A couple of weeks ago, one of my favorite splurges arrived in the mail. Culture Magazine enticed me with a sexy, sexy photo of Jasper Hill's Winnimere and I was won over. I joined their Centerfold Club (a.k.a. the cheese porn club). So now, every few months, a beautiful and often hard-to-find cheese arrives at my doorstep. The last go-round was Dafne, a superb goat's milk cheese from Goat's Leap creamery in sunny California. It is a seriously pretty cheese. Packaging had done some damage to it, however: the bottom of the cheese had some blue mould spore contamination and some of the downy coating of penicillium camemberti had died off, either as a result of improper packaging, or just an imperfect balance of geotrichum to penicillium ratios. Regardless, it was a stately cheese, decorated by a simple olive leaf (I think it was olive), broken in half and crossed over the surface of the round. As a bloomy-rind cheese, I expected the typical oooey-gooey center. Instead, I was surprised to see a dense, moist, friable paste; velvety really is the word for it. It was consistient throughout, as opposed to having several layers of maturation within, typical of many bloomy-rinds. It was very, very pretty.
I cut a wedge out and smelled it, expecting to detect at least some of that musky, super-earthy goatiness, but there was hardly any. When I first tasted it it was disappointingly neutral, too "clean" as some cheesemakers call it, referring to the extreme hygiene in dairies and especially problematic in pasteurized cheeses. Of course, it could also have been a bit too young, since as I enjoyed it over the next week or so, the flavors continued to develop and increase in complexity, but subtly. This cheese is subtly complex. Controlled, might be a good word. As I continued to taste it, it was clear that the rind was doing its job, as that's where all the flavor was coming from. It was lovely: floral with only the mildest hint of earthy goatiness; mildly sour and sweetly lactic. There is complexity in this cheese, but you have to wait for it. As it got a bit older, I sprinkled some over a plate of sliced tomatoes with basil and my best balsamic vinegar. It was fantastic this way. The cheese had strengthened in flavor, but was subtle enough to compliment the tomatoes and vinegar without being either overpowering or absent, as is the case with most goat cheeses. Overall, I give it a 4.