Small Niche, Big Player

 Gooey goat cheese: Cabricharme

Gooey goat cheese: Cabricharme

What a crowd pleaser. Created little more than a decade ago, Cabricharme already feels like a cheese-counter mainstay. Who can resist this Belgian goat’s-milk charmer? The rind is gorgeous, the interior luscious and supple and the aroma off the charts.
 
The producer is a 30-year-old cooperative that works exclusively with organic raw milk—both cow’s and goat’s milk. Gotta like that. Cabricharme, like the other cheeses from this creamery, comes from the milk of a single farmer. So the members’ milk isn’t pooled, as you might expect a co-op would do. This precaution makes traceability possible, a priority at modern creameries.
 
A washed-rind cheese from raw goat’s milk. Help me out, readers. Can you think of another?  Haystack Mountain makes Red Cloud, but not much. So Cabricharme has the category almost to itself. If you enjoy stinky washed-rind cheeses, don’t miss it.

  Bathed beauty: Haystack Mountain Red Cloud

Bathed beauty: Haystack Mountain Red Cloud

A whole Cabricharme weighs about 2 pounds and stands about 2 inches tall, with a flat top and bottom and rounded sides. The salmon-colored crust is thin, damp and alive with activity, with flecks of golden mold. Inside is a pillowy ivory paste with a few small eyes, as squishy as biscuit dough. The fragrance reminds me of beef bouillon, sauteed onion and bread yeast—so mouthwatering. Don’t cut away the rind; its saline crunchy is appealing against the moist, silky middle.
 
The heightened aroma in this cheese derives to some degree from the morge, the bacteria-rich brine used to wash the wheels as they age in damp cellars. Animal rennet also plays a role and fits with the traditional practices that the co-op members seem to care deeply about.  
 
Look for Cabricharme at these retail shops. Open a strong Belgian or Belgian-style ale like La Chouffe, Russian River Brewing’s Damnation, North Coast Pranqster or Avery Brewing’s Salvation.

Thou Shalt Not Serve Coffee with Cheese

On its website, the Belgian cooperative that makes Cabricharme, La Fermière de Méan, shares its Ten Commandments for serving cheese. Most I agree with, some I don’t, but I enjoyed learning what’s customary in Belgium.

  1.  Eat cheese in order of strength, mildest to strongest.
  2. Arrange cheese on a round platter, in a circle from mildest to strongest.
  3. Put low-fat cheeses on a separate plate.
  4. Offer two knives: one for milder cheeses, one for stronger cheeses.
  5. Offer a variety of breads. Crackers are acceptable for pressed-paste cheeses.
  6. Condiments should be on a separate plate. Use them to mellow, heighten or complement flavors. Acceptable with hard cheeses: mustard, cumin or caraway, cornichons.
  7. Accompaniments include chives, shallots, small white onions, celery ribs, radishes, walnuts, apples. Lightly dressed salads like Belgian endive are also fine.
  8. Cheese goes well with cider, beer and white or red wine. Some say that strong cheeses go with black coffee. 
  9. Keep cheese between 43°F and 50°F, either in the refrigerator’s vegetable compartment or in a cool cellar.
  10. Take cheese out of the fridge 1 hour before serving and keep your cheese platter covered with a damp cloth.