Every month we send out dozens of boxes of cheese to our Antonelli's Cheese Club Members, where we get the chance to show-off a rare selection of cheeses from our friends in the industry! Most cheeses aren't available in our shop (or anywhere around town!), so our Cheese Club Members get the ultimate exclusivity. The theme for May 2023 was "Taste of Place: The Mountains."
Regarding mountains, our spirits soar where the air goes thin! When many turophiles hear the term “Mountain Cheese,” most will think of Comte, Gruyere, Raclette and the like, however there is so much more to cheeses produced within the unique microcosms of mountains than the class known as “Alpine.” From the furthest reaches of the globe, mountain cheeses are as unique and varied as the landscapes where they are cultivated. Take the Mountain Cheese Olympics, held each year in Austria to showcase selections from all over the world – which in addition to the usual suspects has included entries from locales such as Japan, Mexico, and Ethiopia.The festival’s sharp focus on "mountain cheese" celebrates all of the distinctly unique qualities that cheeses from other geographies cannot replicate. There's also evidence that mountain cheeses may have a healthier edge, with more omega-3 fatty acids than cheese made from the milk of animals raised on the plains. In the mountains, animals are more free to roam and enjoy the richly diverse mix of abundant flora. Milk from mountain-raised animals also contains chemical compounds called terpenes from flowers growing alongside the grasses. Even if we aren’t 100% sure that terpenes affect flavor, there is real added value in these local, artisan cheeses, well worth the seasonal effort to drive herds up the mountainside for grazing. So trust us on this – this round of Antonelli’s Cheese Club selections adds up to one molehill you’ll certainly want to make a mountain of!
1. Cana De Cabra from Central Quesera Montesinos, Spain (Goat, Bloomy)
For the first of two cheeses this month uncovered by the esteemed founder of Forever Cheese, Michele Buster, we present cheesemaker Lorenzo Abellan’s Cana de Cabra, from the village of Jumilla in the Murcia region of southeastern Spain. This mountainous region is peppered with several notable mountain ranges: Sierra del Carche, Sierra del Buey and Sierra de la Pila, all which contribute to thriving microclimates containing diverse flora & fauna. Founded in 1978, today Queseria Montesinos has a flock of around 350 Murcian goats (a local breed which produces high-butterfat milk which is ideal for cheesemaking). Cana de Cabra translates to "cane of goat,” and rather than a wheel, its log-shape is a hallmark of the French 'Bucheron' style of cheesemaking upon which this cheese is based. During affinage, an edible rind of white ‘penicillium camemberti’ emerges, which softens the cheese from the outside in. Break into the log and find a gooey creamline, with a fudgy white center containing sensations reminiscent of dense fresh chevre. Full flavors abound, as tangy citrus notes and a fleeting hint of mushroom balance out the decadent creaminess of the cheese.
Pairings: Throw some Meadowfoam honey sticks into the picnic basket to drizzle over Cana de Cabra, and – once you’ve come upon the ideal patch of clover – pop the cork of Gruner Veltliner for a minerally-crisp companion.
2. Cloud Cap from Casadia Creamery, Trout Lake, WA (Cow, Semi-Soft)
Meanwhile in the States, Cascadia Creamery is consciously celebrating the bountiful gifts that the mountains of the Pacific Northwest provide. The cows of Cascadia graze on pastures thriving in rich, volcanic Cascade Mountain soil, and drink from the mineral-rich glacial waters of snow-capped Mt. Adams. As they say, “Like the terroir of a fine wine, it’s all about the soil, the region, and the environment,” and the cheesemakers consider every aspect that goes into their cheeses with all-encompassing virtuosity. Capturing terroir in cheese goes even deeper here, as small-batch cheeses are aged with mineral-rich airflow from ancient lava tube caves! This keeps the cheese in perfect temperature with little need for energy consumption, and imparts that precious "taste of place,” infusing sweet, earthy aromas. Named after a high altitude landmark of picturesque Mt. Hood, tomme-style Cloud Cap is a charismatic cheese with prominent sweet grassy notes, invoking mountain pastures where cows graze. Cloud Cap’s lemon-yellow center-paste, milky & firm, broadens out to a mottled gray rind emanating mushroomy aromas. Notes of citrus, wild garlic and grass delight, while milky, vegetal aromas entice in this “savory, smooth & sumptuous” cheese!
Pairing: Let the complex flavors of Cloud Cap shine with Divina’s crunchy Mini Toasts in the supporting role, and have another splash of Gruner Veltliner (or pace yourself – with a citric sparkling water!)
3. Cacio De Roma from Mitica, Italy (Sheep, Firm)
The discerning palate of Forever Cheese’s Michele Buster brings us another of many triumphs, and this one hails from the countryside of Rome, Italy. The Sini family has been making Cacio de Roma and other cheeses on a small dairy farm in the Village of Nepi, Province-Viterbo, in the Lazio region of Italy, for over 30 years. (Side note: cheese is a labor of love, and it can inspire deep feelings of connection, so it’s notable that Michele fell so deeply for Cacio de Roma – she brought the man who made it, Pierluigi Sini, back to the States with her to co-create their sourcing venture, Forever Cheese!) Rich in natural springs, the province is situated amongst the Fumeolo, Cimini, & Apennines mountains, which contribute to extremely fertile soils. Made with the same day’s sheep milk from local shepherds, the cheese is bathed in sea salt for 24 hours and aged in wooden-trimmed cellars for just over a month, developing a firm texture that reveals mildly peppery and vaguely acidic notes. Compared to most Pecorino-style cheeses, Cacio de Roma stands out as especially agreeable, with milder flavors and aromas, and a remarkably creamy texture.
Pairing: “Made in the countryside of Rome” prescribes a foundation of sliced Olli Sopressata salami, and this is a beautiful moment to introduce a spectacular Italian red, as Ruminat Primitivo completes your idyllic picture.
4. Bleu D'Auvergne from Auvergne, France (Cow, Blue)
The Auvergne, a mountainous region near the midpoint of France, boasts more domain protected cheeses than any other part of the country. Outside of Roquefort’s spotlight-glare, Bleu d'Auvergne is a more ‘top-secret’ cheese that tends to be milder, creamier, less salty and more approachable. As with so many triumphs in cheesemaking, Bleu d'Auvergne was initially a mishap gone terribly right! In the 1850s, a young cheesemaker was alarmed when blue molds were accidentally inducing veining throughout his precious wheels. However, his sense of alarm dissipated when he took a bite! Tinkering to perfect this happy accident, he noticed that a loaf of rye bread in the mountain cave near his cheeses developed the same sort of mold – thus, it must be something in the air. This inspired him to pierce the wheels repeatedly, encouraging the ambient blue molds to flourish within. Today's producers have further perfected the work of this pioneer by directly inoculating with Penicillium molds. Bleu d'Auvergne’s naturally ambient rind gives way to a richly buttery ivory-white paste, with uniform bluish veining throughout. Overall, pepper-forward impressions balance beautifully with mineral notes & saltiness.
Pairing: For show-stopping dessert bites, nuzzle a few Moka Pecans atop Bleu d'Auvergne, and pull it all together with another splash of Ruminat Primitivo’s big & bold red depths. Stouts & porters respond fabulously here as well. Voila!
Standard members receive 4-5 wedges each month, while our Deluxe members get pairings too. Our Cheese Club is available for local pickup or delivery and national shipping. Give yourself or a loved one the gift of cheese!
Seriously! You've got to become a member.... We don't want you to miss out on next month's theme - One of a Kind: Fathers of Invention - for June 2023! You can also checkout our Cheese Club information page to watch our cheesemongers try all the cheeses and talk about them to see the box!