Photo: Willow Hill Farm.
The days when only Maytag Blue
represented American blue cheese are long gone. From sweet and peppery Bayley Hazen Blue
to the mineral-like taste of Tilston Point
and the fruity pear flavor of Rogue River Blue
, the options for American blue cheeses have dramatically increased. And, now, there's a new distinctly rustic blue cheese to add to this growing list -- Vaquero
from Willow Hill Farm
Unlike other American blue cheeses, Vaquero has a creamy taste with a fascinating and delicious crispy dark chocolate flavor. "I would have to say it's the milk combination," explains Willow Smart, who co-owns the farm along with her husband, Dave Phinney. "We milk both sheep and cows, hence the yellow-ness from the cow's milk. We milk Brown Swiss and Dutch Belted cows, which always have very yellow milk as the beta-Carotene [red-orange pigment] from the pastures comes through in their rich milk."
Vaquero's rustic-looking rind, pale-yellow paste, and thick buttery consistency also make it stand apart from other blues. The natural exterior of the wheel appears similar to that of a Tomme de Savoie
. Indeed, the cheese has the same brown Tomme de Savoie mold. Aged for three to five months, the molds, flavor and spreadable texture develop in caves that Willow and Dave built back in 1999.