Cheese is cool, and we don't just mean in the sense of the climate-controlled caves in which it lives and breathes and ripens in wonderful, mysterious ways. No, cheese is cool in the other sense too: It's become one of those things that a lot of very cool people are into. People like Donna Doel, who's devoting her life to her goat dairy in Arkansas. Or Norbert Wabnig, who's constantly foraging for new tastes to bring to his Beverly Hills store. Or Terrance Brennan, who's about to open a restaurant where cheese will be the star. There's so much happening right now that it's tempting to say that cheese is hotbut that brings us to fondue, which is another story. Here's the very latest from the fromage front.
This cheese selection from Terrance Brennan, chef and owner of Picholine and the new Artisanal in New York City, includes both classics and recent discoveries; it progresses, in traditional fashion, from mild to sharp to rich, ending with blue. Mild Boerenkaas, a raw-milk Gouda made on small Dutch farms, offers butterscotch sweetness and full flavor. Sharper Epoisses (more intense than Taleggio but less pungent than Muenster) is a soft-ripened cow's-milk cheese from Burgundy. Sharper yet, Vermont Shepherd, made by Cynthia and David Major from raw sheep's milk, is an aged natural-rind cheesehard, herbaceous and slightly nutty. Supercreamy Pierre Robert, a glorious cow's-milk triple-crème from the Ile-de-France, is so buttery it collapses under the weight of a fork. Finally, creamy cow's-milk Cashel Blue from County Tipperary, Ireland, has a gentle salinity and no harsh edges.
Kimberly Y. Masibay
Donna Doel wakes up at 5 o'clock each morning and works until 9 every night, feeding and milking her herd of 65 goats, making cheese and selling it at farmers' markets, taking orders over the phone and shipping them off herself. Running a dairy isn't glamorous or lucrative, but Doel doesn't mind; those 16-hour days are beginning to pay off in recognition from restaurateurs and peers. (Her camembert won a blue ribbon at the American Cheese Society meeting in 1999.) Doel has been fascinated by dairies since she was a child in Maine, growing up across the road from a cattle farm. Her studies in agriculture led to a sojourn at an Irish farm; there she learned to make Caerphilly cheese, and she was hooked. In 1995, with just three pregnant goats and a modest bank loan, she started Doeling Dairy in Fayetteville, Arkansas. (As it happens, a doeling is a young female goat.) Today she is Arkansas's sole producer of goat cheese. She makes her feta and Gouda with raw milk and her camembert, crottin and chèvre with pasteurized milk. The hours are long and the work is tough, yet she yearns to do morefor instance, she'd love to make natural-rind and blue cheeses, too. After all, she still has eight hours left in her day.