When Jill suggested picking two of our favorites to review this week, I immediately skimmed down to Rogue Creamery‘s offerings on the WS list. Sure enough, Rogue garnered three spots on the list. I was a little surprised, though, that they went with the Crater Lake Blue, rather than the more unique Smokey Blue, my personal favorite. I checked out a different cheese shop, Arrowine, yesterday, and they only carried the Smokey and Oregonzola. Even Cheesetique was out of Crater Lake, which they don’t always keep in stock. In fact, the manager was surprised when I asked about it, noting that that’s not my usual blue.
So instead, my pick for the week is Cashel Irish Blue, from across the pond. Cashel has been hand-produced by the Grubb family in Tipperary, Ireland, for more than twenty years. The Grubbs start with non-homogenized milk that is (mostly) produced on-site from their herd of Friesian cows. Cashel Blue, Ireland’s first artisanal blue, is a medium-bodied blue that is salty (but less so than a Roquefort), creamy – almost buttery – and rich. It is much moister and softer than your typical crumbly blue, making it a decadent dessert choice dressed with honey and served with fruit.
Blue cheese and pears are a great combination, either for dessert or atop spinach or arugula for a first course. I took it a step further and made a salad with watermelon radish, red Anjou pears and a honey vinaigrette. The combination plays off both the tangy and sweet aspects of the Cashel to delight the taste buds.
You’ll often hear that you should pair blue cheeses with port, but I often prefer to enjoy them with a dark beer, preferably from the same region as the cheese, of course. This time, my choice was Fuller’s London Porter, the beer’s sweet nuttiness bringing out the caramel notes of the Cashel.
As a fall-back cheese, Cashel Blue is hardly a second-place choice. This blue has become an even more popular export than the eponymous Irish cheddar, and is frequently found on the cheese list at fine dining establishments. I sometimes feel that it’s sort of a default inclusion on cheese boards by restaurants trying to prove their stuff, but it is a fine cheese nonetheless. (See local cheesophile Mike Bober’s rant on restaurants’ cheese illiteracy for more on this phenomenon.) New World blues, such as the St. Pete’s and Bayley Hazen we’ve already covered, are certainly coming into their own, but Cashel remains a classic that shouldn’t be missed.