my favorite cheese

The terrace at Les Florets

A number of years ago, my husband and I took a trip to France for our anniversary. We hiked across the Vaucluse wine country in ninety-degree weather, got sunburned and exhausted, and developed plenty of blisters. We also ate splendidly. I fell in love with the Provence countryside at the same time as I was discovering dry rose, salad with a poached egg on top, hot milk for coffee, and fresh soft cheese. Oh, the cheese!

sheep cheese

The French waiters always looked at me funny for this, but when they would come around with the cheese tray and offer me several wedges, all I ever wanted was a spoonful of the freshest goat cheese, more like ricotta than regular chevre. The flavor was fresh and milky, the texture slightly grainy. I had never had cheese like it, and after we came back to the States I never had it again. Until…

sheep cheese

At the conference I went to last month, there were many fine cheesemakers represented. Most I had encountered before, such as Mt. Townsend Creamery and Estrella. Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese, however, was new to me, and their cheese was so delightful I loaded up on samples and completely neglected the (also wonderful) Mt. Townsend. And as I was collecting my bits of cheese, the man at the counter asked, hopefully, if I wanted to try the fresh sheep cheese. Apparently the last several people didn’t even want to taste it! Naturally, I took some.

cheeses

The cheese was all excellent. Mostly it was blue, which isn’t my favorite, but I still liked it. The fresh cheese, however, was exactly what I’ve been looking for all these years. Bright, milky and grassy, with a slight silky cream-cheese texture, and just a touch of sheep, it was very, very close to the goat’s milk cheese I had fallen in love with in Provence. I took a card from the cheesemaker and vowed to find a source.

favas and sheep cheese

And last week at my local co-op, I was glancing over the cheese shelves just in case, and there it was. A single round of Willapa Hills cheese, and it was the Willapa White fresh sheep cheese! I did a little happy dance and whisked the cheese home with me, to eat with fresh fava beans and crackers. At last!

cheese & cracker

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2 thoughts on “my favorite cheese

  1. How lucky are you? It is always such a treat to find a food locally that you’ve experienced far far away. I feel that way about fresh pecorino. After staying in a small farming village in Tuscany, and eating fresh pecorino pan fried quickly so a crust formed…I’ve been searching for it here since. 8 years and counting and still haven’t found fresh pecorino that is as young as that cheese was! Congrats – I’m now hungry again.

    1. I rather regret that the one time I got fresh pecorino every day (living in a small town in the Marche) I didn’t appreciate it, as it was too strong for me back then. I did love the ultra-fresh mozzarella I ate in Urbino, seared on a hot grill and served plain. It’s hard to find really fresh cheese in this country, but at least we’re making progress!

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