Producer: Sprout Creek Farm (Poughkeepsie, New York)
Milk: Raw Cow
Age: 3 months
After a short bout of French-themed tunnel vision, I am happy to be back covering the wealth of cheeses the rest of the world has to offer. When deciding upon a cheese, I thought there would be no better place to pick up this quest than a few hours from my Brooklyn home, at Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, where they produce many wonderful cheeses, including this week's selection, Toussaint.
At the heart of Sprout Creek Farm is their dedication to teaching the next generation how to work in concert with the land, instead of against it. In fact, profits from their cheese sales go directly into funding their ongoing education programs, which are offered for children from elementary through high school. Founded by three teachers from Connecticut, the farm is a school foremost, with the produce and cheese they offer a delicious result of the education. Their three main cheeses (Toussaint, Ouray and Barat) are all made from the same recipe, but each is a different size and aged for a different length of time. If I were to make one criticism of their cheeses, it's that, though there are definite differences between these three cheeses, I don't find them dramatic enough and would love to see more of the variety they show with their mixed-milk Sophie, possibly in a washed-rind or a cow's milk bloomy-rind.
When tasting Toussaint, the first word that comes to my mind is "dry." Its flakey texture and salty bite seem to immediately beg for a drink (the farm recommends a Pinot Noir), not that, on these increasingly warm days of summer, that's a bad thing. As the flavors develop and open up on the palate, I feel that this is where the cheese really comes into its own. Up front flavors are of butter and caramel, but I find more subtle notes of wheat in there, as well.
In addition to being a excellent table cheese, Toussaint makes a great cooking cheese. While interning at a Manhattan catering company, we often used it to top salads. It also grates well for pasta, making the perfect replacement for the one-note flavor of Pecorino Romano, and I can't think of a better cheese to serve with fish than this one. The only use I'd steer clear of would be sandwiches. It's simply too salty.
Toussaint is widely available in the area. Murray's Cheese has it for $21.99/lb. Online, iGourmet offers it at $25.98/lb. It can also be ordered directly from the farm for $16.00/lb. For those in the New York area, I've seen it at Blue Apron Foods, Saxelby Cheesemongers and at the Whole Foods Fromagerie, all around the $20-$22.00 price range. If you do live in the city, I also strongly encourage a day trip out to the farm. My wife and I visited last year and it's a beautiful farm with lots of nearby parks for enjoying your cheese on a nice summer day. Plus, what better way to connect with what you eat than to see exactly where it comes from!