurants. It also popped up in a few recipes, again from swanky restaurants.

I came across a reference to Ovinsardo by Kang Leong who writes the London Eater Blog. Buried in his restaurant review is his reaction to the Ovinsardo.

“That cheese, oh that cheese. Ovinsardo. What a brilliant little f*cker. The gorgeous stink of stilton, the strength of ten gorgonzolas, the hardness of a well-aged parmesan. On its own, the beef was bland but tender (which is why I assumed it was a fillet) , but with that superb Sardinian cheese, it became ethereal.” – Kang Leong

I agree with him with the exception of the “hardness of Parmesian”. The piece that I tried was semi-firm but not hard. Perhaps his was affected by the preparation.

I have to admit that this one took me by surprise. Sheep’s milk blue? I squinted my eyes and prepared myself for a suffering as I placed a small sample in my mouth. But OMG (that’s Oh My God for you non-texters) this one delivered and how. It’s creamy, milky and it packs a wallop of a blue cheese flavor. I loved it.

Thank you to the Sardinian sheep milkers and cheese makers, whoever you are.