Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black Diamond Cheese - Gubbeen

This one's a bit of a challenge. The one on the left. Full of contradictions, slight of hand and international flair. What I call a Black Diamond Cheese. No bunny slope here, friends! But the rewards are many.

When we walked into Andrew's Cheese Shop yesterday afternoon, I was in the mood for something stinky! A strong, washed rind cheese to finish off the day and to celebrate fall. I spotted the Gubbeen and said "Yes! I want that!" The rind was a beautiful peach color, pressed with a quilted pattern that made it look soft and accessible. Then, I read the description. Crazy! The cheesemaker, Giana Ferguson, a Hungarian-Spanish woman, learned to make French cheese in the Alps, meets and Irishman, moves to County Cork, and creates washed rind cheese with a bit of a Spanish flair. Gotta have it. We got a sample, and it was perfect. The "nose" was a bit barnyard-y, but a clean barnyard. The bite was a little firmer than I was expecting (maybe the Spanish influence?), and I was told that it would never really get runny, which was ok with me. It wouldn't run out of the bag on the way home!

Once home, and through it's photo shoot, it was time to get down to business. The clean barnyard smell was augmented by a sort of smoky nuttiness-like burnt nutshells, and a comfortable earthiness - like Grandma's root cellar would have smelled like if she had had one. Deep inside, though, you could still smell the green hills of County Cork where the undoubtedly happy cows munch away.

I tried to eat the rind, but in my opinion, this rind is just there to protect the cheese during the ripening process and not for eating. The clean barnyard smell and taste of the paste is intensified to a pretty crazy place in this grainy rind. Go for it if you want, but it took several swallows of delicious Syrah and two pieces of baguette to get the flavor out of my mouth.

The rest of the cheese, though was really incredible. Complex and smoky, with just the right amount of earthiness and cow pasture, with a hint of wildflower field surrounding a charming crumbling cottage on a misty morning. I didn't even bother with the bread, and just savored each tasty morsel all by itself.

Give it a try when you're feeling up to a bit of a challenge, and looking for a special gem.

Sweet dreams - perhaps a happy Irish cow munching on clover, sipping on a soft red wine?

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