We stopped by Righteous Cheese last night at Union Market here in DC, and ogled at their ~finely~ curated selection with products from both coasts and most of Europe. After picking out some Shakerag Blue (and learning that Valdeón is no longer being exported to the US with its sycamore wrapping!), Remeker, and an exciting Pico Melero, the splurge ended with a quarter pound of Montgomery's Cheddar from Manor Farm in the UK. The photos that I've seen online are all good and well and not the most edgy looking, but my wedge has beautiful blue veins running throughout: due to the size of the wheels (up to 60 pounds of pure curd) and the raw milk of Montgomery's cheddar, the affinage results in wheels with a huge variability in taste profile and appearance. Hence:
In real life and not iPhone photos, the wedge has a stunning color gradient going from light walnut at the rind to a more creamy flaxen in the center. It took me a good 2 minutes to actually get the cheese in my mouth because I had to admire the threatening flakiness and heterogeneity on the surface of my wedge. But when I did - I am still stunned that I was able to save any of it for the holiday party that it was destined to attend in the first place. Immediately, the cheese crumbled into a complex, savory musk that melted into this sort of rapidly developing flavor procession: chilled fiddlehead ferns to dark chocolate to "vegetal" to paint fumes to roasted meat to bitter dandelion milk to fried chicken skin, culminating in a triumphant tang and brightness and finally, incredible saltiness. Even better, the bits of rind I saved to nibble on had just a hint of ammonia and transported my papillae to the experience of a tenderly cared for bloomy rind cheese - delightfully pie doughy, nutty, and fungal. As hyperbolic as this all sounds, I kid not - each time I moved the cheese around in my mouth, another flavor dimension emerged and the gustatory poetry continued. I am reminded of eating 36 month Comté in Paris or vieux Cantal, but this time it was Somerset that did the trick. Montomgery's Cheddar, ladies and gentlemen.