I am about to say something that’s slightly heretical, but please bear with me. When it comes to lightly aged goat cheeses, the Loire Valley has something to worry about. With new cheeses like Monte Enebro, Pau St. Mateo and now this week’s cheese, Leonora, Spain is ready to give France a run for its money. At the basic level, Leonora is an ash-covered goat’s milk cheese from a small producer in Leon, Spain (hence the name). These facts are as dry as the cheese is moist and I’ve yet to find an aged goat cheese this lush. The texture is similar to cheesecake or, even more accurately, dense ricotta. Both of these comparisons suit this cheese, as they start the mind thinking about dessert, something Leonora seems destined for. Its flavors are fresh, vibrant and have just a touch of goatiness. I also taste notes of lemon, thyme and a natural sweetness I’d liken to honeysuckle. When enjoying this cheese (which, to be honest, I devoured), I tend to stay towards the ivory center, avoiding the rind. It is simply too bitter and my few bites of it left a unpleasant peppery sensation in the back of my throat (so much so it made me cough).
As I mentioned previously, this is the perfect after dinner cheese. Truthfully, I tend to err on the side of serving any cheese after dinner, as opposed to an appetizer. Not only does this avoid the potential to fill up on cheese before your meal, but there are enzymes in cheese, especially raw milk cheese, which actually help aid in digestion. Though numerous sources claim that the cheese course is to be served after the entrée but before the dessert course, I would disagree. I’m not sure about my readers out there, but after enjoying a lovingly prepared plate of cheeses, I am thoroughly sated and ready to be done with my meal. Dessert comes across as overkill. For those who want to have their cake and eat it too, simply drizzle Leonora with a little honey and maybe with even a sprinkle of grated lemon rind. That option would make the perfect ending to a meal and still satisfy your sweet tooth.
Thanks to the Queens-based importer/distributor, Forever Cheese, Leonora is widely available in the New York City area. I have seen it at both Blue Apron Foods in Brooklyn and Formaggio Kitchen Essex,where I picked it up for approx 16.00/lb. Another Manhattan shop,Ideal Cheese, also lists it on their website for 16.98/lb. For online folks and those on the west coast, Venissimo offers it on their website for the price of 23.50/lb.