Created with chefs in mind, Bermuda Triangle appears on a lot of restaurant menus but not so often at retail. So when a local cheese merchant told me he had some, I leaped on it. I hadn’t tasted Bermuda Triangle in years.
This California goat cheese with the zany pyramid shape comes from Cypress Grove, the same creamery that makes Humboldt Fog. Cheesemaker Mary Keehn devised Bermuda Triangle in the late 1990s, back when everyone else was making goat cheese logs. She thought chefs would appreciate an unusual shape on their cheese boards, a cheese that instantly made a visual impression. A local fabricator created the pyramid forms for Keehn—they didn’t exist—and Bermuda Triangle made its debut.
But the cheese underperformed for many years. “It wasn’t getting to the customer in good shape,” admits Keehn. “It was fast maturing, and it was never satisfactory outside of the Bay Area.”
With finicky bloomy-rind cheeses like Bermuda Triangle, what happens to the cheese after it leaves the creamery is as critical as what comes before. If the rind gets too damp, it suffers. If the rind gets too dry, it basically dies. Unlike hard cheeses, which can take some abuse, bloomy-rind cheeses need a lot of pampering en route. “A big part of having a successful cheese is, can it get somewhere?” says Keehn.
A couple of years ago, Cypress Grove gave Bermuda Triangle a makeover. It is now bigger (1-1/2 pounds instead of 1 pound), and although you can’t tell from looking, it now has a double rind. Covering the dark ash is a thin coat produced by Geotrichum candidum; and on top of that, the snowy Penicillium candidum rind. The result of these tweaks: a cheese that matures more slowly, develops more flavor, and withstands travel better. Each shipment still weighs three pounds, but now there are only two pyramids in the box, hence better airflow. Did you ever imagine cheese was so touchy?
The revamped Bermuda Triangle has since won some major awards, including a blue ribbon in the American Cheese Society competition and a “Super Gold” at the World Cheese Championship last year. That’s validation, I would say, but you can judge for yourself.
I asked Keehn how customers can identify a ripe piece of Bermuda Triangle. What does she look for? “I look for it not to be wrapped in plastic, which will kill it,” says the cheesemaker. The creamery ships it in breathable paper that allows moisture to escape, and Keehn encourages merchants to keep it in that paper until they cut it. If you buy a piece in plastic film, take it out of the plastic at home and rewrap with wax paper or coated cheese paper (www.formaticum.com).
The slice pictured above is on the young side, at least for my taste, with a rind that is still pristine and white. But note the translucent layer just under the rind; that’s a sign that the rind is doing its job and ripening the cheese from the outside in. “I like maybe an inch of unripe in the center,” says Keehn, “but everybody likes their cheese a different way.” A rind that is no longer white and fluffy but starting to develop some golden spots is another hint of ripe cheese within. Note the mottled rind on the Humboldt Fog (pictured below); that’s a cheese nearing the finish line.
A mature piece of Bermuda Triangle offers a range of experiences, from the tart, chalky center to the more mushroomy, nutty, creamy paste under the rind. It resembles Humboldt Fog, and the recipes are largely the same, says Keehn, but the shape makes a difference. With more rind to paste, Bermuda Triangle has more pronounced flavor and ripens faster than its famous sibling. “Those points on the triangle want to ripen really fast,” says the cheesemaker. “It’s problematic to get them not to dry out before the center.”
Look for Cypress Grove’s Bermuda Triangle at Paradise Foods in Tiburon; Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes; Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa; and DTLA and Larchmont Village Wine in Los Angeles. A high-acid white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc or Albariño, is probably its best match.