Friday, June 08, 2007

Olympic Cheeses

What can I say? It was his very first time. You could tell he was a little nervous because he kept telling us he'd never done this before, was he doing OK, was there anything else we needed? But once Will O'Donnell of Mt. Townsend Creamery started talking about how he fell in love with cheese at the age of eight, that it was his favorite food and that he wanted to get involved with making it more than anything else in the world, his whole being lit up and the nerves went out the window.

And then there were his cheeses. Made from cows fed on the lush grasses of the Dungeness Valley near Sequim, Washington, they can be truly said to have that taste of place, or "terroir." Made at his Mt. Townsend creamery on the northeastern tip of Washington's Olympic peninsula, they have the fresh smells of grass and sea that come through as they dissolve in your mouth.

His class at Foster & Dobbs last week included a chunk of six-week-old Cirrus (left in photo), a Camembert style cheese that was buttery and aromatic, with a semi-firm center that turned gooey toward the rind. The second cheese was their Trailhead Tomme (center), normally eaten at three to four months of age. At this tasting we were given three samples, one at two months, one at eight months and one never-to-be-seen-in-this-world-again year-old version. This simply made cheese has a firm texture and a semi-dry sharpness that make it easy to serve and use on a daily basis.

And last but certainly not least were two samples of Seastack (right, above), one two weeks old and the other a month old, probably their most well-known cheese. Made in the Chaource style of the Champagne region of France, it has a cheesecake-like center with a creamy, almost runny outer layer and is reminiscent of a goat's milk cheese in taste and texture, though it's also made from cow's milk. Rolled in a layer of French grape ash, this was definitely the crowd favorite and it went extremely well with the Elyse rosé that was poured. All in all a lovely evening, and a great place to check out when we head north to Port Townsend and environs.

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