Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pleasant Ridge Reserve

Wisconsin is, famously, the land of cheese.

But until the last decade or two, most of the cheese that made it out of the Badger State suffered from drabness at the expense of its own popularity. The locals got the good stuff, perhaps, but anything sold out-of-state was mostly ordinary.

No more. Today, the state is awash with cheesemaking artisans intent to make complex, top-notch cheese. And it's making its way out of the Upper Midwest to markets near you (or, at least, near me.)

Pleasant Ridge is a case in point. The cheese is full-flavored, robust and raw. It's a washed rind variety, soaked and brushed repeatedly in a salt solution during its maturation process. It's an unpasteurized cheese made from the milk of the cheesemaker's own herd of cows.

It's a Beaufort-style cheese, which is at once refined and rustic. It's an ancient style that originated in French mountains, a close cousin to Gruyére and Comté.

In the Pleasant Ridge version, it seems musty and mushroomy at first nibble. The cheese ripens from the outside in, so when you get past the pungent outer section to the creamy middle part, you savor other, fresher dairy flavors.

In other words, it's a sophisticated, complicated cheese from the Land of the Cheeseheads. Go Packers!

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