The Cheesemonger will be in France next week, eating lots of delicious cheese. Because of this, there will be no Cheesemonger post. I'll be returning the following week with lots of new cheese posts for the Francophile in all of us.
Producer: Rolf Beeler/Mario Cotto (Graubunden, Switzerland)
Milk: Raw Sheep
Age: 80 days+
If it weren't for the fact that it's actually a great cheese, I'd smell a conspiracy with "Swiss Affineur Extraordinaire" Rolf Beeler's cheese, Flixer. Of the two new New York shops who carry it, Stinky Bklyn and Artisanal, both seem so fixed on its rarity, it almost seems like one of the Bush administration's "talking points." Every mention I found, most connecting to Max McCalman of Artisanal, drives the point home: this cheese is hard to find. This is kind of odd since Rolf Beeler is a bit of a celebrity in the cheese world. I'll skip my usual love-fest about Mr. Beeler (though if you want to read one, check out my review of his Tomme Vaudoise) and get right into the cheese!
First, I'll give this whole "rare" thing a little credit. The cheese is made by single producer, who only has 12 sheep in his milking herd. To give you a rough idea, Valley Shepherd Creamery, a local cheesemaker, has over 50 sheep. Also, they only produce cheese from May to October, when the animals can graze on grasses (as opposed to the silage most animals eat in winter, which results in an inferior flavor in the milk). As a word of clarification, Rolf Beeler does not produce the cheese, he only ages it. Flixer is produced by Mario Cotti, a very Italian name, but nonetheless located in Switzerland.
The texture of the cheese is dense and firm. On the tongue, it does not break down to a creamier texture, but instead remains quite dry. The flavors are definitely nutty, but I also get undertones of toasted barley or oats and a hint of lavender. Though there is a lot of complexity to Flixer, the flavor itself is not very robust. In fact, it's very laid-back and mild, with no acidic bite and only a touch of muskiness around the chewy, but edible rind. For pairings, its dry texture practically begs for something sparkling. Champagne would be nice, but with picnic-season almost upon us, I'd prefer some sparkling hard cider.
Despite its inclusion in one of his books and several related articles on the net, Flixer appears to currently be unavailable at Max McCalman's Artisanal. In the summer, when I'd expect to see it return, they offer it at $31.50/lb. Stinky Bklyn has some in stock for $29.50/lb. To order online, check out Wine Concierge, where it is $28.00/lb.