The name Seastack conjures up a very specific taste sensation (the briny tang of salt water) with an accompanying scenery – perhaps the clean, damp, coastal air of Washington’s Puget Sound. At least that’s what I envisioned when I first read about Seastack, a soft-ripened cow’s-milk cheese crafted by Mt. Townsend Creamery, on It’s Not You It’s Brie earlier this spring. Being far from the West Coast, though, this specimen eluded my local quest for purchase, but when I visited Beecher’s Handmade Cheese last weekend, I didn’t have to wait any longer. Time for the sea spray to cross my lips.
Judging from its circular shape, blooming rind and pudgy posture, I imagined Seastack to be a cross between a rich triple-cream and a lick of fleur de sel. Well, not exactly. What I found inside was a young, chalky paste with just a hint of vegetable ash separating the interior from the rind. Even after letting the cheese sit at room temperature for a couple of hours, the center-most part of the wheel was still firm and crumbly upon cutting, and without the jolt of the ash that finished each bite, it would have been a completely forgettable cheese. That was hard for me to admit, having coveted Seastack for several months, but alas, it was true. Had I brought this cheese 2,000 miles home for naught?
As it turns out – no. I had just purchased a very young round, and that first taste captured Seastack’s unexciting youth rather than its richer, creamier adolescence. As I kept taking small tastes throughout the week, the interior chalkiness began to yield to the soft goo that was its true destiny. And yesterday, after a good three hours on the counter, Seastack tasted exactly like I had imagined – a pillow of earthy paste balanced – not saved by – the zing of ash. This was the Seastack I had been waiting for, and now I’m sad I only have a quarter of a wheel left. But as my cheesemonger friend Benjamin was on my flight to Seattle for a wedding in Port Townsend, home of Mt. Townsend Creamery, I’m hoping he experienced Seastack nirvana himself and will start selling it at the France 44 Cheese Shop. (Hint, hint.)
Like most soft-ripened cheeses, you can’t go wrong with bubbles for a pairing (I’ve been enjoying rosé brut often this summer). Kirstin also suggests Sauvignon Blanc, and I can’t really argue with somewhere who works at a wine bar.