SCOOP DU JOUR is a weekly column by food enthusiast Hannah Howard about eating, cooking, and exploring her way through New York. From a visit with the City’s greatest grocer to discovering the “umami” of love, Fridays are packed with the unique flavor only Hannah can coax out of a culinary experience.
The world blossoms in springtime; look out your window. New York is at the height of its glory — pear trees and cherry blossoms, Sheep’s Meadow full of optimistic flip-flop wearers and sun worshippers, rooftop bars, baseball, Brooklyn Bridge walkers, a hop in everyone’s step, and definitely in mine.
Out in the cheese-making universe, the pastures return to their most verdant splendor. Farm animals leave the barn after a long winter of confinement to graze upon fresh, first-grown grasses. Happy goats and the freshest grass and herbs make for spectacular cheeses. While many farmers milk their herd year-round, dairy goats breed and freshen more seasonally than cows. Come spring, they’re producing gorgeous milk.
Those hearty, bold cheeses that age for months will be waiting for you in autumn. Spring is the season for young, fresh goat goodness. Celebrate by feasting.
From France we get the fromages de chevre (chevre means goat): Petit Billy, Rond Cendre, Ste.-Maure, Crottin de Chavignol, Valencay, and other beauties. All of these diminutive cheeses are bright, pristine white (unless ashed black, for a dramatic coat), sweet, moist, and tender — as are the fresh chevres from New York State’s Coach Farm, the Spanish Murcia Naked Goat and Drunken Goat, Leon’s Canacabra, and a host of lovely springy picks. Here are a few awesome goat cheeses with which to welcome the Earth’s wildly abundant season:
A creamy, dainty button of chevre from Perigord, Pico oozes under its thin, wrinkly, edible rind while maintaining a firm, cake-y, lactic center — minerally, fresh, but also so rich and buttery. Oh man. Serve with Champagne, or on a salad of tender greens.
Maure de Touraine A.O.C
A village south of Tours gave its name to the classic chevre baton with a length of straw stuck down the center to hold the cheese together as it ripens. This is one of the great fromages de chevre, full of balanced tang and lemony sweetness. Serve on crostini with a drizzle of honey for an elegant app.
A raw, firm, yet tender handmade RAW goat’s milk cheese, legal (90-days aged), rustic, primitive. It’s made by a young couple not far from Salamanca in Leon, and has a wonderful depth that only comes from raw milk. Serve with marcona almonds and crusty bread.
Created by Mary Keens at Cypress Grove Chevre in McKinleyville, California, Humboldt Fog is named after Humboldt County’s thick morning fog. It’s an American original — Mary Keens started crafting goat cheeses in the 1980s — and helped lead the American artisanal cheese-making revolution. The fog rolls in on a gorgeous wheel of goat’s milk cheese with a clean, bright, lactic taste that becomes earthier and mustier with age. Cut open the pillow-y, bloomy rind to find bright white, smooth paste, bisected with a thin line of black vegetable ash. So pretty and festive!
This fluffy, silky, soft-ripened goat’s milk cheese from the little Piedmontese village of Bosia is as luscious as whipped cream; oozy, perfect. Definitely eat the whole thing, rind and all. Brunet tastes like mushrooms, yeast, and sweet, sweet cream. Awesome with sweet beets and an un-oaked chardonnay, tear off a hunk of baguette and smear a generous helping, and life is good.
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