Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Best Cheese I've Ever Had: Hudson Valley Camembert

After returning from teaching a class one evening just before Christmas, I retrieved the mail from the front porch and found a large box with my name on it. Being a former New Yorker, and noticing the return label from Bleeker St., I knew this would be a treat, and WOW, was I right! I ripped through the packaging to find a crate from Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC.

One of my darling friends had sent me a crate of cheese. Varied and beautiful, and not overly stinky cheeses. I was delighted. There may have been singing involved, or perhaps dancing about with the cheeses, and utterances of "You can look, but you can't touch my cheeeeese". I don't recall really. ;) (The lid on the crate itself is so cool that I'm planning on having it framed and put on display at The Kitchen Studio soon.)

The general rule with good cheese is that it needs to set out at room temperature for at least an hour before serving. This allows the cheese time to shake off its chill and the flavors to make their grand entrance. It makes the cheese taste more like what it's intended. But there was no chance I was waiting an hour. Ha! We opened just two, the Tickler Cheddar (most likely the best cheddar I've ever tasted) and the Sapore del Piave, which I'd never heard of but recall as being mild and firm. Both delicious.

I decided to save the remaining three cheeses in the box for Christmas Eve to share not only with my cheese-loving family, but my mom too.

I talked about the cheese. I admired the wrapping on the cheese. I dreamed about the cheese (really!). Christmas Eve arrives and my mother is sitting at the kitchen table as I begin to scurry about. "Just wait mom, this cheddar is the best you'll ever have." Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought that, as my fantastic block of Tickler Cheddar was reduced to a mere sliver. The wrapping weighed more than the cheese in it. I'll just say that it was a good thing that John and the kids were at mass, or else I may have said some uncharitable things to those cheese-thieves.

With the cheddar being gone, it was time to unwrap the remaining cheeses. The Old Chatham Camembert, Young Goat Gouda, and Ciresa Mountain Gorgonzola. Munchie the Wonder Puggle availed himself to the Sea Salt Crackers, which I'm supposing he found as delightful and crisp as we did.

This time, I gave the cheese its due, and let it set out at room temp, unwrapped, for a good hour. It was well worth the time. Every cheese in this assortment was fantastic. The gorgonzola blue and pungent, with thick veins running through it, the young goat gouda tasting of youth and milk, but the camembert...oh my gosh. The camembert.

The camembert was The Old Chatham Camembert from The Hudson Valley Sheepherding Company. Specifically Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert. Made from a mixture of sheep's and cow's milk with a bloomy rind, I kid you not -- this is the best cheese I've ever eaten. Soft, creamy, and definitely brie-ish, it's flavor not too over-powering, this cheese is the stuff of cheesetastic dreams.

In my magnificent box 'o cheese, I received a 4 ounce square of this marvelous cheese. We gobbled it up in minutes, as if there was no other option but to eat it all in a single sitting. It was so creamy, so rich, so very buttery.

On Christmas morning, I visited the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company website and ordered myself a bit more of this fantastic cheese. A two-pound wheel in fact, for just $40. There was snow in the northeast and all I can remember thinking is that I sure hoped the bad weather didn't hold up the delivery of my cheese. Selfish, I know.

My cheese arrived somewhere between Christmas and New Year's day, a 2 1/2 pound round instead of the mentioned two pounds. Score! I'd pull out my round, slice of a good-sized wedge, allow it to come to room temp and share. Invited somewhere, I would carry the remains of my round, pull it out, sheepishly, and let my host know that I had this amazing cheese, would it be ok to share? It was. This cheese would be met with groans of delight, and though meant to be savored, it was just too good. It quickly disappeared.

It may be time to order a fresh round, and this time, I'll totally take my time. Pinky swear.

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