By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor

As I mentioned in my last
post about a positive addition to the Rhinebeck beer and cheese
, I used the opportunity to try a couple of New York cheeses that I was
unfamiliar with.

Having lived in the Hudson Valley for quite a while, I can attest that most people are familiar with Sprout Creek Farms. Located right
within the heart of Poughkeepsie, this working farm provides education for children
and adults with a specific focus on connecting
the people with the land, animals and seasonality. 

One of the primary
methods by which this message is conveyed is through making cheese. I
have had a couple of Sprout Creek cheeses in the past, but the selection
in the case at Grand Cru had a wedge of both Batch
35 and Toussaint. I had heard of these cheeses, but I had never taken an opportunity to taste them for myself.

Batch 35 is a washed-rind cheese made with raw cow's milk. The label on the wrapper (direct from the farm) indicated that this cheese is both pungent and meaty. After unwrapping and letting it come up to room temp (about an hour), the rind was bright orange and quite sticky. The nose on the cheese was…well…almost non-existent. There was a little bit of butter with a hint of sourness on the end, but not the meaty pungency that I expected given the the description. The texture was very flexible — almost to the point of being rubbery. The taste was very mild with the same hint of butter from the nose and mild creaminess that I could almost associate with a Fontina.

Because of the stark differences between the descriptors used by the cheese makers and the way it was tasting for me on this day, I have a feeling that this was a wedge cut from an older batch. I would really like to taste this again as I suspect that either age or poor storage had an adverse effect.

The Toussaint by way of contrast was a welcome change. This Alpine-style cheese has a dry and dusty rind that gave the cheese a very rustic, handmade look and feel. The familiar Alpine aroma of sweet nuttiness was mixed with the mustiness of dried hay that drew me right in.

The texture was very flaky and dry, which enabled me to shave off a thin piece and let it melt in my mouth. The nice amount of salt in the paste melded well with the subtle flavors of butter and caramel, providing a well-rounded flavor. The dry texture really begs for it to be paired with some sort of beverage. I have to admit that I have never had an Alpine cheese that was quite this dry before. This isn't a negative by any means, but simply unique.

I like a nice saison and saison-style ales with Alpine style cheeses as I like the slight barnyard funk of the beer paired with the sweet notes from the cheese. This cheese would provide no exception.

The next time I visit the Hudson Valley, I would like to visit Sprout Creek Farms, meet the cheese makers, and get more of a sense of their cheese making philosophy. After tasting these two cheeses, I am anxious to revisit their portfolio and explore the rest of their line.