Everyone has his (or her) favorite cheeses, and mine change regularly. One day it’s the jalapeno cheddar from Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano (as fine a farmers market purchase as one might pray for). The next it’s Sottocenere from Northern Italy (which met my tantalized tongue for the first time at Queen Anne’s Brico della Regina Anna). Or the St. Marcellin I first enjoyed in its mother country (sold in reuseable earthenware rounds).
Then yesterday, I got word from the folks at Port Townsend’s Mt. Townsend Creamery, crowing about their first-place award for their alpine Tomme-style Trailhead at the 2009 United States Cheese Championships. The competition among American cheesemakers was fierce, with 1,360 entries from 36 states, making this a proud win in its category at the largest U.S. cheese contest ever held. I immediately wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so I made a speed trip to to my Resident Cheesemonger to find out:
I was happy to find that my local cheesemonger (who also happens to be my newly appointed councilman) had the blue ribbon-winner in stock, along with other selections from Mt. Townsend (those, I’d tasted before). This is first-place No. 2 for the Trailhead. Last summer it took top honors at the American Cheese Society contest in Chicago. What makes it so great? Here’s the Port Townsend cheesemakers’ answer:
Trailhead is our mountain cheese. It is a rustic, medium-hard whole milk cheese that is mellow, rich and versatile. Made by hand in six pound wheels, it is pressed and brined before being washed in a mixture of saltwater and yeasts for its first two months. After four months it develops a distinctive natural mold rind, and its develops its full nutty flavor. At six months Trailhead becomes dryer, with a bit of sharpness. Trailhead is complex enough for cheese plates and sturdy enough for trips in the backcountry.
Here’s a closer look:
Mooooooving right along, I hit the trail with some Trailhead, poured myself a flute of “real” cider and had a quiet blue ribbon-moment before getting back to work on my upcoming roundup:
My verdict? Mellow, yes, but I like it, too! And the nuttiness was a great complement to that elegant apple juice from Normandy. So, tell me: What’s your favorite cheese — and where can we find it?