I don’t know if Hamptons-based Mecox Bay Dairy has gotten a boost in sales from being occasionally featured on the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” show, but that’s what caused me to take notice of its Atlantic Mist when I was at Eataly recently. Surely, if this raw-milk cheese graces Ina Garten’s fine French tableware, it has to be top-notch stuff – or, in Ina speak, “good” cheese. Good – yes, amazing – no.
Mecox Bay Dairy is the reincarnation of a fourth-generation Long Island potato farm owned by the Ludlow family, who switched to cheesemaking in 2003. The Ludlows make a variety of farmstead cheeses, with Atlantic Mist being the only bloomy. It’s a competently crafted cheese, with the delicate rind and dense, smooth paste you’d expect from a Camembert-style cheese. But while similar cheeses Bent River, Hidden Falls and, to a lesser extent, Cirrus offer a veritable musical scale of flavors as you carefully chew and swallow each bite, Atlantic Mist has one main flavor note: mushroom. If that’s your thing, you’ll love this cheese, but if you prefer a subtler mushroominess to your soft-ripened cheeses, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Will I still finish my wedge? Absolutely, especially if a glass of sauvignon blance is nearby. But if I had to choose among all the Camembert clones (and the real thing) I’ve sampled over the years, I’d go with one of my Minnesota-made favorites. And I’m certainly curious about the other Mecox Bay Dairy cheeses, particularly its alpine-style Sigit. Ina, I would happily accept your invitation to stay in your barn and sample the rest of the Mecox Bay line. Call me.