Washed-Rind Cheeses: Perusing Scardello's Most Challenging Flavors
As Lance Lynn and I wrapped up our cheese tasting at Scardello, I asked him to show me one more product. "Give me something that's a little scary," I asked. I was looking for a cheese that was as far away from the mass-produced slices we all grew up on as possible. A real Frankencheese.
Winnemere: not for the faint of heart.
Lynne immediately turned to the washed rind cheeses in his case, eying an Epoisse, which was washed in Marc de Bourgogne, a French spirit not unlike grappa. Washing the rinds of these cheeses as they age promotes the growth of B. linens a bacteria commonly found on the human skin that, you guessed it, is also the cause of foot odor.
Then there's the Cabrales, Lynn said, pointing to what looked like a wheel of dusty zombie cheese. "And the Winnemere," he added, pulling a small reddish yellow wheel from the case. "This is pretty intense," he said. Lance was very serious. I felt like we were discussing high grade medical buds at a dispensary in California.
Lance shaved of what may have started as a sliver, but was quickly reduced to a gloop that stuck to the paper he used to hand it to me, before offering me a spoon to scrape it free.
Winnemere is bathed in booze from a local brewery, which may be why I first thought of beer when I tasted it, but there's a lot more going on here. The cheese is wrapped in bark cut from spruce trees and it is indeed intense -- a locker room's worth of gym socks wrapped around the delicate creamy texture that comes from the high-fat, high-protein milk used to make the cheese.
At room temperature Winnemere runs like molasses. Lynn showed me an uncut wheel that jiggled slightly to his touch. At nearly $25 a pound you won't be melting this stuff on top of your burgers, but you wouldn't want to. It's got more than enough character to stand on its own.