Last weekend, our resident cheesemonger journeyed North, in search of cheese. What the Green Mountain State lacked in sunshine it made up for with roadside farmstands galore, support of local food producers (even at a Mobil station, where they were selling muffins from a nearby bakery), and most of all, numerous cheesemakers with innovation on the brain.
Take Vermont Butter and Cheese Company, whose co-founder - incidentally also one of the great matriarchs of the American cheesemaking movement, Allison Hooper - has recruited Adeline Folley, an all-star Frenchwoman to help develop, and, we assure you, perfect, a line of lightly aged goat cheeses unlike anything you've tasted before.
They're named Bonne Bouche ("good mouthful"), Bijou ("jewel"), and Coupole (named for its shape, resembling a snow-capped mountain), and while their production has been steady for several years, they're better than ever. Now.
What's so unique about the three goat cheeses from VBC's new(ish) line is not that they're European in style; we've seen many cheeses who borrow from tradition. What's special is right at eye level: it's the rind.
We're all familiar with the fluffy white rinds on a camembert or brie (a.k.a. penicilium candidum) and have no qualms about casting them aside when they're too rubbery or thick. Enter geotricum candidum, a different mold strain that still belongs to the bloomy family, but has a thinner, more delicate rind with a brainy, billowing texture. You'll find the mold in France, in goat cheeses like Chabichou du Poitou. And now, you'll find it in these three delectable cheeses, and we couldn't be more satisfied.
These are products made by hand, an aberration these days, like the above specimen of a newly formed Bonne Bouche, reveling in all its irregular glory. The creamiest of the three, with a decorative ashed rind, recalls traditional Loire Valley greats like Valencay, Pouligny St. Pierre, and Selles Sur Cher.
You can actually see fingerprints on young pieces of Coupole. After two weeks, they're ready for consumption. Expect a dense, cakey interior, a melting creamline directly beneath the rind, and a lingering finish of sweet and tangy cream.
And gas stations aren't the only ones supporting local. Vermont Butter and Cheese sources 100% of their milk from 20 local goat farmers, all in a 200-mile radius. As a major distributor of chevre, superlative cultured butter, and other fresh dairy products to retailers and chefs country-wide, VBC has a fairly large-scale production, by Vermont standards, at least. But it was nice to see that they keep stringent rules for their products, testing each batch of incoming milk for quality and flavor in their on-site, one-man lab. And even their butter is packaged by hand.
Image at top of post: Cheesemakers Allison Hooper, left, and Adeline Folley, right, at their cheesemaking facility in Websterville, Vermont.
Images: Nora Singley for the Kitchn.