The Cheesemonger: Twig Farm's Soft Wheel

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Name: Soft Wheel
Producer: Twig Farm (West Cornwall, Vermont)
Milk: Raw Goat & Cow
Age: 80 days
Price: approx. $24.00/lb

There are some phrases which make me hungry at their mere mention. At the top of that list are "raw goat's milk" and "washed-rind". So, when I saw Twig Farm's Soft Wheel during a recent trip to Saxelby Cheesemongers, I had to pick up a chunk.

Until now, my experience with Twig Farm has been pretty limited. In the shadow of Jasper Hill and many other artisanal Vermont producers, we only ever recieved one wheel from Twig Farm during my time at Murray's: their goat tomme, a raw goat's milk cheese with a natural gray rind. Though excellent, it came and went in a flash of ephemeral bliss.

In many ways, Twig Farm is a dairy after my own heart. Michael Lee, their cheesemaker and half of the husband and wife duo who make up Twig Farm, used to work behind the counter himself at South End Formaggio in Boston, a satellite of the famous Formaggio Kitchen. I know that tending to goats in the Vermont countryside is not as idyllis as it sounds (to me, at least), but I can imagine, can't I?

Enough of my daydreaming, onto the cheese. In keeping with their other names (Goat Tomme, Square Cheese), Soft Wheel is a pretty self evident title. It's soft and rustic, with a craggy interior that spotlights rough holes encased in a mottled orange rind.

Rather than the dank pungent smell that accompanies most washed-rind cheeses, I found Soft Wheel to possess a slightly floral aroma. Not to make reference to certain things smelling like roses, but, there was a slight hint of dandelions.

The taste is also decidedly different from other washed-rinds I've had. Maybe it's the fact they wash it in a combination of whey and brine, instead of the alcohol that is often used, but I found it to be pleasantly grassy with a nice full tanginess that, as you continue to eat it, develops a signature meatiness.

Formaggio Kitchen carries it, of course, at $11.95 per 1/2lb. and Saxelby Cheesemongers has it for the comparable price of $24.00/lb. For a cheese shop in your area, please check their site.