If you think chamomile is just for tea, meet Camilla. This raw-milk gem from Northern Italy, with its chamomile cloak, deftly marries innovation with tradition. Friends who tell you they don’t like goat cheese will have to reboot after tasting this one.
Camilla’s producer, Caseificio La Via Lattea (“The Milky Way”), is a small, family-run creamery near Bergamo. From its beginnings 20 years ago, this creamery has kept a tight focus: goat cheeses made from raw milk. But within that niche, the family has experimented relentlessly with garnishes, herbs and spices. They now produce more than 100 cheeses, although many are variations on a theme. Ol Sciur, a moist goat blue cheese coated with rose petals and berries, has made brief appearances at Bay Area cheese counters, and it is a sight you don’t forget.
Camilla is pricey—I paid $37 a pound—but what a charmer. The chamomile definitely perfumes the interior but it doesn’t steal the stage. A sweet caramel note from the goat’s milk and a damp-stone scent from the cellar are just as present in this cheese and beautifully integrated. The rind is dry and evenly thin, with a tight mat of dried flowers. The ivory paste is semi-firm, open and creamy. I’m guessing the wheel is not much more than two months old. For me, Camilla is the rare example of a balanced and intriguing herbed cheese.
In California, look for Camilla at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco; Oliver’s Markets in Windsor and Santa Rosa; Atelier by JCB in Yountville; Sunshine Foods in St. Helena; and Cheese Shop of Carmel. Pour a white wine with some richness, a lighter-bodied red wine or a malt-focused beer.
What Brexit Means for British Cheese
After last June’s Brexit vote, did you ponder how the surprising result would affect the price of Stilton? (I didn’t and I have an economics degree.) But impact there will be. Late last fall, Neal’s Yard Dairy, the esteemed exporter of British cheeses, announced price cuts for 2017. Good news for American consumers, maybe not so good for American cheesemakers. Jon Tasch, financial director for Neal’s Yard, gave me a refresher course in international trade and what Britain’s impending departure from the E.U. could mean for cheese fans.
“The vote created a lot of uncertainty,” said Tasch, “and one of the factors that affects exchange rates is uncertainty. The sterling has weakened against almost every currency in the world.”
Against the U.S. dollar, the pound has lost as much as 15 percent since the Brexit vote. Neal’s Yard sets prices in dollars for its American customers. So with the stronger dollar, the price importers pay for cheeses like Montgomery’s Cheddar, Lincolnshire Poacher, Wensleydale and Irish Coolea should drop.
Shortly after the vote, American importers began asking Neal’s Yard for better pricing. But the London-based company couldn’t comply immediately because it had long-term foreign-exchange contracts.
“That’s standard practice,” says Tasch. “If we didn’t, we would be subject to daily exchange rates.” Fixing the rate it gets for dollars allows the company to set prices with confidence and “gives customers some certainty about what it will cost to buy from us throughout the year.”
With some of these contracts expiring, Neal’s Yard has announced price drops of 3-1/2 to 5 percent—not much but it could boost sales if American distributors and retailers pass it on. If the dollar remains strong, more price cuts should follow, says Tasch, as Neal's Yard renegotiates its older foreign-exchange contracts. Neal’s Yard cheeses tend to be among the most expensive at American cheese counters, so any price softening would be welcome.
Your Opinion Please
If you have taken a cheese class from me in the past and enjoyed the experience, I would greatly appreciate a review on Trip Advisor. Search for “Janet Fletcher’s World Cheese Tour.” Thank you! If you have suggestions for improvement, I hope you’ll contact me directly.