I popped into the Cheese Shop at France 44 last week expecting to pick up a wedge of my beloved Kunik when a sister cheese caught my eye. “Simply Sheep” read the label, and it wasn’t lying. Inside the plastic wrap, underneath the familiar Nettle Meadow Farm label, huddled a bloomy, busty button of 100 percent sheep’s-milk cheese. Did you expect me to pass this up?
It’s only fitting that Nettle Meadow’s Simply Sheep kicks off our September-long celebration of all things New York and cheese since the Warrensburg cheese farm is the source of one of our strongest cheese obsessions. Colleen and I both spent substantial time in New York this summer – sadly, never together – and thought it would be appropriate to celebrate a season of Empire State cheeses by recounting them during the remaining month (OK, three weeks) of summer. Colleen is so excited that she hasn’t taken off her Straight Outta Comté shirt that I bought her for her birthday from New York-based Murray’s Cheese!
But back to Simply Sheep – I anticipated the first bite would be a sheepy repeat of the ball-busting butteriness of the goat/cow Kunik, and my tastebuds were surprised by vastly different texture and consistency. The paste is much firmer, with a chalky center, and several hours on the counter fail to elicit any oozing. Y’all know how much I love the ooze. The sheep flavor is very distinctive – earthy and milky, with a touch of hay – which is delicious on its own merits but slightly underwhelming when you’re expecting the creamy comet of Kunik. I have a feeling I got a very young wedge, but I didn’t let it age in my cheese drawer long enough to discover if I was right. Instead, I enjoyed Simply Sheep with crisp green apples, dark chocolate and a fruity prosecco. If you get Nettle Meadow cheeses in your area, this is one worth seeking – just remember to taste and savor with an open mind rather than an all-Kunik-all-the-time prejudice.