Despite the fact that Missouri is due south of Minnesota, with just Iowa in between, it’s odd that I don’t see cheeses from that state very often around here. But in the post-ACS fervor that gets the cheese community excited about the winning cheeses, I was pleasantly surprised to come across several selections from renowned Missouri cheesemakers Steven and Veronica Batje of Baetje Farms at my local Whole Foods. You know I wasn’t leaving that store without one of their cheeses in my shopping bag.
And what better cheese to represent this artisan goat cheese dairy than Fleur de la Vallee, its mixed-milk, washed-rind beauty? Made of both goat’s and sheep’s milk, the rind blushes with the tell-tale orange-pink rind developed through baths in brine, but underneath the paste is all cream and sunshine.
After sitting on the counter for an hour or six, Fleur de la Vallee’s ivory paste bulges and exhibits a sweeter “stink” than your typical washed-rind cheese. This certainly isn’t a stink bomb comparable to Red Hawk and Hooligan (we love you, too, stinkies!), but the cheese still has a slightly meaty bite to back up its washed-rind pedigree. Mostly, though, biting into a slab of Fleur de Vallee is like diving into a vat of cream – it’s smooth, fatty and rich on the tongue, and stout enough to stand up to a medium-bodied (but not too jammy) red. It’s the perfect cheese as you’re switching from summer whites to fall reds – or early winter, if you live in Minnesota.